Risking it all for choice

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The Laconia Daily Sun featured Reaching Higher NH’s analysis of SB 193, the bill that would create a statewide voucher program, and reactions from local lawmakers and school administrators: 

School districts could lose $5.8 million in state aid, nearly $100,000 in Laconia alone, under a bill allowing public funds to be spent on private education or home schooling, according to a study by a policy analysis group.

Those are first-year effects from Senate Bill 193, according to the study by Reaching Higher NH, a nonpartisan education policy nonprofit.

Dan Vallone, director of engagement for the group, said the organization does not oppose or endorse the Senate-passed bill, which could be considered by the full House as soon as Jan. 3.

“We’re just saying what a plain text reading of the bill indicates and we put it out there so people can make the best decision on what it says, what it means and what the practical implications are from a financial standpoint,” he said Thursday…

Backers of the bill say it would empower parents to make the best education choices for their children. Some children might encounter bullying in a public school, or not have access to the best curriculum for their needs.

Rep. Norman Silber, R-Gilford, said he is still studying the bill, but supports it in principle.

“It’s about freedom and the freedom to choose,” he said. “The best people to determine how a child is to be educated are the parents.

“They can choose to send their children to public, or private non-sectarian, or parochial school or they can home school them.”

On the cost question, Silber said he feels money spent on public schools doesn’t translate to academic achievement.

“In Gilford, the reality is that we’re spending over $23,000 per student and the results on education achievement is miserable.”

He repeated a quote he has used before.

“We’re paying Cadillac and Mercedes prices and getting Yugos out of the Gilford school system.”

Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, the bill’s author, said the measure would improve education outcomes.

“What we know nationwide is that any time you create any type of competition in education, you get a better product,” he said. “By introducing competition, you’ll get better-trained students. This has happened all around the country, and test scores in nearby public schools have increased.”

Backers also say the financial effect on school districts would be minimal and comparable to the loss of students and state money seen in the yearly churn when students move away.

Laconia School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan has concerns about the measure.

He said it has the potential for taking support away from public schools.

“Public schools are important for promoting democracy and getting along with people from different socio-economic groups, religions and demographics,” he said. “Public schools have an important connection to the community. Not to say other schools don’t have community, but it may not be one attached to your town.”

He also said that schools are equipped with options that can give children many of the educational choices that might be sought in a private education.

Source: Risking it all for choice | Laconia Daily Sun