Representative Mary Heath (Manchester), who serves on the House Education Committee, wrote in Seacoast Online that the Legislature’s job should be to strengthen the state’s public schools, not give money to private and religious ones:
Last week, New Hampshire Republicans moved one step closer toward dismantling our state’s public school system in favor of a voucher program that will divert funds from public schools to unregulated private, parochial and religious school.
Instead of investing in making our public schools better, the financial burden of SB 193 will be absorbed by the state’s excellent K-12 public school system that educates nearly 90 percent of New Hampshire children.
SB 193 is off to the House Finance Committee for a hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 1:30 p.m., and if passed, it will face a vote in the New Hampshire Senate in the coming weeks. SB 193 is disastrous for Granite State students and would create a segregated school system that prevents countless children from getting the quality education they deserve. It is unethical to send our state’s children down an educational path that lacks research support. Also, note that SB 193 funds a new private agency to administer the program by using 5 percent of the bill’s allocated funds.
Should Senate Republicans pass this legislation, they will effectively encourage students to attend schools like the Tri-City Christian Academy. This school made headlines last year when they banned a student (who was on track to be valedictorian) from matriculating there because he was transgender. Under SB 193, schools with wide-ranging agendas will be able to judge, criticize and reject students who are different.
New Hampshire’s Constitution clearly states that citizens cannot be forced to support religious schooling, whether in a family home or at a religiously affiliated institution. SB 193 fails to abide by this responsibility. Furthermore, legislators do not know how much the program might cost state taxpayers. No state in the nation allows parents to customize their child’s public education more than New Hampshire, leading one to conclude that SB 193 is really about directing public monies to private schools. SB 193 is part of a broader conservative ideology that believes public schools should be replaced by a marketplace of private schools that compete for the vouchers.
SB 193 will also disproportionately hurt students with disabilities. Unlike public schools that are required by law to account for all types of disabilities, private schools are under no such obligation. These schools are not required to be ADA accessible, they do not have teachers with proper special education training, and may not be trained to provide students with different physical, mental, or learning disabilities with a proper education. For these students, the “right choice” could mean huge risks and long commutes that parents can’t afford.
As legislators, it is our job to protect and strengthen our state’s school system. Instead of giving public money to private institutions, we should strengthen our public schools. Strong public education helps create generations of critically thinking and engaged students. It gives children the chance to thrive regardless of their gender identity, disabilities, or economic status. With SB 193, Republicans are proposing a bill that will keep students from reaching their full potential.
Gov. Sununu has backed this bill from day one. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise given his pick for Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. Edelblut has been a fierce advocate for a voucher system. He made his stance clear by donating money to causes he believes in, like the Croydon School Board’s legal defense fund when they illegally transferred education funds to a religious school.
While this bill passed the House along party lines, it doesn’t mean this fight is over. It is up to everyone who cares about providing all students with a quality education to call their state senators and urge them to oppose SB 193. Call Gov. Sununu at 271-2121 to register your opposition. Now is the time for us all to work together to defend all of the children in New Hampshire.