Here is Rep. Chase's letter in full:
A “New Hampshire Voices” piece by Rep J.R. Hoell of Dunbarton appeared in The Sentinel Dec. 27.
It purported to give a balanced report on the advantages of having New Hampshire businesses give tax money to private foundations to fund private and/or independent school scholarships. It was as interesting for what it did not say, as it was for what it did say.
There are representatives in Concord determined to end the American tradition of a free public education and turn us into a country where education is based on the social status and income of a student’s parents.
And there are those in Concord and elsewhere who would like nothing better than to dismantle free public education and privatize it in the name of the false god, “choice.”
They marshal impressive statistics to convince parents that private schools are better than public schools. If statistics are selectively reported, it can indeed look that way, but let’s look at the whole story.
Private schools are not required to use the New England Common Assessment Program that New Hampshire public schools must use. How can one determine the quality of the programs offered if students do not take the same assessment evaluations, or maybe even no standardized evaluations at all?
Costs charged to parents of private or independent schools do not reflect the full cost of attending. In the Catholic schools system for example, parishes and the diocese shoulder some of the expenses. Parents are expected to contribute to the financial support of the school to offset the fact that tuition does not cover all costs.
Thus the comparison of public and private costs is a red herring, more like comparing apples to turnips.
One major area not mentioned in Rep. Hoell’s article is the cost of educating special needs students. Special needs can range from working with a mildly challenged learning disabled child to get him/her over a rough spot, to educating a multi-handicapped child in the least restrictive environment.
The federal government mandates that every public school must ensure that all students with special needs get the best education in the least restrictive environment possible.
But this is an unfunded mandate. In other words, local taxpayers must foot the bill, which can run into thousands of dollars a year for a severely handicapped child-and this educational effort and expense must continue until the child’s 21st birthday.
Private and independent schools have one luxury that is denied by law to public schools. Public schools must educate every child who presents at the schoolhouse door. Private and independent schools have the luxury of removing students whom they are unable to reach, for any reason whatsoever.
Representative Hoell is promoting an idea that, if passed by the House, will drastically affect public education funding in New Hampshire.
He is promoting the idea of a tax credit for businesses that donate monies in lieu of taxes to a state fund that gives scholarships to students to attend private or independent schools. This is a blatant attempt to funnel state funds into religious education.
According to Rep Hoell, this will be a revenue-neutral effort, but I have a great distrust of his reasoning. After all, he represents the same conservative Republicans who have already cost us over $11 million in tax revenue from the ill-fated cut in cigarette taxes last June.
School choice is not the first step in improving education. New Hampshire has one of the highest rated educational systems in the country. We have been consistently rated as the No. 1 state in which to raise a child. Given the budgeting cuts in Concord last June however, it will be interesting to see if we can maintain such a position.
Taking tax money from public schools and giving it to private institutions is a recipe for disaster.
Rep. CYNTHIA CHASE
110 Arch St.
Edited for length.