Concord school board member: Vouchers would undermine school districts

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Concord School Board member Maureen Redmond-Scura wrote an open letter to Governor Sununu in the Concord Monitor on SB 193, the universal voucher bill that’s currently in the House:

Dear Gov. Sununu: You publicly called out the Concord School Board, of which I am a member, for not implementing full-day kindergarten. At the same time, you have voiced your support for school vouchers. If you sign Senate Bill 193 into law and bring vouchers to New Hampshire, you will personally ensure that progressive educational policies like full-day kindergarten will be increasingly difficult to afford.

Vouchers are nearly universally discussed as a means of educational choice. In “Live Free or Die New Hampshire,” we believe in choice, but we also believe in accountability, representation (we have one of the most representative legislatures in the world) and transparency. This is where vouchers fail the sniff test.

On a home valued at $250,000 (a standard we often use in Concord), state education taxes ($2.26 per $1,000 of assessed value, per the state website) would be $565 per year. The state’s adequacy funding is approximately $3,616 per student per year. Clearly, a family does not pay the cost of educating their child. Rather all taxpayers – childless, retired, single, young, etc. – contribute to educating New Hampshire’s children. A family receiving a voucher is then getting other people’s tax money. Lots more if they have more than one child.

Families can use other people’s tax dollars for private school tuition or to offset home schooling expenses. Home schooling in particular has virtually no accountability, and private schools fall outside taxpayers’ control so they would have no say in how their money is spent.

It appears that while the New Hampshire Constitution forbids using taxes to support religious instruction, this bill uses a third party to manage the transfer of funds and thus avoids the appearance of direct transfer of state tax dollars to religious schools. That third party also charges 5 percent of the funds for its services.

If one-tenth of Concord’s school children (440 students) receives vouchers, that would remove over $1.4 million from the state aid to Concord’s public schools.

Full-day kindergarten is estimated to cost $1.2 million, and the Concord School District simply couldn’t agree to raise those funds. Now you would like to take even more than that from our existing budget? Plus, the 5 percent fee to the private agency would be over $60,000, about the price of a teacher.

Governor, if you truly believe in the best education for all of New Hampshire’s students, do not undermine the efforts of our school districts by taking our tax dollars and giving them to private schools and businesses. Vote no on vouchers.

Read the full letter here.