The Laconia Daily Sun featured a thorough piece on reactions from several different stakeholders in the passage of SB 193. The bill would create a statewide voucher system in the state through education freedom savings accounts, and according to the Daily Sun, at least 60% of families in Laconia would qualify under the income eligibility requirement. Here’s an excerpt:
Dan Vallone, director of engagement for Reaching Higher NH, which analyzes legislation affecting public education, said it’s hard to estimate the fiscal effects of the bill without knowing how many students would participate.
A new amendment in the bill would require the state to compensate school districts for losses in revenue above one quarter of one percent for the first five fiscal years.
“That would be all new money and that would require new funding from the state,” Vallone said. “It could be very sizable, even with relatively conservative adoption rates.”
Laconia School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan has expressed concerns about the loss of funding schools could encounter under the bill. These concerns could be addressed by the new amendment, but he said he still has “philosophical concerns…”
He said public schools are faced with rigorous accountability standards meant to ensure students are making adequate academic progress. Private schools and home schools do not have the same requirements.
He also said public schools offer a wide range of education options to deal with specific students’ needs and academic interests.
Mary Jane Cooney, principal of Holy Trinity Catholic School, welcomes the legislation.
“Not every school is right for every child,” she said. “I know children who thrive in the public schools, and our school may not be for every child, but the people who do send their children here feel they are providing their child with the best opportunity.”
She said the school provides financial assistance for those who can’t afford tuition, but many who would like to send their children there may feel they need additional assistance.
Holy Trinity’s yearly tuition of $8,330 can be reduced through volunteer school service and scholarships. Reductions are also made when multiple children from the same family attend.
Michelle Levell, director of School Choice for NH, said statistics from the handful of states with programs similar to the one envisioned in the bill indicate only a small percentage of students would leave public schools if the measure passes.
Still, she thinks that choice should be available for young people who need something other than what is offered at a public school.
“Even a good school district might not be the best fit for a particular child,” Levell said.
Bullying is a problem at some schools. Others may lack what a child needs academically…
“Parents know their children the best and have a vested interest to make sure their kids are educated well,” Levell said.
The more than $3,000 of state money that could be applied to a private education wouldn’t go far at some of the area’s prestigious prep schools.
Tuition for day students at the nearly 200-year-old Brewster Academy on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro is $35,020, which is typical for a New Hampshire prep school, said Marcia Eldredge, the school’s communications director.
The House Education Committee recommended passing the amended bill in a 10-9 vote on November 14. The bill now goes to the full House for a vote in early January. Catch up with the debate around the bill and Reaching Higher NH’s analysis of its impact on our local communities here.