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Public schools are undermining the foundations of our country, Michael Buczynski answers Kathy Sullivan in the Union Leader

This response to Kathy Sullivan is worth reading because it is the classic rationale for privatization of education.  Leftists are godless.  People without kids in the public schools shouldn’t pay to support them.  The International Baccalaureate program is socialist.  In fact, public schools are socialist.  Read it.  It’s like traveling in a foreign country.  But you’ll hear this argument in various forms from most all voucher supporters.

It really breaks my heart to see what our public school system has become….I take exception with Sullivan in her defense of a “pure” public school system. Only a radical progressive mind would advocate total government control…..Since the inception of the U.S. Department of Education, we have gone downhill in our quality of education.

…etc.

via Your Turn, NH: Public schools are undermining the foundations of our country | New Hampshire OPINION02.

There is a broad campaign afoot to undermine support of public schools – Kathy Sullivan in the Union Leader

Don’t miss this!  Kathy Sullivan weighs in on the assault on New Hampshire’s public schools:

The most important job of government is to insure that the next generation is educated. It isn’t just because it is the right thing to do for kids, it also is the right thing for society, to preserve and protect our national security, insure a thriving economy and continue the tradition of American leadership. To do the job, we need a strong public school system.

That concept should not be difficult to grasp, and at one time it was promoted by people of all political stripes. Unfortunately, the idea that a strong public school system is important is under siege.

There are several threats to public schools. One is from the neglect caused by elected officials who are more interested in their tax-cutting records than they are in education (see, e.g., Ted Gatsas, mayor of Manchester). Another is from the far right, which has a palpable contempt for public education.

The far right insists on calling public schools “government schools,” as if President Obama was personally running Stalinist-style indoctrination centers across the country. Actually, some of them in their paranoia actually do feel that way, as evidenced by some of the comments you can find regarding public schools.

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Sure, privatization is a cheap alternative to our local public schools, but voucher repeal is a great deal for everyone

Voucher advocates like to make the point that voucher repeal actually costs the State money.  I like their point because it’s a two-fer.  First, it demonstrates their dishonesty.  They know they’re presenting a partial picture, but it’s still a good debating point if they’re speaking to a legislator with a short attention span.  And, secondly, it highlights advocates’ fundamental proposal: replace our local public schools with whatever unaccountable private schools happen to be around.

To make this point, they isolate the State budget.  For every child who leaves a public school with a $2,.500 voucher, the State keeps $4,200 that would have gone to the school district to help pay for that child’s education.  So of course it’s cheaper for the State.  (It would be even cheaper if we could get the kids to move away instead of having to give them $2,500 vouchers to entice them to leave.)

Actually, though, when you look at the math at the end of the voucher repeal bill (HB 370), repeal is a great deal for the State and our communities.  In the first 3 years, the State gets to keep over $16 million that would have been given away in tax credits that fund bad schools. The State then adds $400,000 to that and sends it all to the school districts to improve local education without raising property taxes.

So by spending a mere $400,000, voucher repeal enables the State to send our communities almost $17 million. Now that’s leverage! How much better a deal could we ask for?

Why has New Hampshire’s private school tax credit failed?

There is only one scholarship organization working on New Hampshire’s education tax credit program.  That’s a California group calling itself, among other things, the Network for Educational Opportunity and it has generated very little in scholarship donations.  The uncertainty generated by the voucher repeal movement and the court challenge to the constitutionality of voucher tax credits is surely a factor in NEO’s poor performance.  But there’s more to the story.

Most importantly, NEO is not credible as a scholarship organization.  Although it pitches the tax credits as a program for poor kids, the organization’s stated mission is about shutting down public schools.  But New Hampshire voters and businesses support their public schools.  Businesses, in fact, are heavily involved in helping our public schools develop the workforce of the future.

NEO also does not have the operational experience or know-how to operate a scholarship program.  The group started small and just kept shrinking.  Last year, it had a budget of $135,000, half that going to its one staff member.  As a scholarship organization, it had the potential to raise $10 million over the first two years and keep $1 million of that for administrative overhead.   So NEO staffed up to a level of 8, including “outreach volunteers.”  All are veteran libertarian and Free State activists.  One is a pilot.  One is involved in real estate.  Two are former legislators.  None have (apparent) experience relevant to running a scholarship organization.   (more…)

Voucher supporters want it both ways, Andrea Williams’ letter to the Portsmouth Herald

Andrea submitted her concise persuasive Senate testimony as a letter to the Portsmouth Herald.  Here’s the punchline:

In other words, the opponents of the bill do not really want government out of their schools. They want potential government revenue to be diverted to the particular schools of their choice.

I would recast their proclamation as follows: “I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education. Instead, government, just figure out a way to send us the money, and then go away.”

The more we learn, the worse vouchers seem, Joan Jacobs letter to the Portsmouth Herald

Well said, Joan.  Nice headline too.  Libertarian former senator Forsythe and the run-away Legislature did a lot of damage last year.  Now is the time to fix it:

I would like to respond to the spirited defense of Sen. Stiles mounted in a Saturday, March 19, letter from the prime sponsor of the voucher bill, former Sen. Jim Forsythe.

Last year’s very unusual Republican supermajority passed Mr. Forsythe’s bill over the governor’s veto. He used all the tools at his disposal — letters, editorials and even a fake opinion poll — to marshal opinion for his bill. But voters last November did not agree that government should leave public education behind and fund private education. So it is the task of this year’s Legislature to correct last year’s excesses. Mr. Forsythe’s poorly conceived bill is Exhibit A on that agenda.

Mr. Forsythe features all the usual tropes from voucher advocates. He tells us that a vote to repeal vouchers would have to be “ideological,” the debate is a “rehash,” and that, unlike Sen. Stiles, voucher opponents don’t actually care about children.

But the voucher debate at this stage is definitely not an ideological rehash. There is a lot of new information that Sen.Stiles the Legislature and the public did not have last year.

Did you know last year that there would be no group or board to oversee the tax credit program? And that, as a result, the only scholarship organization with access to the millions of dollars in tax credits granted by the state is a small, inexperienced California group dedicated to privatizing public education?

Did you know last year that 80 percent of the students who designated a school when applying for a voucher would plan to go to a religious school? And that many of those schools integrate a Creationist curriculum into every lesson, in every subject, every day? Constitutionality aside, this is not a curriculum the state should be paying for.

Did you know that there would be virtually no business interest in this tax credit program? There has been only one significant scholarship donation — from a company committed to religious education — but almost nothing beyond that.

Now supporters of public education are indeed writing lots of letters in response to Sen. Stiles’ statements in this paper and elsewhere. I’m sure they must working on other senators’ votes as well. But Sen. Stiles is particularly logical repeal the vote because, as Mr. Forsythe says, she is a supporter of public education. She opposed vouchers last year on that basis and this new information she did not have just weeks ago would be a good basis to support repeal this year.

Joan Jacobs

Portsmouth

via The more we learn, the worse vouchers seem | SeacoastOnline.com.

New Hampshire’s pull-back is part of the national rethink on private school vouchers

As we move toward repealing the ill-conceived New Hampshire voucher program, a pseudonymous commenter toward the bottom of this Patch thread encapsulated the debate this way:

 All this focus on having “choices” makes me ask: why do taxpayers who are already providing a structure to educate every child in a given community need to also pay for additional choices based on nothing but the desire of the parent? I distinctly recall those who put this law in place two years ago telling us that churches and charities were the proper way to fund programs for “the poor.” Why is this different?

New Hampshire is one piece, but an important piece, of the national debate on privatization of public schools.  Here is today’s New York Times on the occasion of the Indiana Supreme Court decision upholding the state’s voucher program, reviewing the national state of play in the push for vouchers in Republican dominated states:

“This movement is doing more than threaten the core of our traditional public school system,” said Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “It’s pushing a national policy agenda embraced by conservatives across states that are receptive to conservative ideas.”

via States Redefining Public Schooling – NYTimes.com

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A plea to Sen. Stiles to provide education for all, letter from Marcella Quandt to the Portsmouth Herald

Marcella Quandt points out, respectfully, why Senator Stiles should reconsider her position on voucher repeal (highlight added):

I am a former elementary school teacher in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I am deeply concerned that Sen. Nancy Stiles will change her position on the school voucher law as she has indicated.

She wisely voted against this unconstitutional law, which forces taxpayers to pay for private and religious schools. It passed in spite of her vote against it in the previous, right-wing-dominated Legislature. Voters had assumed she was against this bill when they re-elected her. She now has the opportunity to vote to repeal this unfair bill. The repeal has already passed the House and needs Nancy’s vote to help it pass the Senate.

Private schools can only be afforded by those who can pay the tuition. Also, these schools can pick and choose who is eligible to attend. They can discriminate against any child who does not meet their approval. They are not held accountable to provide a curriculum that meets any national standards.

Public schools are expected to provide education for all children. Some of these children may excel. Some may have difficulty and need special attention. They come from diverse backgrounds and all are welcome. Some may be wealthy, middle class or poor. Some may have disabilities. Some may move from place to place. Through no fault of their own, they may have trouble keeping up with their class level.

I taught in a school where twin girls, who were both blind, used braille machines to help them in the mainstream classroom. They had aides, but other students interacted with them and they were popular with their classmates. Children who have a well-rounded education learn more than math and English. They hopefully learn to respect others and work together to broaden their horizons.

In this economy, every tax dollar counts. We are not encouraging young families to stay in this state if we cannot provide education for their children. Please, Nancy, listen to our plea for fairness.

Marcella Quandt

Hampton

via A plea to Sen. Stiles to provide education for all | SeacoastOnline.com.

Education tax credit is an embarrassment for state, Bill Duncan letter to the Portsmouth Herald

Here’s my letter in yesterday’s Herald in response to this letter:

I would like to respond to the March 20 letter from Arlene Quaratiello because it was a pretty complete presentation of the points made by supporters of the education tax credit program.

The letter says that competition from the program would force schools and teachers to improve in order to “retain students who would not have to settle for the mediocrity that a monopolistic school system creates.”

This is important because it gets at the real goal of the tax credit program. Supporters consider our public education system a “government monopoly” that needs to be dismantled and privatized. And, as Ms. Quaratiello says, privatization is cheaper. Just send the kids to private schools with a $2,500 scholarship rather than paying $13,000 to your local public school.

So if you are a voter or legislator who wants to replace your local public school with a cheaper private school, probably a religious school, the education tax credit is the way to do it.

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New Hampshire’s only tax credit scholarship organization gets hit hard at the senate hearing Friday.

The Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee held a great hearing yesterday on HB 370 to repeal the education tax credit passed last session.  Although Senator Sanborn (R, Bedford) came late and Senator Reagan (R, Deerfield) left early and both slumped snarley in their chairs while supporters of HB 370 were speaking, Senator Stiles (R, Hampton) ran a respectful hearing in which everyone got as much time as needed and Senators Gilmour (D, Nashua) and Kelley (D, Keene) were tuned in, appreciative of and attentive to every presenter.

Forty two supporters of voucher repeal registered for the hearing vs. only 29 opponents.  Most supporters of the tax credit were the direct beneficiaries – religious schools, potential scholarship recipients, staff of the scholarship organization – or “school choice” advocates.  (Two people listed by the scholarship organization as staff testified without identifying themselves as staff.)

As to supporters of repeal, the National Education Association of New Hampshire (one of the two teachers’ unions) and the New Hampshire School Boards Association testified and the American Federation of Teachers (the other teachers’ union) registered in support of the bill, but most of those testifying in favor of voucher repeal had no direct personal connection to the tax credit program or to public schools.  They just seemed to think that public schools needed defending.

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