ConVal Superintendent Kimberly Saunders spoke against HB 1636, the statewide voucher bill, and urged the legislature, Governor, and Commissioner to “properly” fund public education during a forum hosted by the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.
SB 193, the statewide voucher bill, was killed twice by the House last week but was then added to an unrelated Senate bill, HB 1636. The program would allow families to receive state education funding for education expenses like private and religious school tuition, home schooling expenses, and more.
Saunders said during a Breakfast Education Forum hosted by the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning that the bill, if it were to pass, could move millions from the public school system over the next 10 years into other institutions that aren’t necessarily held to the same accountability or transparency standards.
Saunders recognized that public schools aren’t the answer for every child, but called on state officials to properly fund public education before it begins discussing how it’s going to pay for other models.
“My challenge to the legislature, to the governor, to the commissioner, is fund, properly fund, public education,” she said. “Show us you can do that, make that commitment for us and then let’s talk about how we can fund other types of education.”
The State’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, who attended the breakfast forum, spoke before Saunders and left the event before he could respond to the Saunders comments. Edelblut said in a brief interview with the Ledger-Transcript after the forum that the Department of Education doesn’t take a stance on legislative bills.
Edelblut did say during the conversation that he thinks it’s important to create as many options for students as possible in order to create bright futures for them.
In response to a question about public-school funding, Edelblut said the state legislature sets the budget for the public school system not the state’s Department of Education…
Edelblut said consolidation is one solution, although it has limitations.
“When you get to 50,000 less students, the geography that you are trying to cover with fewer amount of students, you can’t consolidate enough,” he said. “You can’t put a kid on a bus for two hours to consolidate them.”
Saunders said the district has already felt the impact of a shrinking student-body enrollment…
For many years, people have discussed the possibility of reconfiguration or consolidation. At a ConVal School Board meeting on April 17, members discussed concepts like multi-grade/ multi-age classrooms and developing models for possible consolidation or reconfiguration. A board member made a motion during the meeting to put a policy in place that would lay out a specific number a class population would have to drop to before the number acted as a trigger that would result in a multi-age class, according to meeting minutes. It was also suggested at the meeting that a plan regarding possible consolidation or reconfiguration should be brought forward by Jan. 8, 2019.
A petition warrant article on the ballot in March asked taxpayers to give the board authority to shutter schools in the district that dipped below 50 resident students for two years in a row. The measure received a fair amount of pushback prior to the district-wide vote and ultimately failed at the polls.
Reaching Higher NH has a series of policy briefs, analyses, and coverage on SB 193 and HB 1636. Check out our resources:
- Infographic: The Evolution of SB 193, NH’s Statewide Voucher Bill (updated regularly)
- Senate version of voucher bill significantly increases financial impact on local taxpayers (published on May 7, 2018)
- Policy Brief: SB 193 Creating a universal voucher program in New Hampshire (released on April 13, 2017)
- Analysis finds that SB 193 may disadvantage students with disabilities (released on December 21, 2018)