Testimony to the Senate Education Committee on SB 372, establishing an education tax credit to fund school vouchers
There is an important exchange here.
If Charlie Arlinghaus' testimony is indicative of the evolving voucher advocacy strategy, they have clearly settled on the "poor kids deserve the same school choice that rich kids have" strategy. After giving up on studies, saying everyone will always disagree about studies, he says (2:15)
I might respond with something like, "Charlie, that sounds nice but doesn't really have any meaning. If that's the best you can do....etc." Senator Kelly had a much more interesting approach (4:00). She asked:
This should be the headline on the whole movement to defend public education. In this very nice way, Senator Kelly makes the point that voucher supporters have made a value judgment to leave the public schools behind, but others might value the public schools and want to continue to improve them in order to give our children all the choices they need.
Rep. Hill is one of the voucher sponsors and appears to be managing the bill in the House. It's worth watching his 2 1/2 minute testimony. Transcript and and commentary are below.
Rep. Hill says at 0:25:
"I'd like to address two criticisms of this bill - one that it is not going to be used and one that it is going to be used to much. I'd like to simply point out that when this bill is passed and implemented, it will be up to the parents to decide if it is a good idea or a bad idea.
"If they think it is a bad idea and they are perfectly happy with their education for the children that they are getting at their public schools and no scholarships are applied for or awarded, the plan design means that the state is made whole. In other words, there is no effect to either the tax revenues or the adequacy funding if parents want their child in public schools. No harm, no foul.
"If the customers of public education - the parents - are happy, the plan goes away. The fixed costs for the program are minimal."
"Finally, I must confess to not getting the idea that somehow it's OK for wealthy people in this state to put their children into a school that may suit the educational needs of their children, but it's not OK for low and moderate income people to do the same."
This position as anti-poverty crusader and class warrior is new the the sponsors of the school voucher program. The means testing provision was not in the bill until the Senate Education Committee demanded it and then the House resisted at first. So now the bill has the loosest means any program in the country offers - $67,0000 income for a family of four - and the sponsors have become anti-poverty advocates?
"And it seems curious to me that when these wealthy people remove their children from the public school, I have not heard a single word about the loss of the state funding for any of those children. The process by which the state stops funding the public school when a child, any child, leaves the system is exactly the same as this bill, as it has always been. It's only that the time line may be different. But that can be remedied by passing real time accounting.
"According to the figures given to us by the DOE, the school population dropped by roughly 3,100 students for various reasons last year. Curiously, I did an on-line search in the states newspapers and not a word was written about the devastation in the public school system when the state funding for those children stopped.
"By the way, that was one of the highest years in the last 10. This bill would, at most, remove less than 2,500 students from the public school system based on the size of the program being at $8 million."
Testimony on SB 372, establishing an education tax credit program
New Hampshire Senate
January 24, 2012
Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to speak on SB 372.
I’m Bill Duncan, from New Castle. I’m a retired software entrepreneur. My children are in their 30’s now but they’ve been home schooled, public schooled and private schooled. We’ve done it all.
I’m here today as a taxpayer concerned that under SB 372 we could be moving tens of millions of dollars out of our public school system into the private, religious and home schools for no legitimate public purpose.
The bill proposes to reduce the impact on the state budget by taking back “the adequate education grant” for each scholarship student coming out of the public schools.
For all the pain this would inflict on school districts, however, the bill would still not achieve revenue neutrality.
Exhibit A to my testimony is my 10 year projection of the fiscal impact of SB 372. I know that legislatively, you look only at the 3 year impact. However, I want to clearly illustrate the long term problem the Legislature would be creating with the ETC program. It would have become an established, assumed part of state government and suddenly be eating up unexpected revenue. Senator Forsythe makes the point that there are a lot of dials and it could be adjusted. That is true, but may or may not actually happen.
My projection is based on what I know so far from the bill but I will work with the Senator Forsythe to the extent possible to reflect shared assumptions in order to debate them in a useful way.
In this era of deep cuts it is hard to see why the state would now spend tens of millions of dollars – wherever it comes from –inducing students to leave the public school system.
I do understand the “choice” rationale. “Give parents school choice. Don’t make them hostage to the monopoly government-run schools.”
You say it right up front in the bill, that the purpose is to:
“Allow maximum freedom to parents and independent schools to respond to and, without governmental control, provide for the educational needs of children…”
The school choice advocates who helped write the bill say it too. Mr. Alan Schaeffer was credited twice at yesterday’s press conference with having written SB 372. He told me afterward that he didn’t write it but provided the framework, which to me is pretty darn close. On the website of The Alliance for the Separation of School and State, he asks and answers the question: Why Shouldn't the Government be Involved in Education?
"The Short Answer:
· Government schooling stands in direct opposition to the liberty this country was founded on.
· It fosters unquestioning obedience, acceptance of authority, herd mentality, and dependency.
· It manufactures "equality" by lowering standards.
· It discourages individuality, innovation, curiosity, creativity and overall excellence.
· It undermines families and other relationships.
· It undermines religious beliefs, values and morality.
· It fosters social, psychological, emotional and intellectual dysfunction and promotes immaturity and perpetual adolescence.
· It makes children the victims of political change, special interests, researchers, unions and social reformers.
· It undermines the ability of parents to provide their children with the quality and type of education they desire for them."
Adam Schaeffer, the other SB 67 committee advisor who is here today to testify in favor of the bill, said in a September 6, 2011 blog post titled Yes, the Department of Education Is Unconstitutional:
“Tina Korbe at HotAir had a mostly-great post on Michele Bachmann’s completely correct observation that the federal government is not authorized by the Constitution to muck about in education.
“Specifically, Bachmann said, “[T]he Constitution does not specifically enumerate nor does it give to the federal government the role and duty to superintend over education that historically has been held by the parents and by local communities and by state governments.” Kudos to Bachmann for that. My colleague Neal McCluskey is the go-to guy on all of this, andexplains it very succinctly in many places.”
Andrew J. Coulson, Mr. Adam Schaeffer’s colleague at the Cato Institute’s Center for Education Reform, says in A Quick Guide to Scholarly Literature on School Choice
“In reality, the vast majority of sound empirical studies comparing competitive education markets to state-run school monopolies give the edge to markets. A few find no significant differences, and only the tiniest percentage find any sort of advantage to government operated schools. Moreover, the superiority of free market education is not limited to higher student achievement, but extends to a variety of positive social effects as well.”
I’m sure the Legislative sponsors of the Education Tax Credit must have a wide variety of reasons for supporting the bill, but the bill’s stated purpose is clearly aligned with the positions of those who helped draft it.
And more importantly, the effect of the bill, together with many other bills in the Legislature this year, would be to start the process of dismantling New Hampshire’s public education system.
So SB 372 proposes to use government money to help parents to escape government control. I do get that that’s the purpose of this bill. But I do not believe that dismantling our public school system to replace it with private and home schools is a legitimate public purpose for the state’s money.
I’ve given you a longer written testimony for the record, but I’ll just make a couple of other quick points.
Other voucher programs are not a valid comparison for New Hampshire
There is no real parallel between the Education Tax Credit program proposed in SB 372 and the variety of voucher and ETC programs in other states. There is little similarity in size, program design, financial structure, educational situation or purpose among these many programs.
Vouchers and ETCs are a small part of the American educational framework. Out of 50 million students in the US., there were 11 school voucher programs with 67,267 students last year. There were 9 ETC programs with 122,972 students. This is a marginal and, if anything, stalled movement.
Those that do exist vary widely:
Arizona has 3 small ETC programs, 2 for special purposes, with less that 3% of their students participating. In its corporate ETC program, Arizona requires full academic accountability and public reporting from its participating schools.
Florida’s programs - 1 voucher and one ETC - are for children with disabilities. And they require full public accountability from their participating private schools.
Georgia has a tiny voucher program for children with special needs and an ETC program strictly for children coming from public schools. Out of 1.6 million public school children in Georgia - 8 times the number in New Hampshire - only 6,000 participate, fewer than the proposed first year of the NH program.
Indiana has 1,000,000 public school children, of which 219 are in their highly publicized program. It is targeted to poor children who must have been in a public school. They can go to a public school out of their own district and get $4,500 scholarships. Indiana requires standardized testing in the participating private schools.
Pennsylvania has 9 times as many school children as New Hampshire and, after 10 years, has 38,000 children participating in an ETC program. Pennsylvania defeated a voucher proposal this year.
Then there are the big city programs that all the studies have tracked. They are targeted at manifestly troubled school systems and are part of a real effort to improve the public schools.
After 16 years, Cleveland’s program has 5,000 students, out of a total student population of 50,000. They target low income children exclusively and pay 90% of the tuition. And they require accountability.
The Washington DC started in 2004 and has 1,000 students in 2011, out of 44,000 total students. The program is targeted to low income families and gives up to $7,500 in scholarship. It has been studied extensively and has full academic accountability.
New Orleans has 1,000 children who must be poor and from an unacceptable school.
If anything, the tide is going out on these programs. New Jersey and Tennessee have not been able to get a law passed. Vouchers failed to pass in California, Michigan and Utah, though UT has a little program for kids with disabilities.
New Hampshire is running headlong into this with fast changing legislation and a program that is larger in proportion to its population of children than any other state program. The extensive advocacy literature from all these other programs has no relevance in New Hampshire.
The scholarships are not needed. Low income kids go to private schools now
In New Hampshire today, there is just about the same proportion of free and reduced lunch students in private schools as in public schools. Parents who want to send their children to private schools don’t need a subsidy from the New Hampshire public school system to do it. The voucher would surely induce some to go who would not have gone without the voucher.
We will probably never know how many because just statistically, the way to program is structured, most of the money over the years will go to children in private schools. It just becomes an entitlement that those families expect to get each year until their child graduates.
The lack of academic accountability is a real problem.
Supporters of SB 372 say that the accountability question is addressed by the free market – parents can vote with their feet. I would say that that’s a pretty crude form of accountability applicable at the extreme.
Accountability is a major issue in the school choice movement and most new voucher programs require some form of academic accountability from participating schools. The Alliance for School Choice, one of the leading national organizations advocating for school choice says this about accountability:
"The Alliance for School Choice and our affiliate, the American Federation for Children, support strong, commonsense accountability provisions for private school choice programs to ensure the highest level of program quality and sustainability. To achieve this goal, we support public policies that allow for significant transparency to parents, policymakers, taxpayers, and independent evaluators in order to show the effectiveness of these programs. Responsible accountability standards demonstrate both a serious commitment to transparency while ensuring that participating schools maintain their autonomy.
"We believe the school choice movement should encourage states to create new legislation and improve existing legislation so that there is significant transparency to all parties to show the effectiveness of these programs and the schools that participate in them. We also believe that academic information, including both snapshots of academic achievement and some measure of student gains, should be provided to parents and the public, both for voucher programs and tax credit scholarship programs."
New Hampshire law makers who do support transferring public school money to private schools should not support a program that does not exercise academic accountability and transparency over programs receiving this money.
Cornerstone quote on NHPR
A question came up at yesterday’s hearing about the legitimacy of my statement that, “Even Cornerstone Research said on NPR last week how damaging it would be to take children out of the public schools under these conditions.” The question was whether I might have taken the statement out of context.
The Cornerstone representative said she did not remember hearing that. For the record, here is the quote in context(underlined, below).
On January 17, the NPR call-in show, The Exchange, held a discussion on HB 542 to enable parents to intervene in curriculum of their child. Here is a link to the broadcast of The Exchange
4:50 minutes in, Rep. JR Hoell (R, Dunbarton), explaining how the law would work, says (5:55 minutes in),
"...the child goes into a study hall and the parent pays for an outside learning center. This is happening in Bedford....so I think there's a number of options. Why does it have to be that the additional material is taught by the school system? Maybe they can't come up with an agreement about the material but the parent says, "Then I'll go to a private school or I'll go to a private tutor. Will that work? And that may meet all the requirements."
9:40, Rhonda Wesolowski, President of NEA-NH:
"Any parent, regardless of qualifications, can veto any lesson plan on any grounds. That has wide open ramification for New Hampshire education."
10:00 minutes in, J. Scott Moody, Vice President of Policy at Cornerstone Policy Research and Cornerstone Action:
"Fundamentally, it boils down to the question of parental rights....at the end of the day, the responsibility to educate a child is his or her parents'....they spend more time with their children, far more time than the eight hours a day they spend in the classroom.... and based on that knowledge...they can determine whether or not they need to look for alternatives.
"And, frankly, I think this is good for the school system...Competition is good in the private sector. It's going to be good in the education sector as well.
"In New Hampshire, we're seeing a decline in school age children.....If that parent feels they need to pull their child out of the public school system and put them into a private school, that's going to hurt the public school system as a whole. This will give parents other options and potentially keep that child in the school system."
Essentially, what Rep. Hoell is proposing here is mini-private schools within the public schools and Mr. Moody is warning that that is better than the damaging alternative of taking the children out of the schools like the voucher program does.
The attacks on New Hampshire public education are so wide and varied that advocates are running into each other on the battlefield.
The “this is a small program” theme
Supporters all make the point that SB 372 is really just a small program. This is not at all true. The proposed amendment does start with 2,000 fewer children than the original bill, but it would still fund over 5,400 students in the first year. As a proportion of the school age students in the state, that is larger than Florida ETC program and the 13 year old Arizona program. Or Indiana, Ohio or Pennsylvania. Any of them. So this is not just a little pilot. Our small state would be diving into the deep end.
And then it is allowed to grow at a compound rate of 25% per year. Exhibit A shows how the magic of compounding applies to SB 372. In the first 3 years it loses only $2 million, but over 5 years it loses $27 million and over ten years it has given 180,000 scholarship and lost $340 million.
People are passing around a graph from the Bartlett Center report. It’s the one with all blue bars 10 feet long and the little tiny pink bars representing how tiny the proposed ETC program is. The graph compares the $15-30 million start-up levels of the proposed ETC program to the whole $2.78 billion New Hampshire elementary and secondary education budget, which is paid for primarily by local property tax. It is hard to see how that is relevant.
Why not compare it instead to the $45 million, 45%, cut the University System budget sustained last year or the State Grant of $578 million to the school districts. If the author is saying $15 million growing to much more than that over time is not much money out of the state budget, there are a lot more educators and HHS clients who’d like to make that same case, including those who would like a mere $7 million for the CHINS program.
Looked at this way, the House wants to take $7 million away from Children in Need but give hundreds of millions in vouchers to parent in no need of them.
Exhibit B is an alternate graph showing this trade-off.
Thank you. I would be glad to take any questions.
Testimony to: Senate Education Committee
Re: Testimony in opposition to SB 372 (and HB 1607) and suggested amendments.
Date: January 24, 2012
From: Dr. Mark V. Joyce
Good Afternoon, my name is Dr. Mark V. Joyce and I am the Executive Director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association. I am here today to testify to our Association’s and the NH Association of Special Education Administrator’s, opposition to SB 372 (and HB 1607 with amendments as we understand them). Our Associations represent NH’s school system leaders, including school superintendents, assistants, business administrators, special education and curriculum directors. Our opposition is based on the belief that this proposed legislation is: poor public policy, that is based on misleading and inaccurate financial information that will cause the loss of resources to school districts, children and taxpayers, and it likely will cause a variety of legal and operational issues/questions.
While we understand the intention of the proposed legislation is, in part, to seek to increase opportunities for some students, and we recognize the energy and effort of the organizers, we remain opposed to the legislation for the following reasons. Let me briefly explain our position.
Poor public policy
For more than a century in the United States, public education has been a recognized public good that has been funded by public resources and controlled by elected representatives of the public. The bedrock basis of this unique and envied characteristic of America, is that an educated citizenry is an essential element in building our successful republic and a public good that benefits all citizens – even if they have no children of their own. It is so important a public benefit that it is funded by public money; like other areas that provide a public good (E.g. fire protection, police protection, etc.) Historically citizens have also had the personal right to choose to educate their own children in a different way as long as they assume the responsibility for that education. They have had the ability to home educate, seek religious based education, etc.
This bill seeks to establish a state government sponsored program that will redirect public resources to clearly privately controlled entities that do not serve the public good and are not publically controlled. This violates more than a century of common practice and is clearly at odds with New Hampshire’s tradition of never allowing public funds to pass to private sectarian control. This will create a duplicate system of meeting a governmental responsibility and waste public resources.
Some suggest tax credits are common in NH, we would suggest that tax credits have been used as pilot investments and as strategies to stimulate a new industry. To our knowledge tax credits have not been used to replace the governmental funding of a constitutionally recognized public good and service. What will be next allowing a tax credit for private police protection? Fire protection? Ambulance services?
We believe the bills are based on misleading and inaccurate financial information that will cause the loss of resources to school districts, children and taxpayers.
Proponents of this bill, suggest that this bill is “revenue neutral”. We strongly disagree for a variety of reasons:
1.) It is important to remember that education is not a “unit cost” business or industry as some would suggest. The costs do not increase or decrease depending on a student moving in or out of a school or district. In fact, in a typical school district 2-5 students could move out of every grade K-12 or 65 students (13 time 5) and a district would not save any resources of significance. That’s over 6,000 students statewide with no savings of local obligation yet this bill would move significant dollars away from the school and taxpayers.
2.) There is also an assumption that the state would save its adequacy payments over time. Yes under the current system if a resident student attended a school left, the payment would eventually readjust over time. However, this legislation alters that adjustment so that an immediate payment is moved. While this may help the argument for the cost of the bill it establishes a clear legal issue when a school does not get its extra payment when a student who is not counted for adequacy aid but taxpayers must educate them moves into the district.
3.) There is no question that under this law, students who have always attended private or independent learning environments will apply for the scholarships even if they need to enroll in their resident public school first in order to qualify. To do less would be a clear discrimination issue. As you know, any resident may attend the local public school with out restriction. As a result, the cost impacts are clearly erroneous.
4.) Currently NH school districts, children and taxpayers are not receiving state assistance that is currently required by law. Specifically catastrophic special education, vocational tuition and transportation aids are prorated and underfunded and a moratorium exists for building aid. How is financially prudent to voluntarily decrease revenue collection when, due to lack of revenues at the state level, you have already asked local tax payers to pay more?
This legislation will cause a variety of legal and operational questions and challenges.
As with any sweeping and radical change in public policy, there will, without a doubt, be many operational issues and legal questions that will emerge. The following are a few that have been raised by citizens I have met with in discussing legislative initiatives.
1.) What type of organization qualifies as an “independent school” eligible to receive these redirected public monies? Will they be private schools? Religious schools? Ideological schools? If so, than all must be eligible.
2.) Who approves these schools and by what criteria are they approved? Is it life safety code? And/or NH Minimum standards? Who evaluates their effectiveness and financial management practices if they are not publically governed?
3.) Who assures that public redirected resources are not used for religious indoctrination or possible illegal activities?
4.) By receiving this money and trust are they subject to the right to know law? Are their operations open?
5.) We assume they cannot discriminate and are subject to the full compliance of the federal and state laws and rules. E.g. 504 obligations. Do these schools understand the sweeping costs of these compliance measures?
6.) Who pays the special education costs for students? If it is the local resident district then this could be a significant cost increase if those services need to be provided in another location.
7.) Who monitors the operations of these “Non profit” scholarship organizations? Are they profit-making businesses using redirected public money to make more profit?
8.) Has the NH Supreme Court been asked for an opinion of the legality of these measures? While proponents may suggest that the recent US Supreme Court Decision (ARIZONA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL TUITION ORGANIZATION v. WINN ET AL. (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-987.pdf) clears the way on this issue. It is important to remember that that case was a thresh hold “standing case” based on Arizona law. In New Hampshire our history, culture, Constitution and laws are different and there are many legal questions regarding the legality of this legislation and the equal application of all laws.
In summary, our opposition is based on the belief that this proposed legislation is poor public policy, is based on misleading and inaccurate financial information that will cause the loss of resources to school districts, children and taxpayers, and will cause a variety of legal and operational issues/questions. We encourage your opposition to this legislation and at a minimum send the bill to interim study for a more careful analysis of significant impacts it will have on public policy and local school budgets.
Dr. Mark V. Joyce
Vote No on HB 1607/SB372 the Education Tax Credit Program for Scholarships/Vouchers
Sarah M. Stitzlein, Ph.D. Educational Policy Studies
Assistant Professor of Education, University of New Hampshire
· The most recent (2009) and consensus-earning national data suggests that vouchers have not made any improvements in achievement or graduation rates over traditional public schools.
o Additionally a major 2011 study of low income students in Milwaukee found that those attending voucher schools performed no better, and often worse, on state standardized tests than students in traditional public schools.
o Interestingly, this bill does not provide the option of defraying costs associated with transferring to another public school, suggesting that the heart of the bill is focused on rewarding private schools rather than truly ensuring the best educational options for children, which may very likely be other public schools. (This was said to be addressed in later amendments.)
§ Given that the proposed NH legislation does not cover transportation costs, one can see that families who use the program would already be those well enough off to be able to provide the time and vehicle for transporting their child to a private school.
§ Vouchers tend to cause de facto segregation. Currently across the nation only 9% of private school students are Black and 8% are Latino. Overuse by white families leads to higher numbers of whites in private schools and some white families may intentionally seek them for that very reason.
4. Vouchers drain the public schools of students, funding, and resources. Due to the use of vouchers in Milwaukee, public school attendance over the last decade is down 20% and it’s down 56% in D.C. This drains money from the public schools (in the form of expenditures that help cover costs that remain static even as the number of students decline, like heating bills).
5. Vouchers invite legal problems. Conflict with putting public money into privately run schools, especially religious ones, opens up NH to major legal challenges by allocating public funding or channeling private donations through public pathways and into religious organizations.
Vouchers undermine the publicness of public education! We should all be working together to keep NH public schools strong, rather than just turning to private approaches to supposedly benefit a small percentage of people.