To the Editor:
On March 29, the Republican-dominated House passed HB 1607, the school voucher bill, by a 173-127 margin. This bill attempts to circumvent the New Hampshire Constitution's prohibition against giving public tax money to support religious schools.
Under this bill, businesses would be allowed make voluntary contributions to scholarship organizations, which would in turn give $2,500 to public school students to help them afford the cost of private schools. Money would also be made available to public school students who want to be home-schooled. In turn, the state would give the donor businesses an 85 percent rebate as credits on either their business profit taxes or their business enterprise taxes. In short, this voucher program costs the state tax money.
How much tax money? The initial cost would be $2.6 million for the first three years, the amount increasing each year. According to Department of Education calculations, after 10 years, if the voucher plan grew at a rate provided for in HB 1607, it could cost the state of New Hampshire $126 million.
Would the state save money when the public school students left for a private school? For each student who leaves public school for private school, the public school would be docked $4,100 by the state. That would offset the business tax credit, and thus the cost of the program in the state budget. However, if the student were already enrolled in a private school, he or she would get the $2,500 voucher, but the state would not receive a $4,100 rebate.
Would the quality of public school education be affected because each time a student left for a private school, the public school would rebate $4,100 to the state? Democratic Gov. John Lynch stated, "public education is basically a fixed cost. . . So, if you take a kid out of school, you give a kid of voucher and you take money away from the school district itself ... it's not going to lower the fixed cost of the school." In short, the public school would have less money to meet the fixed cost of education.
Will we know whether or not our public tax money enhances the education of students transferring to private schools? No. There is no meaningful, objective measure of accountability included in HB 1607.
In sum, HB 1607, the school voucher bill is simply bad legislation.
Below are the votes of Seacoast state representatives on HB 1607. Yes is a vote for HB 1607; No is a vote against. NV equals not voting. D stands for Democrat; R for Republican.
Hampton: Chris Nevins (R) -yes. Fred Rice (R) - yes; Ken Sheffert (R) - yes. Kevin Sullivan (R) - NV. James Waddell (R) - NV.
Rye/New Castle: Brian Murphy (R) - NV. Will Smith (R) - yes
Portsmouth/Newington: Jackie Cali-Pitts (D) - no. Rich DiPentima (D) - no. Terie Norelli (D) - no. Laura Pantelakos (D) - NV. Robin Read (D) - no. Chris Serlin (D) - no.