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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

School Voucher Bill Up For Full House Vote This Week. Property Tax Hit: $99 Million Over 10 Years

SB 193, the School Voucher bill, will most likely come up for a full NH House vote Wednesday or Thursday this week. The bill will use our local school property taxes to pay for private and religious education. It was estimated by the House Finance Committee to downshift $99 million dollars to local school districts over 10 years. The loss of scores of students in some NH districts would be catastrophic. The NH House Finance Committee voted 14 -12 last week to refer the bill for interim study due to its many flaws.The vote was bipartisan, and the committee majority reported numerous very serious concerns with the bill. Per the NH House Calendar and Journal #17 :

  •  (the bill)does not adequately deal with the needs of special education students: the committee discovered that only public schools are bound to deliver a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) and that almost no non-public school is equipped with appropriately trained staff 
  •  two-thirds of the 140 non-public schools approved by the Department of Education are approved for attendance (that is, they meet zoning requirements and fire and safety rules only) and not for their academic programs (with the consequence that state adequacy funds would be used to support students in schools whose academic programs do not meet any private or public academic oversight requirements). 
  • oversight over parent-directed education, familiarly known as homeschooling, is minimal. 
  • the amendment provides a scholarship for each eligible student equal to the base cost of an adequate education (about $3,600) plus differentiated aid ($1,800) if the child is entitled to such aid. The latter is somewhat confusing. There is no requirement nor expectation that the services covered by differentiated aid will be delivered outside of the public schools.
  • to compensate a school district for the loss of adequacy funds when a pupil participates in the education savings account program, the state will continue to provide adequacy aid for the first year plus a $1,500 per child stipend for the second year to help meet the school’s fixed costs. However, those fixed costs are far higher than these amounts and last far longer than two years, imposing a significant financial burden that increases over time. Ultimately, this burden will be borne by local property taxpayers. 
  • this program will be managed by a private, non-governmental entity that will receive up to 5% of the total funds transferred from school districts. Procedures used by such entities in other states have been demonstrated to be vulnerable to misuse and maladministration, and the amendment does not provide sufficient protection against such abuses in New Hampshire.
  • it would downshift over $99 million to local school districts during the program’s 11 year-ramp up period, most likely resulting in an increase in local property taxes. 
  • It is clear to the majority of the Finance Committee that much more work needs to be done to ensure that unintended consequences are addressed and the educational needs of New Hampshire’s children are met. 
A lot to take in here, but in our town of Moultonboro and in our NH House district, we have some the best public schools in NH. The last thing we need in Moultonboro is to pay more for school property taxes and to see that money sent to a third party non-governmental entity for distribution to .. who knows where with no accountability. 
The legislature and our local legislators, in particular, should be looking out for their district first and foremost and doing all they can to support their schools and taxpayers. This bill does none of that and deserves to be voted down and killed. 

No comments: