NHPR interviewed NH State Senator John Reagan (R) from Deerfield, a prime sponsor of the so called " Education Freedom Savings Accounts" , SB 193.
The bill passed the NH Senate along party lines and is now in the NH House.
The bill would grant about $3,400 of your tax dollars ( 90 percent of the average per-pupil state education aid grant ) and allow parents to put it toward other education expenses, including tuition for private, religious schools.
There are a few parts of the interview that should be of concern to any NH taxpayer and parent.
One in particular is the area of special education. Per Sen. Reagan " My understanding right now is when the student leaves with the savings account, they must seek their own special education services." NHPR got the response exactly right: there is no real choice under this program for children in need of special education services. Except however that Sen. Reagan doesn't really understand how that actually works in public education today. No child can be denied access to a public education. A child with special needs, whatever they may be, has to be accommodated. That can range very broadly and can and sometimes does include sending the child to another school out of the district to meet needs that the district cannot accommodate. Sometimes at a very high cost.
Private schools do not offer the same rights and protections to students as public schools such as the protections of parts of the Civil Rights Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with
Disabilities Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Sen. Reagan also did not see a problem with lack of accountability and transparency when using public funds. NHPR pointed out that home schoolers often want limited state involvement in what they are doing, but now granting these families public money should require some level of accountability. His reponse was " I don't see the problem." He believes that public schools today have no accountability. Private schools do not have to meet standards for
curriculum, testing, teacher qualifications or school quality as do public schools. Its a hard pill to swallow when you are using tax dollars and not expect or require any level of accountability. Isn't that the opposite of conservative principles?
The Senator also commented on the Roman Catholic schools in NH and on religious schools in general. The discussion was centered on Christian schools. I wonder how eager Concord would be to fund a religious education to an Islamic School? The whole argument of public money for a private religious education is a NH Constitutional one and as he stated, will be decided by the courts...if the bill passes the NH House and Gov. Sununu signs it into law.
I don't believe there is much disagreement on the fact that public schools will not disappear anytime soon. The question though, is how will less affluent districts make up for loss of funding if a sizeable number of families move their children out of public schools? The answer is that local property taxes will increase and the specter of taking from those that have to give to those that have not will move from the back burner to center stage. Remember the donor town tax?