Voucher bill “a work in progress,” say lawmakers

Lawmakers remain concerned about the financial impacts on larger districts

voucher bill school choice

The House Finance subcommittee that is working on SB 193, the statewide voucher bill, released another amendment on last week at their work session. From NHPR:

Senate Bill 193 received another set of tweaks on Wednesday.

The bill would allow some parents to use state tax dollars to educate their children outside of public schools.

A version of the bill was approved by the full House in January but has been tied up in the House Finance Committee, where lawmakers have debated the impacts the bill would have on the pocketbooks of the state and local school districts.

Republican State Rep. Rick Ladd has been trying to shepherd the bill to passage.

“It’s still a work in progress. I think we’ve come a long ways in terms of clarifying certain portions of the bill,” said Ladd. “We’ve looked at the eligibility, we’ve looked at the accountability components – we’ve got that pretty much together. The sticking point right now is lost dollars to a larger school district.”

The latest amendment makes several substantial changes to the proposed voucher program:

  1. Decreased accountability: Students are still required to take an annual educational evaluation, but if they show insufficient academic growth for 2 years or more, they are required to work with the scholarship organization (who is not required to have any educational experience or expertise) on an improvement plan. Previously, students who were not showing any academic growth would return to public school.
  2. Increased funding for scholarship organization: Under the amendment, the scholarship organization would receive up to 5% of the base adequacy plus up to 5% of differentiated aid,  meaning by year 10 the scholarship organization is projected to receive ~$640,000 a year (previously it was ~$410,000) for a cumulative 11 year amount of $5.44 million (previously it was $3.5 million). 
  3. The amendment specifies that the funding for the program would come from the education trust fund, which is the same fund that is used to pay for the state’s public schools. 

For a rundown of all of the major revisions to the bill so far, see our infographic.

The subcommittee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, April 17 and is expected to vote on the bill and its amendments. Tune into Reaching Higher NH’s livestream of the work session on Facebook!

Read more about Reaching Higher NH’s analyses on the bill here.

Source: ‘Education Savings Accounts’ Bill Inches Closer to Final Vote | NHPR