June 4, 2021

Marcia Hayward: The truth behind the state school voucher bill

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This letter to the editor appeared in the Laconia Daily Sun, addressing the voucher bill that New Hampshire Republicans snuck past voters by hiding it in the budget bill.

To the Daily Sun,

The New Hampshire Senate Finance Committee included SB 130 which is the extremely costly school voucher bill into the larger state budget. SB 130 has been widely rejected by Granite Staters according to Reaching Higher NH by a ratio of 6:1. By adding it to the state budget bill, the Senate is allowing it to evade public scrutiny of hearings and floor votes. Additionally, there is no fiscal note attached to the bill, so lawmakers and citizens won’t know how much it will cost the state.

According to Reaching Higher NH, a Concord-based organization which does analysis of educational policy and legislation, if half of the eligible students adopted a voucher it would cost the state about $70 million in NEW state spending in its first three years. Another financial concern is the Senate chose not to restore the disparity aid that provides towns with low property tax bases with additional funding and property tax relief. These towns will have to make up approximately $27 million through tax increases, budget cuts or both.

State and local costs are not the only problems with the school voucher program. The scholarship organization is given carte blanche to handle millions of dollars of public funds with no meaningful oversight and with immunity from liability. There are no guidelines for qualifications for “educational service providers.” Neither existing law nor SB 130 contain any public oversight on how private schools are run, admissions decisions, or qualifications of their teachers. Vouchers (averaging $5,100) won’t help families at the bottom of the income scale because they won’t be able to afford the difference between the voucher and tuition. These are just a few of the problems with the voucher bill.

A vote on school vouchers (Educational Freedom Accounts) is imminent. Please contact your state representatives and senator expressing opposition to a concept that is fiscally harmful to the local property taxpayer and fraught with lack of accountability of public funds.
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