The House of Representatives voted today to pass SB 193, legislation establishing a school voucher program allowing parents to use Education Trust Fund dollars to subsidize tuition to private schools including religious institutions.
House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) released the following statement after the vote:
“Simply put, this bill is an unconstitutional attempt to weaken confidence in public education and reduce funding to public schools.”
“Because funding for this program will come directly from the Education Trust Fund, the total amount distributed to school districts throughout the state will be reduced. To participate in the program, parents of children with disabilities must waive their right to special education and related services.”
“This legislation was written to deliberately circumvent the New Hampshire Constitution, which clearly and distinctly prohibits the use of tax dollars for religious education. The pass-through scheme concocted by this bill is an embarrassment to the founders of this great state.”
NHDP Chair Ray Buckley issued the following statement:
“Governor Sununu’s SB193 school voucher bill is an irresponsible, fundamentally unfair bill that violates our obligation to treat all students equally. It means private and religious schools that are under no obligation to follow state or federal education standards would receive our taxpayer dollars. It means students with disabilities would be subject to schools that are ill-equipped to take on their unique challenges. It means that parents of transgender students would have to give their taxpayer money to schools that ban their children.
The bill promises additional revenue to make up for the losses public schools would inevitably incur, but we’ve yet to see where this money will come from. Will Sununu and the Republicans raise our taxes just to give more money to private and religious schools or will they take money away from crucial services that so many depend on? SB193 is a key part of Governor Sununu & Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s attempt to overhaul the New Hampshire education system, moving the focus away from public schools. They should focus instead on growing and strengthening our public schools to make sure every student has a chance to succeed.”
AFT-NH’s President Doug Ley released the following after yesterday’s vote:
“Despite a powerful speech by Rep. Robert Elliott denouncing the bill as in clear violation of Article 6 of the NH Constitution which explicitly bars spending public monies on religious or sectarian schools, a majority composed almost entirely of House Republicans took a major step towards dismantling the State’s commitment to funding public education. By siphoning public tax revenues into private schools SB193 erodes the State’s commitment to maintaining and providing a quality public education to all children and sets up a separate system of funding for private schools. With all assessment and accountability left in the hands of a private agency that also handles transferring public monies to private schools via “Education Savings Accounts,” the incentive to rake in more revenue by ignoring any serious assessment or accountability is clear. It is a case of the fox guarding the henhouse and ultimately, local taxpayers will bear the additional costs.
“SB193 now moves to the Finance Committee, which must somehow figure a way to fund the program without local property tax increases or raising additional State revenues. As one member of the Finance Committee noted on the House floor, SB193 is a jumble of half-baked financial schemes and unanswered financial questions which will pose great challenges for the committee. There is no clear timeline, though the committee will need to report the bill to the House no later than March 2018.”