Representative Paula Francese (Exeter) submitted this letter to the editor of Seacoast Online:
“It is impossible for me to read Catie McLaughlin’s letter to the editor (12/30/17) and not respond. In her letter Ms. McLaughlin extols the virtues of Senate Bill 193 sponsored by Sen. John Reagan (Deerfield) and Rep. Joseph Pitre (Farmington). Don’t be fooled. This is one of the most odious bills I have encountered in my three years in the legislature. It establishes Education Savings Accounts (a deceptive benign-sounding misnomer) for students who wish to use tax payer dollars to attend private and religious schools. It is important to note that the NH Constitution explicitly states that no public money should go to religious schools. Most concerning is the fact that funding for these accounts would come directly from the Education Trust Fund which would lessen the total amount to be distributed to school districts.
While I have no problem with parental choice, I believe that public tax dollars should stay with public schools and not be diverted to private and religious institutions. The use of valuable public education dollars for private education will add an additional tax burden on the public in order to make up for the lost tax dollars for any school district that has moneys siphoned off to fund private education. You, the average property tax payer, will have to make up for these dollars that are removed from the education trust fund to pay for the private education of some children in our communities. Ask yourself if this seems fair or just. Over time, the deficit could be considerable and the increase in your property tax bill a strain on your personal finances. (For a clear and straightforward explanation of the effect this bill will have on property taxes see an op-ed column by Kathy Staub in the 12/30/17 issue of NH Labor News). As Ms. Staub notes in her column, a “really frightening thing about SB 193 is that the costs are potentially limitless. New Hampshire currently has a limited voucher program which is funded by voluntary contributions from businesses that receive a tax credit [not by taxpayers]…When the money runs out, so do the vouchers.” The vouchers allowed under SB 193 are renewable every year.
This bill is an assault on public education perpetrated by the extreme right. It is a slippery slope that over the long term could severely undermine New Hampshire’s public school system. Our public schools are among the best in the nation, ranking at the top of key national indicators. No public school system is perfect and there are weaknesses to be found in some public schools that struggle. However, instead of upending our public schools with the introduction of these destructive “education savings accounts” we should demand stronger leadership from Governor Chris Sununu and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut to strengthen the fine public education system that exists in New Hampshire. I can only hope that if this bill passes and is signed into law by the governor, serious legal challenges will result. We all need to remind ourselves that public schools are the heart of a democratic society.”