Don't be fooled by GOP education tax credit bills, Gary Patton, Portsmouth Herald, 2/21/12

posted Feb 21, 2012, 5:21 AM by Bill Duncan

February 21, 2012 2:00 AM

To the Editor:

If the number of flaws in the Republican-backed education tax credit (school voucher) bills (SB 372 and its companion piece HB 1607) were fleas on a dog, the poor creature would be frantically scratching from dawn to dusk.

First, these Republican bills attempt to circumvent, by the use of a sneaky, back-door scheme, the New Hampshire Constitution's prohibition against the use of public funds to support religious institutions. Instead of giving public money directly to private and religious schools, New Hampshire businessmen would be allowed to make scholarship money available to "scholarship organizations." These businessmen would then be allowed to subtract 90 percent of what they donated from their business profits tax. The scholarship organizations would then give $2,500 to students wishing to transfer from public to private schools and $1,500 to students who want to be home-schooled.

Second, the program will produce an increase in your local property taxes. When the state withholds its per-pupil contribution for a voucher student who has moved from a public to a private school, the school district budget does not change, but revenues go down. When that happens, the school will cut back on instructional programs or other expenses. In the following year, the local property tax will be increased to make up the difference.

Third, the private schools and home-schoolers are not required to provide accountability for their use of these public tax moneys. Is your tax money being put to good use? Are the voucher transfer students being well educated? The private schools and home-schoolers don't have to tell you.

Fourth, most vouchers would go to students who could go to private schools without them. These Republican bills would be the only ones in the country, other than Pennsylvania, that propose to give vouchers to private school children already in private schools. By the eighth year, there would be no requirement that any of the vouchers go to public school children wishing to transfer.

Fifth, why are vouchers being given to home-schooled children? If passed, the Republican-backed plan would be the only one in the country to provide vouchers for home schooling. Sixth, and perhaps most important, there is no public support for these Republican bills. According to the latest WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the UNH Survey Center among all voters, respondents oppose using state funds to help students attend private schools by more than a 2-to-1 margin (55 percent to 23 percent).

May I remind our elected officials that they have been selected to represent the views of their constituents. Indeed, that is why many are called state representatives. If Republicans run roughshod over the will of the people and pass these bills despite widespread public opposition, they richly deserve to be replaced in next November's general election.

Gary Patton