Jacob Goodwin is a sixth-grade teacher in New Hampshire, where the State Commissioner (who home-schooled his own children) is pushing a vastly expanded voucher plan. Parents should be aware that federal anti-discrimination statutes do not apply to private and religious schools. You may think you are exercising your “choice,” but it’s the school that chooses its students.

Goodwin writes in The Progressive:

A new lawsuit is challenging the voucher scheme of Frank Edelblut, New Hampshire’s commissioner of education. Edelblut, formerly an accountant, lacks meaningful experience in the field of education outside his politically appointed post. He is being sued by the American Federation of Teachers for allegedly misusing funds that were meant solely for public schools in the state.

The statutory requirement for the disbursement of public money prohibits all other financial transactions, which the plaintiffs argue extends to providing public money to private and religious schools—something that the voucher law has done.

The current voucher expenditures have ballooned to over $20 million, despite the commissioner having promised that the cost of the program would be nearly one-tenth the current taxpayer obligation. Funneling dollars to the voucher program is detrimental to public schools and the students they serve.

This diversion of public money away from public schools came at a time when schools in New Hampshire—and across the country—were having difficulty retaining staff, especially support staff who work with children with special needs. While there are education support professionals making less than $15 per hour, the commissioner has spent lavishly on schools that are not even required to fulfill Individualized Education Plans, which are designed to meet students’ special needs and backed by Federal law. In other words, the ill-devised voucher scheme both makes it more difficult for public districts to fill the positions to help students currently qualifying for legally mandated services and gives that money away to places that can ignore documented disabilities…

Students deserve our support, and vouchers aimed at helping the well-to-do at the cost of providing support to the most vulnerable is simply unjustifiable. This includes regressive voucher laws that send public money to schools with no public accountability and with no requirement to aid special needs students. Still, states like New Hampshire are considering expanding such programs, effectively defunding established and regulated professional public services for special education. The thought of this is a travesty. The impact: a devastating blow to disability rights.