Representative Wayne Burton (Strafford 6), a member of the House Education Committee, submitted this letter to Foster’s Daily Democrat on SB 193, a bill that would create a universal voucher program in New Hampshire through Education Freedom Savings Accounts:
SB 193, the so-called voucher bill, if passed would launder money skimmed off the top of a public school’s adequacy allocation from the state and deposit those funds in what it calls an Education Freedom Savings Account, much like a drug dealer running revenue through the Bahamas. Parents in various categories, including those who determine “that the assigned school is not in the best interest of the student” could then tap those funds to pay for private school, including those religion-based. A private “scholarship organization” would administer the program including evaluating academic progress, usurping the public school’s responsibility to accomplish that task. This private organization would rake off “5% of the adequate education grant for administrative expenses”, funds that would have gone to the student’s public school.
Why reverse Robin Hood? Most private schools, including parochial institutions, charge well in excess of the $3,200 ripped from the public school’s budget. Thus families of means will benefit most from the program. Some private schools do offer additional funds that improve the net to the student. But you get the point – take money from the poor and give it to the rich.
What irks me most about this scam is its violation of my fundamental belief that public education undergirds our democracy which depends on a highly educated citizenry. SB 193 changes us to a philosophy that individual choice trumps the greater good of our communities. If parents believe their child is better off in a private school I understand. But don’t take our tax dollars with them.
Ironically, in making the case for the bill, the Manchester Union Leader does the reverse. They favor the bill because the “tax-free accounts would let parents use state funds for private schools”, a clear violation of the state and federal constitutions. Proponents claim because the money goes to the parents not the schools who in turn get the money from them, it clears the legal hurdle. If you buy that I’ll sell you the Sullivan Bridge which is in better shape than this argument.
An Education subcommittee split vote last week sends the bill to the full committee on November 8th with a recommendation of ’Ought to Pass.” I hope reason out wrestles ideology in this instance and we stick with equal opportunity for all, and as President Obama one famously intoned, everybody means everybody.