Lawmakers must reject the school choice bill

In an editorial published last May, I argued Senate Bill 193, New Hampshire’s school choice bill, was a bad idea.    

Even with some changes over the past several months, it still is.

The most substantial change to the bill establishing education freedom savings accounts (ESAs) was adding the provision that only families whose annual household income is less than or equal to 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines can take advantage of the program.

That was an improvement to the bill, but fundamental problems with this bill still remain.

• We don’t know how much this bill will cost.

• Where will the money come from to fund the bill?

• It is not clear whether this bill is constitutional.

One of the goals of the bill is to help low-income families that live in a poor or underperforming school district. Bill supporter Michelle Levell, who heads up School Choice NH said, “Wealthy families can either move to a really high performing district or on their own afford a private school or religious school or homeschooling expenses. Those are often out of reach for the people who need it the most.”

However, bill co-sponsor State Sen. John Regan told Parenting NH that even with the approximately $5,000 per child that would be available to offset the cost of private school, poor families would still not be able to afford private school tuition. 

In that case, if the bill’s goal is to give all New Hampshire families access to better education, it fails.

With so many unknowns, it would be irresponsible to push through this bill. Would you agree to buy something that you 1) didn’t know the price of; 2) didn’t know how you’d pay for it; and 3) didn’t do what you needed it to do?

For years, New Hampshire has been lauded nationally for the quality of its public education system.

Dismantling the public school system in favor of an experiment with a market-based ideology, an experiment that has not proven to work in other states who have adopted school vouchers, with an undetermined price tag and no way to fund it will not improve education. Further, increasing the burden on taxpayers will only motivate them to move their child, and future skilled employee, out of the state of New Hampshire.

More than 20 years after the Claremont decision by the NH Supreme Court that called for equal access to an adequate education for all students, we are still struggling with how to fund school districts fairly and equitably.  We need to start there.

For more on the school choice bill, read our story here.  

Categories: Edit Note