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School choice bill moves forward

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On Tuesday, November 14 a House committee voted in favor a school choice bill, SB 193.

The bill allows parents to take the per-pupil funding from the state and spend it on private or home schooling for their student. A private organization will handle the state funds, about $3,000 per student.

The House Education Committee amended the bill to add several restrictions.

Under the amended bill, to be eligible a student must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Fall under 300% of the federal poverty level,
  • Qualify for special education,
  • Live in an under-performing school district,
  • Be rejected from a charter school due to lack of space, or
  • Be rejected from the Education Tax Credit scholarship program due to lack of funds.

Legislators also added a "hold-harmless" provision. If enough students leave a public school to decrease state funding by 0.25% of the school's budget, the state will reimburse the school for any further losses.

Empowering parents to improve education?

Supports of SB 193 argue that New Hampshire should empower parents to pursue the best educational opportunities for their children.

"This is the first step in ensuring that New Hampshire’s education system continues to be on the forefront of innovation, giving parents and children the ability to choose the education path that is best suited for them, closing the opportunity gap and opening pathways like never before, regardless of economic status."

- Gov. Chris Sununu

Unconstitutional state spending?

Opponents of SB 193 argue that the bill violates the constitution by allowing taxpayer dollars to be spent on private religious schools.

Other bill critics argue that the state Department of Education should handle all of the funds, rather than a private nonprofit that gets reimbursed with a percentage of the scholarship money.

Next steps

The full House of Representatives will vote on SB 193 in January. If the bill passes, the Senate will also have to approve the amended bill.

Click here to learn about other debates related to Education Funding in New Hampshire.

Do you support SB 193 or a different school choice option? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Here's the thing about passing school funding onto parents to spend at their discretion: that money doesn't belong to parents. We collect funds from every taxpayer in the state for our education system. That's a social contract. We ask even those without kids to contribute, because the whole state benefits when we have an educated population. (To give just one example: a skilled workforce is one of the first things businesses look for when choosing where to locate.)

Allowing parents to spend that money where they choose - even with the limitations here, based on income and student need - means we're giving tax dollars to individuals and letting them do whatever they like with that money, with very little accountability to ensure that it is being invested wisely.

I don't feel that's fair to the taxpayers we insist pay into this system. They deserve to know that their money is being spent responsibly. If folks think our school systems aren't fulfilling that--then let's fix them. But throwing money into the wind isn't the solution.

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