Lawmakers seek accord on scholarships, tax credits , Union Leader, 4/8/12

posted Apr 8, 2012, 3:18 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Apr 11, 2012, 11:43 AM ]

DNHPE Comment: Notice the quote (highlight added) from the prime sponsor, Senator Forsythe.  The plan's lack of academic accountability - how well voucher students perform academically and how good the schools themselves are - has clearly become an issue.  When he talks about accountability here, in a way he never has before, he appears to be trying to convey to someone not watching too closely that the accountability issue is settled.  There is no accountability in the plan.  

The sponsors want the soft-ball parent survey to count as "accountability."  Here is one of the 3 questions is asks: 

"My child would have been unable to attend the school of his or her choice without the education tax credit program."

“strongly agree,” “agree,” “no change,” “disagree,” “strongly disagree.”

You might think it unusual to put the wording of a survey into a piece of legislation.  You would be right.  The effect in this case is to give a legislator scanning the bill the impression that accountability is there, while ensuring that no meaningful survey could be slipped into place in the future.

Here is a fuller discussion of the accountability provision on the proposed voucher plan.  And here is the accountability proposal we made back in February.

By Gary Rayno, Sunday, April 8, Union Leader

Lawmakers seek accord on scholarships, tax credits

The House and the Senate passed their own versions of bills that would provide scholarships to low- and middleincome students through business tax credits.

While there are differences in the two bills that will need to be reconciled before the end of the session — including whether the House or Senate gets the credit — the prime sponsor of the House’s version, House Majority Leader

D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, has already begun the push to override a potential Gov. John Lynch veto.

Bettencourt’s office sent letters to House supporters of the bill, which passed on a 173-127 vote with no Democratic support, thanking them and saying their continued support is critical.

Bettencourt and others tout the bill as a vehicle for low and middle-income families to choose the right schools for their students so they “are able to achieve the best academic outcome possible while improving overall education in New Hampshire.”

Under both the House and Senate versions of the bill, businesses could donate to a nonprofit organization that would provide scholarships of up to $2,500 per student. The student’s family would have to be at 300 percent of the federal poverty level or below.

The business would receive 85 percent tax credit against state business taxes.

Students in home schools could receive up to a $750 scholarship.

School districts losing students because of the scholarships would lose $4,100 per student in state education aid.

But not all Republicans are in favor of the plan.

During the House debate, longtime House Finance Committee member Neal Kurk, R-Weare, said though he believes in education competition and school choice, “we need to pay for this and not downshift to local property taxpayers.”

If a student leaves a school, he noted, expenses for that school do not decrease along with the state aid it loses.

“We went through you-know- what in the budget to avoid downshifting,” Kurk said. “Now we have a bill that says downshifting is OK if we can get school choice.”

Others opponents call it a back-door approach to vouchers that move taxpayers dollars from public schools to private and religious schools.

Senators passed Senate Bill 372 on a 15-9 vote, also with no Democratic support.

During the Senate debate on the bill, the prime sponsor,

Jim Forsythe, R-Strafford, said, “Education tax credits enable more choices for parents, putting accountability for education directly in their hands.”

Neither the House nor the Senate had veto-proof majorities in their first actions on the bills. Lynch has not said he would veto the bills, but has expressed some concerns.

Press secretary Colin Manning said after the House vote: “The governor is concerned about using public money to fund private education, and what does this mean for state resources? It is what it is.”