"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Monday, September 5, 2016

Education Choice is no Friend to Public Education

The New Hampshire Education Tax Credit Program, enacted in 2012 and launched in 2013, gives tax credits to businesses that donate to scholarship-granting nonprofits. Families who meet the income limits can receive scholarships they may use toward private schooling or homeschooling expenses. In 2016, New Hampshire businesses donated a total of $221,694 to CSF for scholarships, compared with almost $125,000 raised in 2015.
There are 122 participating students for the 2016-2017 school year, far less than 1% of all NH students. There are 179,721 K through 12 public school students in NH and 14,442 in public charter schools, ( NH DOE) There are also 352 private schools in NH serving 31,022 students. The main scholarship organization is the NH Children’s Scholarship Fund. According to NH Kids Count, as of 2014, the "budget amount" of the annual maximum business tax credits increased in total allowable donations from $4 million to $6 million, potentially $10 million in diverted revenue.

 The NH ACLU sued to overturn NH’s Education Tax Credit in 2013: "One of the clearest principles of our state constitution is that taxpayer dollars cannot be used to fund religious education. Part II, Article 83 and Part I, Article 6 plainly affirm that “no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools or institutions of any religious sect or denomination” and that “no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination....Unfortunately, the Education Tax Credit Program undermines these sacred constitutional principles. Under this complex government-subsidy program, businesses receive an 85% tax credit for donations made to K-12 “scholarship organizations,” which pay for tuition at religious and other private schools. In short, rather than paying their taxes to the state, businesses will instead be able to direct money owed to the state toward religious education." In essence, tax credits are public funds.
The ACLU suit in Superior Court was successful when the judge ruled that the law would violate the constitution by sending public tax dollars to religious schools. That decision was overturned by the NH Supreme court in 2014, but it did not decide the issue. It ruled that the program's challengers lacked authority to bring the suit because they failed to show how the program specifically affects them. It did not decide the basic issue.

 According to NH DRA, these are the 128 scholarships awarded in 2015, the last year reported:

At least 82 of the 128 scholarships went to religious based schools.
I have no objection to parents choosing to send their children to a faith based school.
I went to Catholic schools from K through 12. Free public school was available, but my parents chose to enroll us in the parish elementary school and enrolled me in a Catholic high school. No scholarships or education credits paid for it. They skimped and saved and made their choices without any public assistance. That same school choice is still an option here in NH. I also support charitable organizations that offer support for needy families that don’t have the financial means to enroll their children in private schools.
 I just don’t support the government paying for it under the notion of “ education choice” and diverting revenue and support from our public schools.

Karey Hardwood a public schools advocate quoted in SALON said: “When they talk about choice, whose choices are they referring to? Are the children of people who are savvy enough to get out of the public schools the only children who are worth educating in our society? What happens to the children who don’t get out? It seems the [people behind School Choice Week] knowingly embrace the idea of creating a second tier of schools for those American citizens who don’t or can’t ‘choose’ – and they are perfectly okay with a divided society of winners and losers.” She went on to say : “rather than strengthen a weakened public school system because we believe in public schools as the foundation of a democratic society, the solution is to abandon public schools altogether, let them deteriorate, and replace them with alternative private schools and charter schools that can claim they cater to every possible parental preference.”

Right now, the number of families choosing to apply for the vouchers is minuscule and not impacting the state budget. Interesting too is the very small amount of money donated by NH businesses to the scholarship non-profits. The NH Supreme Court did not rule on the basic question, but I suspect that if the revenue flow approaches what was budgeted ($6 million per year) it may once again end up in the courts.

Vouchers shift limited state funds away from public school districts, and downshift the cost of reduced adequacy payments to local communities and property tax payers.  The voucher program allows a radical out of state group like American’s for Prosperity, bent on the destruction of public education, to determine the use of our public education funds.

I know that my Moultonboro School Board meets the first Tuesday of the month. They run for office and we vote them in or out. If some of our tax dollars go to a school out of town we lose some  local control of how our school property tax is spent.

Far better for the vast majority of students in NH is for Concord to work toward improving public education for all of New Hampshire and not attempt to dismantle it piecemeal.  


Anonymous said...

Moultonborough does an outstanding job educating our students. The anti school crowd that roused all the anxiety about the gym will never agree with that sentiment because it doesn't fit the very, very narrow right wing narrative. Truth be told, the far right believes our public schools do nothing but indoctrinate our kids to believe everything they oppose. Another conspiracy. It's all a plot don't you know.

State Rep Glenn Cordelli said...

Education choice, aka education freedom, is the friend of PARENTS who want the best education for their children.
Candidate Paul's parents were able to afford to send him to a Catholic school He evidently does not want that same ability for low income families. Wealthier families can move to find a better education or pay for a private school. Low income families do not have that ability - that are trapped by their address to attend a specific school, many times a failing school.
Education choice, aka education freedom, is the ONLY education reform with proven positive results.

And "diverting income". Candidate Paul is a big government guy. Any possible loose change in your pocket, he wants for bigger government. I guess we should eliminate all tax deductions or credits for businesses - or individuals. After all, the government (and Candidate Paul) knows how it should be spent.

Moultonboro Blogger said...

Your opening line is an insult to our school system here in Moultonborough. Education choice is a far right code phrase for dismantling pubic education.
My parents could not afford a private education for all their kids. I was the only one they ould manage to pay for high shool. I grew up in the inner city in a low income family. My father supported a household of 7 people on his Post Office income. It was a financial struggle. Low income families can still get scholarships and grants as they did before the NH House decided to divert revenue that should go to support our public schools.
Sitting on the education committee in the House, you have consistently fought against our public schools and our teachers and have voted 100% of the time with the extremist Koch brothers who have more than $42 billion to make public policy out of their anti-government ideology which you fully support. I oppose the Koch brothers getting involved in our schools You on the other hand do not and by your votes have worked to bring them in.
I prefer to support our school system and teachers here in Moultonborough as well as the local control we still have. We can make it better, not dismantle it.
I do not want bigger government nor do I want to reach into anyone's pockets nor have anyone reach into mine. I am in favor of government working better. That happens when we put reasonable people in office that put their constituents ahead of the Koch brothers.