According to Manchester Ink Link, the Manchester School District could face substantial losses in state aid if SB 193, the bill that would create a statewide voucher program, passes:
Each student who takes advantage of an “Education Freedom Savings Account” would receive $3,510 from the state’s per-pupil grant to be spent on costs for schooling outside the public school district.
For each student who uses the program, the state’s per-pupil grant to the school district would be reduced by $3,510. However, the number of participating students and the bill’s potential impact on city taxes is hard to predict. The Manchester School District already has the state’s lowest annual cost per pupil, at $11,390, putting it at high risk from any losses in state aid.
NH State Rep. Barbara Shaw, who also represents Ward 9 on the Manchester Board of Aldermen, stated, “I do not believe it will be a major impact that will affect taxpayers.” She was the only Education Committee Democrat who voted for the bill.
Shaw predicts that only one percent of the school population would be eligible to apply, pointing out the program’s stringent requirements, including parental income level, failure of the school system to meet a student’s needs over a two-year period, and the need to re-apply yearly.
State Rep.Connie Van Houten (D-Manchester) representing Ward 1, said “It could well result in increased property taxes in Manchester.”
Van Houten explained that if all such students came from one class, it would be easy to simply eliminate the class. However, students would come from scattered schools and classes, so the school district would be unable to reduce overhead costs for buildings, salaries, and transportation. If 100 students used the program, that would take away $351,025 from the district. Property taxes would have to make up for the loss.
Mayor-elect Joyce Craig said, “I do not support SB 193, which will divert state tax money from our public schools into private and charter schools. If this bill passes, Manchester’s school district could potentially lose millions of dollars. We must find ways to strengthen our school district at this critical time and I believe SB 193 would harm our ability to provide quality education to every student…”
Shaw, who had been a Manchester school teacher and administrator, sees the bill as a response to students whose needs are not met in the public schools, such as those who need smaller class sizes, smaller schools, or hands-on instruction. It could include gifted children who are not adequately challenged.
“This is an added educational opportunity for kids. Change can be good,” Shaw said.