Representative Cordelli: Education Savings Accounts will not destroy public education

From the Laconia Daily Sun

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Representative Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro) countered recent claims that SB 193, the bill that would create a statewide voucher program, would hurt public schools in a letter to the Laconia Daily Sun (read Reaching Higher NH’s analysis on the financial impact here): 

“New Hampshire has many great schools but that school might not be the best fit for every child. So what happens to those children? If the family has the financial resources, they can move, home school, or enroll their child in a private school. If they do not have the resources they are trapped by their address. That child is then locked into a school that does not meet their needs. They do not receive the educational opportunities they deserve. Some of these children are those with learning challenges and some are those who have become labeled discipline problems when what they need is an alternative learning environment. The result is truancy and risk of contact with the drug culture.

What is SB-193 and what are education savings accounts? Education savings accounts (ESAs) are like health savings accounts. A parent of an eligible student can sign an agreement; withdraw the student from the public school, and the state will deposit the funds the state would have sent to the school district into an account to be used by the parents to provide the best education options for the child. SB-193 specifies only certain allowable expenses for which the account can be used such as tuition, online courses, therapies, tutors, textbooks, and testing. All receipts for expenses are verified by the non-profit scholarship organization that currently manages the business tax credit scholarship program and multiple layers of financial accountability in SB-193.

Opponents of SB-193 claim ESAs will lead to sudden and unmanageably large revenue reductions for public schools. A recent policy analysis completed by the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy using data posted by the N.H. Department of Education shows that “fear to be unfounded.” In the other five states that have implemented ESAs, they have seen less than 1 percent of eligible students leave for the program. It is only the state money that goes with the child. The local and federal funds are not touched. The center’s analysis “finds that on average school districts in New Hampshire would keep 99.7 percent of their operating budgets if 1 percent of students leave.”

To make sure that school districts do not experience financial hardships due to the program, we added a “stabilization fund” to the legislation. If the departure of students for ESAs results in the district loosing more than one-quarter of 1 percent of their budget, the state will send them a grant for anything over that amount. Thus the maximum impact to any district would be one-quarter of 1 percent. Yes, the state would be sending a grant to the district for students they no longer have to educate. Still the critics claim SB-193 will destroy public education. Do you agree?”

Source: Education Savings Accounts Will Not Destroy Public Education; Here’s Why | Laconia Daily Sun