Archives for category: New Hampshire

Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider explore what happens when a state government is taken over by a combination of libertarians, who want to diminish government and taxes, and Republicans, who have spent decades attacking government as “the enemy.” It turns out they are indistinguishable. .

This is a don’t-miss edition of their reader-supported “Have You Heard” podcast (with transcript available).

Among the services cut were garbage collection and animal control. So people in the state are getting used to seeing bears ransacking their garbage.

The situation is growing dire for the state’s public schools. The libertarians want to eliminate public education. They want to replace it with charter schools, vouchers, home schooling, and pretty much anything that a parent wants to do.

Under the leadership of Governor Chris Sununu and Frank Edelblut, the home schooler he selected as state commissioner of education, the state is well on its way to its goal of privatizing and/or abolishing public schools.

New Hampshire Republicans are determined to use their new majority in both houses to jam through a generous voucher bill that would offer public money for students to attend any school they wanted, including religious schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

Down party lines, the Senate approved an expansive school voucher bill Thursday that would allow parents to use state education aid for a wide range of alternative educational opportunities for their children. The bill was then immediately tabled on another 14-10 party line vote – a move that enables the body to consider bills with a fiscal impact during the budget process.

Opponents have called Senate Bill 130 the most expansive voucher bill in the country with little accountability and say it would increase local property taxes, not reduce them as supporters claim.

They said the bill is the latest attempt to privatize education at the expense of the children remaining in the public school system.“Public education should be treasured, we should treasure the public education that all of us went through,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester. “All this legislation does is carve public education apart and that is not a good thing.”

Supporters said the bill seeks to help those students left behind and those who do not perform well in the public education setting.

They said the program would not only help students it would save state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, said the current situation in public education is like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.“The opposition centers on the preservation of an institution even if it is at the expense of the children who attend,” Giuda said. “This bill attempts to care for the children whom our schools don’t work for.”

He said the top reason parents apply to the current business tax credit school scholarship fund are for bullying and discrimination.

The program allows parents who best know their children to find the best fit for their children’s needs, Giuda maintained.

Under the bill, a parent seeking to establish an account would receive between $4,500 to $8,500 per pupil to spend on tuition to any private, religious, or alternative school and on other related educational costs including home schooling, computers, books etc.

The student’s parents would receive the basic state adequacy grant of about $3,700 as well as additional money if the student qualified for free or reduced lunches, special education services, English as a Second Language instruction, or failed to reach English proficiency.

The average grant is estimated to be $4,600.

The program is open to the parents of a student in public —traditional and charter — private or religious school, home schooling, or other alternative educational programs.

New Hampshire has some excellent private schools, some are day schools, some are boarding schools.

The most elite is Phillips Exeter, a boarding school, where the tuition is $55,402. Not likely to accept a single voucher student.

Then there is Brewster Academy, tuition $64,950.

The Dublin School has day students who pay $38,450 and boarding students who pay $66,800.

But if a parent can raise the difference, they might sent their child to Portsmouth Christian Academy, for $15,945 or Concord Christian Academy for $11,200. However, these schools have very small student bodies and are unlikely to find space for a student who is failing in their public school. (Concord Christian Academy has 216 students, perhaps they can make room for one more.)

The state grants will instead underwrite the tuition of students already enrolled in religious schools or being home-schooled. And perhaps a few who are able to find low-quality religious schools with uncertified staff and meager facilities, typically inferior to the public school that the students left.

The Republican legislators don’t care about the experience of other states, where vouchers attract small numbers of students but lead to budget cuts in public schools across the state. If they care to make up for the loss of revenue to public schools, the Legislature will have to raise property taxes. There is no way that vouchers for students currently paying their own way or leave public schools for private schools will reduce the cost of schooling.

It is a shame that none of the legislators consider the research on vouchers. It is not promising. Independent evaluator Mark Dynarski has reviewed many voucher studies and conducted the official evaluation of the D.C. voucher program. He finds that students who use vouchers fall behind their peers in public schools. Voucher schools typically have high attrition rates because the students or their parents realize that the miracles promised never happened. Reviewers at the Center for American Progress described the harm that vouchers do to students. CAP also warned of the dangers that vouchers pose to the civil rights of students. And they warned of the racist origins of school choice and the segregating impact of vouchers.

The Republican legislators are ignorant of the research. They keep repeating Betsy DeVos’s weary cliches, none of which have proven true.

How sad for the children of New Hampshire! How sad for the future of the state.

Since today is New Hampshire Day on the blog, I am reposting this article.

Since the 2020 election, Republicans have controlled both houses of the New Hampshire. The governor is Chris Sununu, a very conservative Republican and son of John Sununu, who was chief of staff to George H.W. Bush. In other words, New Hampshire is controlled by very conservative Republicans, even though the state has two Democratic Senators.

Sununu appointed a home schooler, Frank Edelblut, as his Commissioner of Education. His chief credential seems to be his contempt for public schooling.

Edelblut just made a new hire. He chose one of Betsy DeVos’s team to be New Hampshire’s Director of Learner Support. Her name is McKenzie Snow, and she is a voucher advocate like her old boss and her new boss. She was in charge of pushing vouchers while at the U.S. Department of Education. She was a consultant to Trump’s controversial “1776 Commission,” which attempted to promote a conservative version of history, minimizing racism and other shameful episodes in our history.

Although she will be in charge of “learner support,” she apparently was never a teacher.

New Hampshire NPR reports:

If confirmed, McKenzie Snow will direct the Division of Learner Support, overseeing student assessments, technical assistance for schools, student wellness, student support, adult education, and career and technical education.

Prior to working at the U.S. Department of Education for two and a half years, Snow analyzed and advocated for school choice reform as a policy director at ExcelinEd, a non-profit founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and directed by former House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor.

She also worked on educational issues at the conservative Charles Koch Foundation and Charles Koch Foundation Institutes, according to her LinkedIn account.

During her tenure at the U.S. Department of Education and ExcelinEd, Snow championed Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s), which give taxpayer dollars to parents to spend on approved educational programs of their choice, including private school and home school.

Snow’s confirmation is expected at the Executive Council meeting this Wednesday.

Molly Kelly, a former Democratic legislator in New Hampshire, explains what is wrong with the Republicans’ voucher plan. In New Hampshire, as in Florida, Indiana, and other states, the state constitution explicitly prohibits spending public money on religious education. But apparently Republicans believe that the state constitution is just a piece of paper, whose actual textual language is meaningless.

Kelly writes:

Public education is a core tenet of our democracy. That’s why I believe it’s wrong to take money from public schools to pay for vouchers to private or religious schools. Period. But Republicans are prioritizing this dangerous idea with Senate Bill 130, which will only leave more children behind, raise our property taxes, and undermine the quality of a strong public education system.

The so-called “Education Freedom Accounts” legislation being considered by Republican legislators in Concord could not be a bigger misnomer, and the people of New Hampshire, including myself, are not so easily fooled. We know this voucher scheme isn’t about education freedom, just like so-called right-to-work legislation is not about workers’ rights. It’s a way of helping those who have resources and taking from those who don’t, under the title of a scholarship organization.

In our state, we contribute $3,708 in adequacy funding for each student to receive a quality public education. We know that amount must increase. But under the GOP voucher scheme, this funding plus an additional differentiated aid of $895 per student, a total of $4,603 for each “scholarship recipient,” would be taken from public schools and given to private and religious schools — weakening our public schools in the process — with no transparency or accountability for how those tax dollars are spent.

According to the N.H. Private School Review, “the average private school tuition in New Hampshire is approximately $19,393 per year.” (Private elementary schools average $8,511 per year and private high schools average $28,231 per year).

Obviously, a $4,603 voucher is merely a drop in the bucket to pay for education outside of the public system. Who pays for the difference? Parents who can afford it. If parents have resources to send their child to a private or religious school, the state should not take from taxpayers to subsidize that education while hurting everyone else.

Not only does the voucher scheme take from those who need it, but the program is unconstitutional. Under our state constitution, taxpayers’ education dollars are not permitted to be spent at religious schools.

“But no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination,” says the NH State Constitution Bill of Rights, Part 1, Article 6 and “no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination,” according to Part 2, Article 83.

Further, in announcing his recent budget proposal, the governor said everyone would pay less in taxes. If the governor supports this bill, he will be taking funding from public schools and asking Granite Staters to pay more in property taxes to make up the funding loss. On top of that, a diminished public school system will drive down property values. Most importantly, though, is that if this bill is signed into law, it would undermine the education system that our children need to receive a quality education and thrive.

Finally, if parents believe their child isn’t thriving in a public school, then we need to do something about that. Let’s make classrooms smaller, decrease the ratio of students to teachers, support our teachers, commit to quality innovative curriculum and invest in better equipment and technology. The last thing we should do is cut back or give up.

We cannot turn our back on the imperative to invest in public education and provide an equal opportunity for all of our students, not just for a few. The public good must remain at the forefront. We need to strengthen our public schools, not take from them. I would argue that is true education freedom.

Parents and educators overwhelmingly oppose the New Hampshire voucher proposal, which would be the most expansive in the country. In terms of turnout, voucher opponents outnumber proponents by 6-1. Proponents claim that it is only educators who oppose vouchers, but many parents turned out to testify against the legislation.

Yet the Republican sponsors of the bill are forging ahead, claiming that so few children want a voucher that it would have no impact on the budget. In fact, the bill would have the state pick up the cost of tuition for children currently attending religious and private schools, and would fund homeschoolers as well. Critics estimate the cost at $100 million per year.

As background to the discussion, take a look at the research on vouchers. This report from the Center for American Progress finds that using a voucher is equivalent to missing about one-third of a year in school. Yet 23 states, including New Hampshire, are going full speed ahead to enact a harmful and demonstrably ineffective waste of public dollars.

The Senate’s school voucher bill drew a crowd debating the merits and liabilities of the program that would allow parents to receive state money to find the best educational fit for their child.

But opponents called Senate Bill 130 the latest attempt to privatize education and alleged it would set up a parallel education system with one tier for the well-to-do and the other for those who cannot afford an alternative for their children.

They said the proposal would be the most expansive educational choice program in the country and the most lax, with little accountability or transparency.

Supporters said the pandemic has heightened awareness that every child learns differently and needs options and choices to reach their full potential.They said the program would not only help students, it would save state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, although opponents claimed it would cost the state that much money.

The House had a nearly identical bill, but the House Education Committee decided to hold the bill for a year to try to improve some of the flaws.The ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. Mel Myler, D-Hopkinton, urged his Senate counterparts to either do that or recommend killing the bill...

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, said the House hearing on House Bill 20 drew 1,100 parents in support showing grassroots support. And he said a recent poll indicates 70 percent of New Hampshire adults approve of vouchers.

He did not say that nearly 7,000 people signed in opposition to the House bill.“On one side you have lobbyists and advocates and on the other side are parents,” Cordelli said. “It is the school units versus the kids.”

Carl Ladd, executive director of the NH School Administrators Association took issue with Cordelli’s statement.“This school system versus student argument implies that advocates for public education are anti-student, that is a real disservice to educators,” Ladd said. “I really take umbrage at that particular characterization…”

The student’s parents would receive the basic state adequacy grant of about $3,700 as well as additional money if the student qualified for free or reduced lunches, special education services, English as a Second Language instruction, or failed to reach English proficiency.

The average grant is estimated to be $4,600.

Will $4,600 be enough to gain admission to an elite private school? No. It will be enough to pay for a low-quality private or religious school that hires uncertified teachers and cannot match the offerings or facilities of the public schools. Or you might think of it as a transfer of public funds to students already in private/religious schools and home-schooled.

The Commissioner claimed that between 0.01 to 2.43 percent of eligible students would use the voucher. So, choose your rationale: either vouchers are wildly popular or hardly anyone will want one.

Commissioner Edelblut’s goal is to wipe out public schools. The people of New Hampshire will have to stop him. He is not a conservative. He is an anarchist.

The New Hampshire House decided to hold off for a year with the universal voucher bill, that would funnel public money to religious schools, home schoolers, and anyone else who wants public money. However, the State Senate is barreling ahead with the same legislation.

On Thursday, February 18, the House Education Committee unanimously voted to retain HB 20, the statewide voucher bill, delaying further action until next year.

Moments later, the Senate announced a public hearing for SB 130, a nearly identical bill, on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Both bills would create the most expansive voucher program in the country, and SB 130 would cost the state $100 million in new state spending in its first year alone. 

The public fiercely opposed HB 20 during the public hearing, noting that the bill included no protections for students, less transparency and oversight of taxpayer dollars, and almost no accountability for ensuring that programs funded by taxpayer dollars would be used appropriately or effectively. 

Altogether, 5,218 people signed on in opposition to the bill and 1,107 signed on in support over the course of the two-part hearing, which began on February 2 and had to continue the following week due to unprecedented turnout. 

SB 130 is nearly identical to the original HB 20, and would give families between $3,700 and $8,400 per student per year in taxpayer-funded “Education Freedom Accounts,” or vouchers, to pay for private school tuition, homeschooling expenses, computers, and other education-related costs.

“Our communities continue to struggle under the weight of an inequitable and inadequate school funding system, but this legislature continues to pursue an agenda that will divert resources away from our public schools and communities,” said Christina Pretorius, Policy Director at Reaching Higher NH. “Granite Staters have made it clear that they would rather be talking about expanding opportunities for all of our children, offering property tax relief, and investing in our communities, instead of siphoning off state funds for private education and downshifting costs to cities and towns,” she said.

The public hearing for SB 130 will be held on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 9 AM. Members of the public can register their support or opposition, and register to testify, using this link

HB 20: Historic Opposition and Last Minute Amendments

During a day-long executive session on Wednesday, House Education Committee members combed through a new amendment to HB 20 that attempted to address concerns that were brought up in the public hearing, but did not go far enough and in many cases, made the bill worse, according to Committee members. 

The amendment included income eligibility requirements and accountability measures, but did not address broader concerns with regard to discrimination against students and famillies, the potential for fraud and misuse of funds, and the fundamental concern with diverting public tax dollars to fund private and home school programs. 

The marathon executive session also revealed critical technical errors in the bill, particularly around the funding of the program. “A bill of this significance needs to be right. This Committee [is] the folks to do that, this is a good move to pause and reflect and get this done the way it should be,” said Representative Jim Allard (R-Pittsfield). 

Proponents of the bill are quick to point out that this doesn’t mean the conversation around HB 20 is over. Committee members will take the rest of the year to work on the bill, and have the opportunity to re-introduce it next year. 

“I think that if it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done correctly, we have to have bipartisan support and it has to be proven it has to be beneficial to everyone, to taxpayers, children, mostly for the children,” said Committee member Barbara Shaw (D-Manchester). 

About the amendment

The amendment created an income cap for eligible students, stating that only families with household incomes at or less than 375% of the Federal Poverty Limit would be eligible. For a family of four, that number would be about $99,375, which is higher than the median household income in New Hampshire. 

Even with the change, HB 20 would be the most expansive voucher program in the country, and could cost New Hampshire roughly $50 million in new state spending its first year alone. 

The Granite State is known to be parsimonious in spending on schools but the sky’s the limit when it comes to vouchers for religious schools and home schoolers.

As a result of strong opposition, Republicans who control the New Hampshire legislature decided to postpone consideration of their “number one priority,” school vouchers. Under consideration was the most sweeping voucher bill in the nation. Thousands of people signed up to testify against the legislation.

A bill to create a school voucher-like system in New Hampshire is poised to be kicked to 2022, after Republicans on the House Education Committee said that it needed more time.

In a 20-0 vote Thursday, the committee recommended that the bill be retained, a move that if approved by the full House next week would put off any decision-making until next year’s session.

House Bill 20, named the “Richard ‘Dick’ Hinch education freedom account program” after the late House speaker, was a top priority for House Republicans this year. The proposal would allow parents to withdraw their children from public school and take the per-pupil state money with them.

Under the bill, that state funding, which amounts to $3,700 to $8,000 per student depending on the school, could then be used by the parents for a number of alternative expenses, such as private school tuition, college preparatory courses, school supplies, or transportation.

But a deluge of opposition to the bill from public school advocates and Democrats had slowed down its progress, resulting in contentious hearings and deliberative sessions that stretched through the day. Opponents argue the bill would drain resources from public schools and prompt cutbacks and increased property taxes; proponents say that it would provide new opportunities to families whose public schools aren’t working for their children.

Despite numerous tweaks and amendments, the bill didn’t have the votes to pass out of the GOP-controlled committee.

It is unclear if the committee would have had the votes to pass the bill even if the amendments were drafted correctly. Last week, NHJournal reported James Allard (R-Pittsfield) was likely to vote against the measure.

House insiders tell NHJournal that had a vote on the bill been held, the best-case scenario would have been a 10-10 tie vote in the committee, sending the bill to the floor with no recommendation. That would have set up a heated floor battle.

Attempts to sway Allard and other concerned Republicans included adding income-caps to the EFA eligibility formula. The cap would limit participation to those earning less than 375 percent of the federal poverty limit — roughly $99,000 for a family of four. That proposed income-cap would cut the number of eligible students in half.

Democrats on the Education Committee were pleased with the outcome.”HB 20 contains no protection for students against discrimination, little oversight, and is ripe for fraud…and would act as a tax-dollar giveaway to wealthy families. There has never been as much vocal opposition to a piece of legislation in NH,” Democrat leader on the committee Mel Myler said in a press release Thursday morning.

There’s still an Education Freedom Account bill in the Senate, giving supporters hope the legislation can still be amended and passed this year. In 2017-2018, the Senate passed SB193 – an education savings account program. That bill died in the House, after being heavily amended. The Senate then scrapped a separate bill and reintroduced SB193, the original version. Again, the proposal failed in the House.Democrats and teachers unions argued EFAs would increase property taxes, defund local district schools, and wreak havoc on New Hampshire’s education system. They celebrated Thursday’s win.

It has been well documented that students who leave public schools for voucher schools lose ground academically. Vouchers will not only hurt the state’s poorly funded public schools, it will hurt the children who use vouchers. It is a lose-lose for everyone except the religious schools that win public funds.

The New Hampshire legislature is pushing forward with a voucher bill (HB 20) without regard to cost or research.

The research is clear: students who leave public schools to use vouchers lose ground compared to their peers in public schools. Vouchers won’t close achievement gaps; they will widen them.

The cost, according to a New Hampshire think tank, is likely to be $100 million. Reaching Higher New Hampshire speculates about what else the state might do with $100 million.

Lawmakers will continue to hear testimony on HB 20, the statewide voucher bill, on Thursday, February 11.Reaching Higher NH’s analysis has found that as proposed, HB 20 could cost the state up to $100 million per year in new state spending because the state would begin paying for private-school and home-school students. 

As proposed, HB 20 would provide those families with between $3,700-$8,400 per year in a taxpayer-funded “education freedom account,” or voucher, to pay for private school tuition, homeschooling costs, and other education-related expenses. 

Money wasted, that could be used to reduce class size, or lower taxes.

The pandemic has taken an especially difficult toll on our young people. Prior to the pandemic, experts estimated that 20% of school aged youth need mental health support; yet, most don’t have access to mental health professionals. Most of those who do receive care, receive it in their school. In fact, research suggests that youth are more likely to receive counseling when services are available in their school — and in some cases, schools are the only places that students can receive care. The need for mental health support has never been greater. For about $57 million per year, the state could place a mental health counselor in every school — public and charter — in New Hampshire. 


New Hampshire has a Republican Governor, Chris Sununu, who appointed the state Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut. The commissioner home-schooled his children. He hates public schools and would like to defund them. If you thought Betsy DeVos was bad because of her zeal for privatization, Edelblut is far worse.

At the first public hearing about Edelblut’s radical voucher plan, public turnout was huge and onerwhelmingly opposed to the destruction of public schools.

Members of the public registered resounding opposition to HB 20, a bill that would create a universal school voucher program, at a public hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Due to the unprecedented and historic turnout, with 85% of it in opposition, the House Education Committee recessed and will continue the hearing on Thursday, Feb. 11, to hear from all 131 people who had signed up to speak at the virtual hearing, and they are accepting additional registrations to testify for those who have not signed up already. 

About 30 people — including parents, educators, lawmakers, experts, and one student — testified over the course of four hours, and another 3,800 signed on to indicate their position on the bill: 600 in favor, 3,198 in opposition and five testifying as neutral, or not taking a position.

“That’s more than we’ve experienced in bills in the time I’ve been in the house,” Committee Chair Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) said of the turnout. He has set aside the entire day on Thursday, February 11, for testimony, saying, “that’s the only way we’re going to get through this.” They’re expecting another record turnout on that day, and have said that they’re already receiving a flood of emails on the bill...

“This bill provides absolutely no oversight or accountability,” said Deborah Nelson, a Hanover resident and parent of grown children. “This bill almost certainly dismantles public education in New Hampshire, and I fear it opens us to ridicule. … it should be called the Dismantling Public Education Bill.” 

Vouchers won’t help kids who need it the most, said Monica Henson, interim superintendent for SAU 44 (Northwood, Nottingham, and Strafford). “The truth is that these accounts are subsidies to affluent families.”

Having regained control of the legislature, Republicans have made vouchers their top priority.


CONCORD
 — Proponents and opponents of “education freedom accounts” Tuesday debated if the bill would benefit students or special interests, and if it would provide greater educational opportunities or be an invitation to commit fraud.

A multi-hour public hearing before the House Education Committee drew testimony from as far away as Arizona and as close as Manchester as both sides turned out in force to make their case for or against House Bill 20, a priority of the Republican legislative leadership.

3,198 people signed in to oppose HB 20 while 600 people signed in support and five signed in as neutral. Due to high turn out, the hearing was recessed and will resume next Thursday, February 11.

The bill has the backing of Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, and Gov. Chris Sununu supports education choice or vouchers.

Many parents of students with special needs or disabilities supported the bill saying it would provide the flexibility to best suit their children’s needs, but educators and others said it would seriously jeopardize public education and drive up already high property taxes in property poor school districts with high poverty levels.

No one mentioned that students who enroll in private voucher schools abandon their federal IDEA rights and protection.

Others said the bill would allow the use of taxpayer dollars without any accountability or state oversight, taking that money away from public education, which needs more state money not less.“House Bill 20 undermines the public school system,” said Rep. Mary Heath, D-Manchester, who is also a former deputy education commissioner. “I am deeply troubled by the fact it takes money from our public schools when we already have a source of revenue for children through the scholarship program.”

That program is funded by business tax credits for companies and interest and dividends tax credits for individuals and is capped at $1 million a year.Heath said the voucher proposal would place an unconscionable burden on taxpayers.

Edelblut recently did a financial analysis indicating the cost to state and local property taxpayers would be minimal and would give school districts a three-year window to adjust their budgets to the loss of state aid when students leave public schools.

In his analysis, Edelblut claims it will save state taxpayers about $360 million to $390 million over 10 years by lowering public school costs.

He touted the program in light of the pandemic and its effect on children, but committee member Rep. David Luneau, D-Hopkinton, who chaired the Education Funding Commission which met last year, questioned what the program would do to help students who underperform in property poor districts, which the commission found to be the biggest driver of educational inequity.

Edelblut claimed the bill would close the performance gap between students from higher income families and low-income families, but Luneau disagreed.

Voucher studies have never reported a single instance where vouchers closed the gap between poor and rich kids. Typically, the students who leave public school to take vouchers lose ground compared to their peers in public schools.

Edelblut is either ignorant or lying.

One of the casualties of the 2020 election was public education in New Hampshire, because Republicans regained control of the legislature. They already hold the Governorship (Chris Sununu, son of John Sununu, who was also Governor of New Hampshire and chief of staff to the first President Bush).

The Republicans’ top priority is school vouchers. Their program, if enacted, would be the most expansive voucher program in the nation. At least 95% of students in the state would be eligible to apply for a voucher.

A new bill that would create the country’s first nearly universal voucher program has been introduced as the top priority for lawmakers in the 2021 session. House Bill 20(HB 20) would require the state to use state dollars currently allocated for public education to fund “Education Freedom Accounts.” Parents could then receive between $3,786 and $8,458 per student in state dollars, depending on eligibility and fees, to use for private school tuition, homeschooling expenses, and other school-related expenses. 

The bill creates the same voucher program that lawmakers originally introduced in 2017 under SB 193 (though they were called “Education Freedom Savings Accounts” then), which was killed because of the deep inequities it would cause for students, as well as the steep costs to the state and local towns. The current version of the bill, HB 20, has no accountability requirements to ensure that students are receiving an adequate education or that public funds are being spent for the stated purposes, aside from self-reporting by the independent scholarship organization. 

“Our communities are struggling under an inequitable funding system which will culminate in an $89 million cut in state funding next year. However, lawmakers have stated that one of their top priorities this session is to enact the most far-reaching voucher program in the country,” said Christina Pretorius, Policy Director at Reaching Higher NH.

“A question that I think our state leaders should ask is, what kind of state do we want 5, 10, 15 years from now? Will this program help to strengthen our state, our economy, and prepare our students — current and future — for life in the 21st century? This proposal, along with the funding crisis, presents a reckoning for our state, that I think we all need to grapple with,” she continued.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • HB 20 would create a nearly universal voucher program, where students attending both public and private schools would qualify for a voucher. Students who enroll in the program must disenroll full-time from their public or charter school. 
  • There are no provisions in the bill that would protect students from discrimination, but the bill does protect educational service providers from being discriminated against based on their religious affiliation. 
  • Parents could receive between $3,786 and $8,458, minus administrative fees, depending on the student’s eligibility for state aid programs. The funding would be placed in an “Education Freedom Account,” or voucher, managed by an independent scholarship organization and funded from the state’s Education Trust Fund.  
  • Parents could use the voucher for various education-related expenses, including private and religious school tuition and program costs, homeschooling costs, tutoring services, computers and software, summer programs, college tuition, or other approved expenses. Recipients are permitted to “roll-over” unused funds from year to year. 
  • Students with disabilities might waive their rights under federal and state disability laws, including the right to an IEP, the right to services, and the right to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. 
  • There is little public oversight for state funds. There is no financial audit requirement for the scholarship organization to ensure that they are appropriately using public funds, nor are participating students required to take, or submit, the statewide assessment that public and charter school students are required to take. There is no requirement that participating students take any assessment of any kind, in order to ensure that public dollars are going towards programs that provide the opportunity for an adequate education.
  • HB 20, as proposed, would be the most far-reaching voucher bill in the country. Other states with voucher programs are targeted to low-income students, students with IEPs, and other identified or discrete student cohorts. HB 20, however, would be a nearly universal voucher program that is not targeted and is open to nearly all New Hampshire children. 
  • Voucher programs have been shown to hurt student outcomes. Long-term studies of voucher programs have shown that participants in voucher programs have significantly lower math and reading scores than those who do not, and that those dips persist for years after the initial study. Other, short-term studies by independent research organizations and universities suggest that voucher programs hurt, or have an insignificant impact, on student outcomes.