Docket (passed both bodies with veto proof majority)
Update 5/10/12: Here is our view of the bill as it enters the final legislative phase:
The plan looks small but it is large and costly. In the first year, it will issue $3.4 million in tax credits and give vouchers to about 1,700 students, 22% of which are likely to be home schoolers. By the third year, the program will issue $6.4 million in tax credits and be funding about 3,100 students and it starts costing the state money. By the 10th year, the program could be issuing as much as $30 million in tax credit and funding over 17,000 students. Regardless of the size at that point, all of that money would be coming out of either the school systems or state revenues.
There are no real benefits. About 2,500 children leave public schools for private and home schools each year - without the need for a public subsidy. Most of the kids receiving vouchers would have been able to go to private school without them. The $2,500 for private schools and $650 for home schoolers is too small to make much difference anyway. It just reduces the amount parents and schools must raise.
The public schools will be damaged to fund this new investment in private schools. The schools are losing students yearly as a result of New Hampshire's demographic changes. The voucher program will aggravate the problem. As the schools shrink, overhead per student will go up and the quality of the instructional program will go down. Private schools will be selective in the students they accept, leaving public schools with shrinking instructional resources to support the harder to educate children.
The plan includes no academic accountability for the schools receiving all that public money. The sponsors have steadfastly resisted any form of academic accountability. As a result, the program shifts money from public schools accountable to their communities to private schools with no educational accountability for the results of the public investment.
This is an unconstitutional allocation of public funds to sectarian schools. SB 372 is clearly and unconstitutional allocation of public funds to sectarian schools. Part I, Article 6 of our state constitution states in part, “No person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination,” while Part II, Article 83 states in part, “Provided nevertheless, that no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination.” A 1969 NH Supreme Court case dealt specifically with tax credits and a legal challenge arguing that businesses are being used only as an intermediary to deny a direct, unconstitutional, connection between the taxpayer and a religious school. It seems obvious that if enacted, the scheme established through SB 372 would certainly be invalidated in the courts.
Our schools are great in New Hampshire. This kind of program is not needed. Voucher programs have a place as part of a plan to fix poorly performing school systems. But New Hampshire is one of the two top school systems in the country. In February's highly respected UNH Granite State poll, 68% of parents were satisfied with their schools. There is no need to fund alternatives.
The plan is unpopular. No one is asking for it. The Granite State poll shows that only 27% of New Hampshire voters support using tax credits this way. Businesses have expressed no interest in funding the voucher program. And, because it offers a higher (85%) tax credit than New Hampshire's community development tax credit program (70%), it will put the community development program at a disadvantage.
SB372 -FN-L (2012, passed, pending Gov. sig.) establishing an education credit against the business profits tax
Rep. David Kidder (R-New London) speaking on the House floor in opposition to HB 1607, March 29, 2012
Rep. Kurk is speaking here against HB 1607, sister to SB 372, on the House floor, when the bill came to a vote on March 29th. Since then, the sponsor has worked closely with Rep. Kurk to mitigate his concerns about the impact to local property tax payers. The result is an amendment that caps the amount of state aid a school district could lose to the tax credit program at .25% of the school budget.
As a result, Rep. Kurk will probably vote for SB 372 when it comes to the house floor. However, if the program grew as it could over the next 10 years, issuing over $120 million in tax credits, it would still have a major budgetary impact, whether paid for by the local tax payer or the state budget, a concern expressed by Rep. David Hess (R-Hooksett), here, and Rep. Russell Ober (R-Hudson), here.
Rep. David Hess (R-Hooksett) speaking against SB 372 in House Ways and Means subcommittee meeting, May 2, 2012
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