Portsmouth Herald Editorial: Voucher bills pose threat to public schools, 3/3012

posted Mar 30, 2012, 2:28 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Mar 30, 2012, 2:29 AM ]

March 30, 2012 2:00 AM

Our public schools may not be perfect, but we're not going to improve them by taking away funding and support through either of the voucher bills passed this week in the New Hampshire House and Senate.

Both the House and Senate want to give businesses tax credits to encourage them to donate to a private school voucher program that would give students up to $2,500 a year to attend a private or parochial school. The vouchers take money from public schools in two ways. First, a tax credit given to a business is a tax not collected by the state. Second, when a student leaves a public school, the state funding that supported that student goes away, but the fixed costs to the schools remain unchanged. The lights and heat still need to be turned on, buses roll, teachers paid, etc. This, in turn, will put more pressure on local property taxpayers, who are already stretched to the breaking point. The result would be either higher local property taxes or more cuts to our public schools, lost educational opportunities for our children, and a hollow victory for those who embrace the deluded notion that somehow our country would be better off without public schools.

It is simply not fair to compare public and private schools. Private schools choose the students they want, often collecting high tuitions from those who can afford it while subsidizing top students who can't. Private and parochial schools don't have to accept students with expensive learning disabilities, disciplinary issues or deeply troubled home lives that spill into the classroom. Ninety percent of all students in the United States attend a public school, and the quality of the education they receive there will determine not just the quality of their own future but our nation's future as well.

So now the House and Senate will each mull each other's handiwork, and one of those bills or a compromise bill will likely make its way to the governor's desk.

We're certain the governor will veto whatever voucher bill comes to him, and we encourage lawmakers to use the time between now and then to consider the following question: How is your vote to damage public schools making New Hampshire a better place to live, now and in the future?