Email exchanges between Christian Hodsdon and Senators Forsythe and Bradley, late March, 2012

posted Apr 12, 2012, 7:03 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Apr 12, 2012, 7:11 AM ]
Here is is an email exchange about the voucher plan that Christina and John Hodsdon had with Senator Jim Forsythe, R-Strafford, the author of the plan and the prime sponsor of SB 372, the Senate version of the plan.  Below that is the Hodsdons exchange with Senator Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro. 


Dear Senator Forsythe, 

I am a resident of Exeter. I am writing to express my opposition to SB372, the use of private school vouchers and business tax credits for private scholarships!

I feel strongly that this law would be an absolute disaster for the NH public school system. My parents are retired teachers, my husband is a teacher, my in-laws are retired teachers, and I am a former public school teacher. I have seen first-hand, the repercussions of a school district where there is a decrease in students attending—budget cuts would be INEVITABLE!

Here are the reasons I am opposed to this law:

1. Businesses will receive tax credits for funding private school scholarships. Supporters feel that there will then be extra money in local school budgets due to a decrease in public school students. I feel that there is NO budget committee in the world that wouldn't take the opportunity to decrease its budget based on a decrease in "demand" (ie: students).

2. It will be taking money away from the local public schools. This means a significant cut in jobs and a decrease in resources within the school. NH is currently ranked #5 for lowest US unemployment. Why increase this by cutting thousands of state jobs?

3. Cutting the local school budgets would mean a decrease in resources for all children who are receiving services (Special Education, Title I, Speech and Language, etc.).

4. It is forbidden in the NH state constitution to give tax dollars to religious schools.

5. LOCAL tax dollars will be used towards the funding of children to go to PRIVATE schools. We moved to a town with high taxes knowing that we have to buy a smaller house, in exchange for knowing that our taxes were going to excellent public schools. I do not feel that it is fair to use our tax dollars to support those people whose children will be going to private schools!

6. Supporters who are pro SB372 are not even willing to consider the constitutionality of this law first!

7. Supporters of this bill feel that we need to set higher standards for the children in our schools. However, private school teachers are NOT held to the same standards as public school teachers. They do not need to be certified or even hold degrees in their subject areas.

8. Where NH has no state taxes, our public schools still rank #1 IN THE US for science (4th graders), #2 for reading, and #2 for math!

9. Why break something that isn't broken? This law wasn't even initiated by NH residents or parents.

I hope that you will reconsider your vote as my husband and I are very opposed to this bill! Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, 

Christine Hodsdon


Christine,
   Thanks for your input.  Please keep in mind that this is a very limited program that at a maximum could provide scholarships to 1440 kids.  The loss in adequacy funding for these kids represents less than a quarter of one percent of school funding, so I think "disaster" is an overstatement.  Also, studies of choice programs in other states have shown that it improves public education due to a competitive effect, so there really is not a downside for the local districts.  Especially since adequacy aid is a small portion of  school spending, and the districts keep all property tax dollars, leading to more $ per child.  The constitutional issue was soundly determined in Arizona vs. Winn which clearly ruled that tax credits are not public money, and therefore there is no constitutional argument against this.  In fact, of the 8 other states that have this kind of program, including some with the Blaine amendment, none have been ruled unconstitutional despite challenges.  Private schools are indeed accountable.  They are approved by our board of education, and have the most important accountability standard possible - the parents will leave if unsatisfied.  
    
Please be aware that this program is means tested.  Wealthy families can already go to the school of their choice - this extends that option to poor people.  Also, did you know that the program can provide scholarships to out of district public schools?  

Sen Forsythe

DNHPE Comment on Senator Forsythe's response to Christine Hodsdon:  
  • The voucher program does start small but the bill provides for very fast growth, up to 25% per year.  A bad idea isn't any better because it starts small. 
  • Sen. Forsythe is wrong about the competitive effect.  There are no studies that show that vouchers result in improvements in the public schools.
  • Concerning the impact on school districts, the revenue from state aid goes down but school expenses remain essentially the same, so the local property tax payers pick up the difference.
  • The Arizona court decision does not apply to New Hampshire.  The tax credits themselves are obviously public money.  That's why legislation is needed to create this new state obligation.
  • The Senator's accountability argument is disingenuous.  He has refused to add real academic accountability - testing - to the program,



-----Original Message-----
From: John Hodsdon [mailto:jhodsdon70@gmail.com
Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10:38 AM
To: Bradley, Jeb
Subject: Regarding SB372

Dear Senator Bradley,

We have been reading about SB372 and understand that the Senate is reviewing this law to institute the use of private vouchers in the state of New Hampshire. 

My husband is a public school teacher and I am a former elementary school teacher. We are both very opposed to the use of vouchers as we feel it would seriously injure the NH public school system. As I am sure you are aware, public education is a fixed cost, so taking children out of the public system will only hurt the local public schools. Also, in an economy where we are trying to decrease the amount of unemployed, instituting the voucher system would (in the long term) affect the job market for public school teachers, paraprofessionals, and other staff.

Our other concern is that people are misguided in believing that they are receiving the best education from a private school. What people do not realize is that private schools do not mandate that their teachers have the same certifications and credentials as public school system teachers. There are many private school teachers who have never received their degree in teaching or even a degree in the subject that they are teaching. We are not saying that every public school system is perfect. However, public school teachers are well trained, are encouraged to further their education, and support every child to the best of their abilities with the funding that is provided. Each public school student is given the best education they can using the many resources available through the public system; Title I, Speech and Language, ESL, Special Education, etc.

As far as we have understood, this bill was not even initiated by a group of New Hampshire parents or voters, so in our opinion, it is not something that the majority of our population has asked for or inquired about. 

We hope that you will vote against SB372 and will encourage those supporting this bill to realize the negative impact on New Hampshire's public education system if this bill is passed. 

Thank you for your time and service!

Sincerely,

Christine and John Hodsdon
Exeter, NH



Dear Mr. Hodsdon,

Thank you for contacting me about SB-372 which allows businesses to take a tax credit for a donation to a scholarship fund that can be accessed by New Hampshire students to attend either a public school (not in the student's district), a charter school, or a private school.  The scholarship is limited to an average of $2500 and designed to be available to low and middle income students (300% of poverty-upper limit).  Additionally, SB-372 will be revenue neutral or save the State of NH money as the scholarship is less than the State's adequacy grant.  SB-372 is designed to serve a small number of students, approximately 1400 statewide.  Between the small amount of the scholarship and the low number of potential students,  the impact of SB-372 is limited.

However, I supported this legislation because not every student fits conveniently into the public school curriculum, and this type of scholarship is an opportunity to make sure students do not fall through the cracks.

Thanks again for contacting me about SB-372.

Sincerely Yours,

Jeb Bradley
Senate District 3
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