SB 340 (2011, failed) tax abatements for parents keeping kids out of schools


Status: ITL in House, with majority Republican support.  

Sponsors: Rep. C. Vita, Straf 3; Rep. L. Christiansen, Hills 27; Rep. DeJong, Hills 9; Rep. L. Jones, Straf 1; Rep. L. Vita, Straf 3; Rep. Shuler, Rock 11; Rep. Cebrowski, Hills 18; Sen. Forsythe, Dist 4

Official analysis:  This bill requires the governing body of a municipality to grant an abatement from the education property tax for each resident taxpayer’s child who is not enrolled in a public elementary or secondary school. The bill also allows a municipality to elect to grant an additional abatement from the education property tax for each child not enrolled in a public elementary or secondary school.

DNHPE analysis: This is a poorly thought through bill that represents the general attitude and sentiment of Republican legislators toward public education but that would have been costly and impractical on many levels.  The logical extension of this sentiment would have been that families with no children should not have paid for the local schools either.

Here is the argument in favor made by the right.

From the legislative calendar:

HB 340-FN, promoting parental choice in education and providing for an abatement from the education taxes for parents of children not enrolled in the public school system. MAJORITY: INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE. MINORITY: OUGHT TO PASS.

Rep. Jeffrey S Shackett for the Majority of Municipal and County Government Although most of the testimony heard was very passionate, the committee voted with bi-partisan support 14-2 ITL. The fiscal notes attached to this bill were the overwhelming factor for our decision. The department of education estimates trust fund revenue would decrease by 89 million in FY 2012, and 186 million in FY 2013. These estimates only account for those students who would be enrolled in private schools. It does not include any home school students whose parents would certainly apply for this abatement which would significantly further increase these estimates. Vote 14-2.

Rep. John A Burt for the Minority of Municipal and County Government: First is the fact that we are facing a financial crisis that demands a long term perspective. A shortsighted band-aid approach will no longer work. This bill, by bringing competition into the educational marketplace, provides incentives for parents to put their children into private schools. In the long term this will have a very significant positive impact on the tax rate as greater numbers of parents, especially lower income parents, take advantage of the option of having some their educational tax payments returned to them thus enabling them to take advantage of private school opportunities in an environment more in tune with their family’s worldview. The property tax burden in New Hampshire is onerous and education is by far its largest component. It is time that we faced up to this issue and this bill provides an opportunity to do just that. The second point is simply on of fairness. We hear the cry of, “What about the poor?” time after time on many issues, but when it comes to education we ignore the poor by denying them any real choice and forcing them to stay in the public schools. This bill simply allows a family to use a portion of the education part of their own property taxes (added to additional funds of their own) to provide an educational environment more in keeping with their family’s values. The third issue is the positive impact that this bill, by introducing competition, could have on the quality of education in all schools whether public or private. Public education is for the most part a monopoly, funded like the established churches of the early colonies where everyone had to pay for that church whether they attended or not. Monopolies by their very nature are bureaucratic, highly centralized, lacking in creativity and expensive. The government education monopoly is no exception! This bill would provide the basis for some genuine competition which would have a very positive impact on all schools.