NHPR put this story up this morning, before the House Education Committee voted 15-4 to retain for study HB 193, the voucher bill:
Lawmakers will debate a controversial education bill Tuesday that would allow parents to use state tax dollars to pay for private school tuition and homeschool expenses.
The bill is testing how far and how fast school choice advocates are willing to go in implementing their agenda.
It’s the middle of another school day here at the McLaughlin house in Hampton Falls: four kids, from 7 to 13 are scattered around the kitchen table and living room – some with pencils and worksheets; the oldest with a laptop and headphones.
“Since the baby is asleep, this is a good time for us to do math. She’s got a live online math class, which has worked out really well for her…”
Catie McLaughlin says she and her husband decided to homeschool about seven years ago. They were both in the military, expecting to move around a lot, and they wanted to provide some continuity for their kids.
McLaughlin says she was nervous about it at first, but eventually even family members who were skeptical of the choice agreed it was working well.
Tori McLaughlin, age 13, takes her headphones off to agree….
It’s a big reason why she supports Senate Bill 193, which is working its way through the state legislature.
This bill would make homeschool families like the McLaughlins eligible for state money to help with the cost of homeschooling — about $2500 a year, per child.
There are an estimated 6,000 homeschooled children in New Hampshire who would all be eligible for the grants if the bill passes.
And homeschoolers aren’t the only ones who could take advantage of this program. Parents could also use state tax dollars under this bill for things like textbooks, tutors, and tuition at a private school.
“Yeah it would be for us, a game changer for sure.”
That’s Mark Pomeroy, director of Claremont Christian Academy, which has about 120 students in grades K through 12.
Pomeroy says a program like this could make a big difference for families who can’t afford private school.
The sticker price for tuition at Claremont Christian Academy is about $4,000 a year. This bill could give parents enough money to cover about 75 percent of that…..
Opponents of the bill have raised several concerns – including the issue of sending public money to religious schools.
But many have focused their concern on how the program would be funded.
If the parents of a public school student decide to use this program to switch to private or home school, the state money that would have gone to the public school would leave with the student. School administrators say they can’t always reduce their expenses at the same rate they could lose funding under this bill.
It’s concern about this part of the program that is giving pause to even staunch school choice advocates. Governor Chris Sununu, who often campaigned on school choice issues, seemed to pump the brakes on the bill while talking to reporters last week.
“I do have concerns when you start using state funds, whether it be a voucher program or you know all the different terms that you want to put for it, to schools of a non-public nature. Whatever we do we have to take things step-wise.”