Reaching Higher NH & Bartlett Center release reports on school choice bill

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The Associated Press highlighted Reaching Higher NH’s policy analysis of SB 193, the bill that would create a statewide voucher program in New Hampshire, and compared it with the Josiah Bartlett Center’s response on its impacts on local districts:

In its report, Reaching Higher New Hampshire estimated that school districts would lose $5.8 million in state funding if 3 percent of students get vouchers during the first year of the program. The state would spend $2.2 million that year in stabilization grants to compensate districts that lose more than one quarter of 1 percent of their previous year’s budget, and that total would rise to $10.1 million in five years. Additionally, the state would need to spend about $2.6 million a year for students who currently are in private schools who get vouchers, the group said.

The Bartlett Center noted districts have weathered far larger drops in enrollment in recent years, and even if 5 percent of students use vouchers, districts would still keep 98.7 percent of their budgets intact. It found that from 2010-2015, the average change in enrollment was a decline of 7 percent.

“These figures show that the supposedly dire enrollment reductions projected by (Education Savings Account) opponents are actually within the normal annual variation for New Hampshire school districts,” the group said. “The data further show that even without the stabilization grants provided in the House version of SB 193, a district that loses as much as 5 percent of its student body could nonetheless be expected to retain more than 98 percent of its operation budget.”

The Reaching Higher New Hampshire analysis also estimates that nearly three quarters of students eligible for a voucher will come from communities that rank in the bottom half of the state in terms of their property tax base. Those communities would have a harder time raising money through property taxes for education.

“The concentration of eligible students in such communities underscores the challenges (the program) could pose in terms of adequately funding all students’ educations,” the group said.