There are three things that privatizers hate: public schools, democracy, and teachers’ unions.

In New Hampshire, the privatizers are on the move.

Jacob Goodwin writes about them in The Progressive:

New Hampshire has a proud tradition of public schools, one that, in some towns, dates back to single-room school houses of early America when students would take horse-drawn sleighs to school in the winter. Our schools—and towns, for that matter—are known for operating largely under “local control,” meaning that school boards are made up of parents and community members and are designed to act as sentinels of democracy, tasked with uplifting the highest civic ideals and aspirations.

Historically, the state has had a limited role in determining how schools are run. Consequently, New Hampshire has provided a minimal amount of school funding. While the concept of local control can be both empowering and a burden of responsibility, students and teachers cannot carry out their important work without adequate funding.

Recently, school privatizers seized curricula as a new front in their pressure campaign against teachers, determined to further squeeze public schools financially. Lacking widespread public support, New Hampshire’s legislature restricted classroom conversations about race and gender in 2021—enacting a law which drew ire for its disproportionate penalties and vague requirements. The confusing act prompted the New Hampshire Department of Justice to issue a statement of guidance, confirming the harsh penalties and doing little to protect teachers from potentially career-ending false accusations. The law has placed additional costs on districts in terms of teacher retention and recruitment, compounding staffing shortages in the profession.

Privatizers advance their damaging agenda by undermining the public confidence in schools. Each teacher that leaves due to the relentless attacks is one less trusted adult for children. And the loss of experienced professionals is a way of further loosening communal ties. Traditional, deliberative decision making of small-town New England is rooted in neighborly relational knowledge, but this is now being undercut. Privatizers only see profits by cutting costs, not the most important thing in schools—the people.

Nationwide, attacking teachers and neighborhood schools has become part of a broader strategy to divert taxpayer money away from public accountability. Profiteering and mismanagement scandals in states like Florida and Pennsylvania warn of the danger of moving decision-making from parent volunteers in the auditorium to executives in corporate board rooms.

Despite the odds, teachers are speaking up for their community schools and mounting legal challenges to unjust laws that seek to erode the essential public good of education. On September 14, the presiding federal judge declared that he would rule on the state’s motion to dismiss a suit brought by a coalition including the state’s largest teachers union within sixty to ninety days. But while the speech-chilling law remains in place, teachers fear stifled classroom discussions and even loss of licensure. And the forces of privatization have continued to stretch the civic fabric of our communities through swiftly changing our state with little public input or oversight.

After failing to pass a stand-alone voucher bill in previous legislative sessions, the state Commissioner of Education shepherded a significant voucher bill through the state legislature and into the budget. He promised that the measure would be limited and require a budget of $130,000 in the first year. In October 2021, however, the voucher law was already costing New Hampshire taxpayers $6.9 million…

Distracting the public from the actual needs of over 90 percent of students who attend public schools is part of the coordinated strategy against local control in New Hampshire. The refusal to address funding adequacy, meaningful mental health support for students, and building maintenance are among the major issues that are seldom addressed.