SB 193, the statewide voucher bill, has been in the House for close to a year, with members of the Education and then Finance committees refining the bill and narrowing its scope. According to Dr. Carl Ladd, the Executive Director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, lawmakers realize the risk it poses to families, taxpayers, and to the state’s public schools.
From the Concord Monitor:
The bill has been bogged down in the Legislature because the longer House members look at the fine print, the more they recognize this bill has a number of consequences that will do real harm to public schools and to the bottom line of many New Hampshire communities and taxpayers.
Some of the biggest hurdles so far:
– There is a total lack of accountability and transparency for private schools. SB 193 offers no teacher certification requirements; there are no minimum performance standards or accreditation for private schools; there is no rigorous system for gauging student success, through either testing or academic performance.
– Private schools can “double dip” for funding. They will receive the state’s so-called “per pupil” funding, but parents can also apply for funds from the current 2012 school voucher program. This essentially means private schools will receive more state aid per student than the 93 percent of students who attend our public schools.
– Students with special needs will not get access to their special education funding program in existence today. By choosing the SB 193 route, families agree not to apply for special education funds. Private schools are also not required to provide special education services.
– A state review of the plan shows New Hampshire’s cities and large communities will be forced to pay for this program, which is estimated to cost $100 million over 11 years. This legislation will have a dramatic impact on tens of thousands of N.H. taxpayers and will also divert millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to an outside organization with no transparency and limited accountability.
– Finally, this proposal flies in the face of the Constitution, which prohibits sending state tax dollars to pay for religious schools.
This bill offers no promise of equal access for all students because of built-in limits on the number of students allowed to transfer into private schools. With all of these concerns, it’s no wonder supporters are scrambling to figure out what to do.
Perhaps most frustrating, this debate ignores an obvious truth about New Hampshire’s public schools: They are performing extremely well. Our public high schools have one of the highest graduation rates in the country. Our student test scores rank consistently in the top 10 in the U.S. As a state, we have one of the best college acceptance rates in the nation, and our low unemployment and high worker demand shows our schools are a key part of training tomorrow’s workforce.
We are constantly striving to do better, but we have to recognize that public schools have a responsibility to all students. This requires us to offer access to a wide variety of quality programs that provide universal opportunity regardless of student needs and individual circumstances. To that end, our schools are adapting to new methods of teaching. We are in the forefront of personalized learning and competency-based education. Our public schools are doing this with fewer and fewer resources and increasing regulation. In short, there is a definite high return on investment of public education in New Hampshire.
Why are we searching for a solution to a problem that does not exist, which will further burden local school districts already underfunded and over-regulated, and will harm local taxpayers? We respectfully urge lawmakers to reject SB 193 and focus energy on how to make our current system even better.