What else could $100 million fund? Putting HB 20 into context

Lawmakers will continue to hear testimony on HB 20, the statewide voucher bill, on Thursday, February 11. Reaching Higher NH’s analysis has found that as proposed, HB 20 could cost the state up to $100 million per year in new state spending because the state would begin paying for private-school and home-school students. 

As proposed, HB 20 would provide those families with between $3,700-$8,400 per year in a taxpayer-funded “education freedom account,” or voucher, to pay for private school tuition, homeschooling costs, and other education-related expenses. 

We’ve been asked a lot about the cost of the program, specifically: What would $100 million mean for New Hampshire’s schools and communities?

Property Tax Relief

In 2021, New Hampshire’s most vulnerable communities received about $47 million in targeted aid through Fiscal Capacity Disparity Aid (FCDA). This program provided a boost of funding to cities and towns based on their ability to raise property taxes. Those that had lower property values, and therefore had to have higher tax rates in order to pay for their public schools, received more funding. 

However, these were one-time funds. They will expire at the end of the fiscal year, which is June 2021. 

With $100 million, the state could double that property tax relief, and make it permanent, delivering much-needed support for local communities and public schools.

Additional mental health counselors

The pandemic has taken an especially difficult toll on our young people. Prior to the pandemic, experts estimated that 20% of school aged youth need mental health support; yet, most don’t have access to mental health professionals. Most of those who do receive care, receive it in their school. In fact, research suggests that youth are more likely to receive counseling when services are available in their school — and in some cases, schools are the only places that students can receive care. 

The need for mental health support has never been greater. For about $57 million per year, the state could place a mental health counselor in every school — public and charter — in New Hampshire. 

Source: Based on data from the NH Bureau of Labor Statistics, we estimated the average salary of a School Psychologist at approximately $116,189 per year, including benefits. 

Funding critical building aid projects

For decades, the state provided communities with funds for building, renovating, and updating their physical buildings. From air filtration systems, to critical safety repairs, to assisting with the cost of fixing heating systems, the state has traditionally invested in physical infrastructure. 

Between 2010 and 2018, the state put a hold on the state’s assistance for infrastructure projects. The program was reinstated in the last biennium, but there is a substantial backlog of projects. Some towns that could afford to do so have gone ahead with their projects, but many are still waiting for state assistance. 

For the  2022-2023 biennium, the NH Department of Education has received about $231 million in building aid requests. Nottingham, Winnisquam, Salem, Timberlane, Allenstown, LEAF Charter School, and Windham Academy Charter School are among the schools that have requested aid. 

For $100 million per year, the state could fund nearly every request for 2022-2023. 

Source: NH Department of Education Bureau of School Safety and Facilities Management in a report to the Commission to Study School Funding, 2020

Career and Technical Education (CTE) Funding

Career and Technical Education (CTE) offers middle and high school students the chance to explore career opportunities and receive experiential and technical training that prepares them for college and careers. CTE gives students access to meaningful career pathways and work-based skills. There are 28 CTE centers serving students across New Hampshire.  

Most of the cost of the CTE programs is absorbed by the host high school. The CTE centers receive some federal funding, but most of it is ultimately paid for by local taxpayers. 

For $37 million, the state could reimburse CTE centers for 75% of the cost of every enrolled student. This funding could allow CTE centers to expand and offer more programs to all of New Hampshire’s students. 

Source: New Hampshire Commission to Study School Funding Categorical Aid Brief on Career and Technical Education (CTE) Submitted by Susan Huard, Rick Ladd, and Val Zanchuk, November 2020

Learn more about HB 20, the statewide voucher bill: