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Gary Patton strikes again, with his facts straight, as always:
April 23 — To the Editor:
State Sen. Nancy Stiles recently joined 12 other Senate Republicans to table HB 370, which would have repealed the school voucher law. Much will be made by Republicans that the Senate just tabled it; they didn’t kill the bill. However, just as a majority of 13 senators was needed to table the bill, so a majority of 13 will be needed to remove it from the table. As long as Stiles and the other Republican senators remain unified in opposition, the bill will never see the light of day and might as well be dead.
Reasons to repeal the school voucher law abound. First, the law violates the N.H. Constitution by giving public tax money to private and religious schools. For that reason, the law is under court challenge by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union. Second, unlike public schools, the private schools given this money aren’t accountable to taxpayers for their performance. We give them tax money, but they don’t have to tell us how they use it or if it helped.
Here is Kevin Landrigan’s follow up on his first report on this issue.
Some might ask what’s the ethical concern with tax credit scholarship programs offering to pay schools part of their administration fee money in order to generate business owner donors to the tax credit program.
The Telegraph reported exclusively on Friday that the leading scholarship group, the Network for Educational Opportunity, had made this offer to the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire that was declined. NEO officials insist they are not pursuing this “fund-raiser” model of generating donations because they are right up against a June 15 deadline to generate all the tax credits that could be turned into scholarships for the next school year.
Private school vouchers in New Hampshire: Dean Whiteway, of the Concord Christian Academy, tells it like it is
Foster’s does an overview today of the voucher tax credit debate as we head into the court hearing next Friday, April 26, at 11:00 at the Strafford County courthouse. I make a couple of corrections in [brackets].
Most interesting is that while Sen. Nancy Stiles (R, Hampton) sticks close to voucher advocates’ talking points, Dean Whiteway, headmaster at Concord Christian Academy, take a very different tack, highlighted after the jump.
Controversial education tax credit law stays in place
By JENNIFER KEEFE
Sunday, April 21, 2013
The battle over the state’s education tax credit program — commonly called a voucher system by the public — was revived last week when the Senate tabled legislation to repeal the law.
Put into place in 2012 by the Republican-led legislature, the education tax credit awards tax credits to businesses that contribute toward scholarships for students to attend nonpublic schools.
Each student would receive a $2,500 “voucher” to assist in attending a charter school, private or religious school.
The legislation was controversial when it went through the House and Senate last year, and the 2013 bill (HB 370) to repeal the education tax credit program — which passed last year over Gov. John Lynch’s veto — has stirred the pot once again.
Within hours of a 13-11 party line vote in the New Hampshire Senate to table HB 370, the voucher repeal bill, the predicted headlines have started. NEO, a group with no operating experience, is demonstrating the downside of a program with no administrative oversight:
By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
CONCORD – The leading group seeking education tax credits explored paying religious schools or nonprofit groups to help generate business donors to this program.
According to legal documents The Telegraph has obtained, leaders with Network for Educational Opportunity approached the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester a few months ago offering to give over to the church some of its administration costs if it would hold informational sessions at their schools.
Former Farmington Republican state Rep. Packy Campbell is a leading advocate that is helping generate tax credit donations on NEO’s behalf.
NH vouchers: kids choose religious schools, new creationist scholarship organization authorized, business drop out
80% of Network for Educational Opportunity scholarship applicants intend to attend religious schools
Documents submitted by the Network for Educational Opportunity (here, revised here, and summarized here) show that 80% of the children applying for scholarships intend to attend religious schools. Almost all of the remaining children plan to apply to a single secular school, the Monadnock Waldorf School. Eighty percent of the 24 schools participating so far are religious schools.
NEO has conceded that the revised numbers it has submitted to the court are incorrect and the organization may submit corrected numbers.
Here’s more coverage of Thursday’s voucher repeal press conferences, this one in Laconia:
LACONIA — Saying a new state law that established that business tax credits could be granted for contributions to a private-education scholarship fund diverts money from public schools, former N.H. Board of Education chair and former state representative Judie Reever called on citizens to publicly support a bill currently being considered by the N.H. State Senate that would repeal the measure.
Reever, who was joined by the president of Defending New Hampshire’s Public Education, Bill Duncan, yesteray outside the Laconia Public Library, said the law was an “irresponsible” effort by “Tea Party” Republicans Sen. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro and Rep. Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon to gut money for public education.
House Bill 370, which earlier passed in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, was this week voted “inexpedient to legislate” by the Senate Committee on Health, Education and Social Services. It will now come to the floor for consideration by the entire Senate.
Supporters of the current law say the it allows relatively low-income people who send their children to private schools to get scholarships that helps them pay for tuition.
Duncan said yesterday that the money — so far only $140,000 of the projected $4 million dollars has been raised — would largely go to subsidize the families of creationist Christians who seek to destroy the concept of public education in America and the constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state.
Here’s the coverage of yesterday’s Concord press conference by the Union Leader’s Gary Rayno, including the inevitable quote from Charlie Arnlinhaus, always available at the back of the room. You’ll notice Kate Baker peddling the narrative that forming a scholarship organization was her idea, as a local free and reduced lunch kid (highlight added). Possibly. But the Network for Educational Opportunity (nee, The Alliance for the Separation of Church and State) came to New Hampshire from California to help write and lobby for the bill, with the intention of qualifying as a scholarship organization – Ms. Baker is the local staff they hired to do it.
CONCORD – State taxpayers do not support using their money to pay for religious and parochial schools, said supporters of a bill repealing the state’s new education tax credit program.
Speaking at a press conference, a state lawmaker, the head of the state’s largest teachers’ union and a public education activist said they would do all they can to convince a majority of senators to pass House Bill 370, which repeals the tax credit program.
They said the education business tax credit program will rob public education of millions of dollars over the next decade at a time when essentially state services such as education need all the money possible.
They called it a voucher program administered by an out-of-state group that wants to end public education.
I participated with other supporters of public education in a series of press conferences yesterday. Here is the coverage by Suzanne Laurent for the Portsmouth Herald:
PORTSMOUTH — A coalition of state educators, taxpayers and concerned citizens are calling for the repeal of what they call the “misguided Bradley-O’Brien education voucher law.”
At a press conference Thursday morning in front of Portsmouth Public Library, the coalition asked the public to hold state senators to task to see that House Bill 370 is passed. HB 370 would repeal the education tax credit law passed last year over Gov. John Lynch’s veto. It passed Tuesday in the House and goes before the Senate on April 18.
The law allows businesses to provide scholarships for non-public schools and, in return, the businesses receive a tax credit.
Opponents, in calling it an voucher system, say it diverts taxpayer funds from public schools into an account for private and religious schools. The organization appointed by the state to administer the scholarship program is a California-based group called The Alliance for the Separation of Schools and State, known in New Hampshire as The Network for Educational Opportunity.
State House Memo: House budget supports education – Reps. Mary Gile and Mel Myler in the Concord Monitor
Here is a very straight-forward and factual response to a misguided ideological letter to the Monitor a few days ago:
The letter to the editor titled “Anti-education Democrats” (Monitor, April 5) was misdirected.
The state budget passed by the New Hampshire House last week restored funding to higher education and community colleges and maintained current levels of funding for both public schools and public charter schools. It recognized the value of education for New Hampshire students from kindergarten through post-secondary education. And it addressed the devastating cuts to education that came as a result of the 2010-12 Republican-led Legislature; it was opposed by the Republican caucus.
Unlike other states where charter schools have opened and failed because of poor state oversight and mismanagement, New Hampshire has taken a prudent approach. There are 17 authorized public charter schools, and there is a clear process of developing and granting a charter. Funding limits have been created by the Legislature. The state Board of Education and the Department of Education have oversight authority ensuring that charter schools implement their missions and stated visions. The quality of these charters is a direct result of that process.
Senators Peggy Gilmour (D, Hollis) and Molly Kelly (D, Keene) were eloquent at the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee today, making the case that the voucher tax credit lacks oversight and accountability, takes money from public schools to send it to private schools that do not promise a better education and is bad tax policy. But their arguments fell on deaf Republican ears. After a 16 minute debate, captured below by Granite State Progress (thank you!), the committee voted 3-2 along party lines to recommend Inexpedient to Legislate on HB 370.
Sen. Gilmour recommended that the scholarship organization, Network for Educational Opportunity, put its energy into raising scholarship funds in the normal way, without a large tax credit subsidy. She was impressed with a private school student who testified but wondered why the family was waiting for the state voucher program while not applying for the school’s own scholarship program. She went on to point out that the Senate had just passed a one page expansion of the R&D tax credit while the education tax credit required 9 convoluted pages of legislation. Sen. Gilmour compared the lack of oversight and accountability in the voucher program with the very successful Community Development Tax Credit, with its lower (75%) tax credit and high level of oversight, accountability and credibility.