Testimony of Dr. Sarah M. Stitzlein, Senate Education Committee, 1/23/12

posted Jan 25, 2012, 11:48 AM by Bill Duncan

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

 

  1. Private schools do not outperform NH public schools.  We are a state that has one of the strongest and most successful public education systems in the country as indicated by our testing data.  Why should we incentivize children to leave it and thereby jeopardize its well-being?

·         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.) 

  1. Reduced accountability.  Shifting students to private and religious schools that have fewer regulations and no requirement for state testing, jeopardizes our ability to maintain accountability for the quality of education those children receive and the ability of the public to oversee how funds are spent.
  2. Overuse by wealthy and typically white populations.  Vouchers/scholarships without strict guidelines on who receives them tend to be used by a narrow slice of the population who often are already well served by public or private schools.  These are the very people who do not need to be financially incentivized to make educational choices.
    • People who take advantage of school choice programs tend to be wealthier and more informed families.  If these families are drained out of the public schools, those schools may suffer.
    • Often vouchers don’t cover the entire cost of private school tuition.  So, they are more likely to be taken advantage of by wealthier families (typically white) who can afford the rest of the tuition.  In fact, many wealthy families use vouchers to move their children from less expensive private schools into even more elite and expensive private schools.

§  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.

  • In the DC case, 82% of the children use their vouchers at religious schools. In Milwaukee, 80% of children use vouchers to attend religious schools.
  • The supreme court in Florida in 2005 found that vouchers were unconstitutional because of the public funding/support of religious institutions issue. 

 

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.