Tom Southworth, Dover, NH

posted Apr 25, 2012, 2:57 PM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Apr 25, 2012, 4:49 PM ]

Tom Southworth before the House Ways and Means Committee

Testimony on Senate Bill 372 (Tom Southworth, Dover, NH)

Why would New Hampshire give millions of dollars to private schools at a time when there are not enough financial resources for public education, higher education, and school building aid?

Competition:  There is an assumption in this bill that New Hampshire public schools need to improve and that somehow this scholarship plan will affect the “quality of education” and will “create incentives for schools to achieve excellence”.  How is this possible? There has already been competition between public and nonpublic schools for many years.  Even in the top achieving NH districts, parents choose nonpublic options. All schools need to be constantly evolving, but the high achieving schools don’t need the competition and the lower achieving schools will have to compete with fewer resources.

NH Assessment Facts:  NH students rank near the top of the nation on national assessments such as the NAEP.  In 2011 NH students ranked #2 in grade 4 Math, #3 in grade 4 Reading,      #6 in grade 8 Math and #6 in grade 8 Reading. Any proposed legislation for schools should reflect the facts about student accomplishment.

The NECAP scores have been unfairly used to criticize the progress of NH public schools. The 2012 preliminary AYP results show that only 13 districts (approx. 8%) missed Adequate Yearly Progress in Reading at the whole school level while 24 districts (approx 15%) missed AYP in Math. The problem with the AYP formula required by NCLB is that all subgroups must make AYP. If there are a few low scores in a subgroup, such as Educational Disability, that subgroup can miss AYP.  If a subgroup misses AYP, the school and district miss AYP. Thus, statements about the number of schools missing AYP must be put in the context of a flawed formula.

The true picture of the public education assessment results is generally positive with 10-15% of schools needing ongoing support.

Taxes:  The cost of public education will increase over time and additional revenue will be needed. As the total funds allotted to the scholarship program increase, state revenues from the business tax will decrease, and the burden on taxpayers will increase.

Senate Bill 372 is carefully thought out and well-written. Much attention was given to the design of the scholarship plan and business tax credit program. It includes safeguards surveys, a study, etc.  Why not use the energy and funds in this program to help the 10-15% of NH schools that are not making AYP?  The millions of dollars could be used for budget items such as technology, reading specialists, teacher training, and restored building aid.

Finally, this bill does not benefit the majority of NH children or taxpayers.  It will progressively weaken financial support for public education.  It does not fit New Hampshire.

Why:  Why would New Hampshire give millions of dollars to nonpublic schools at a time when there are not enough resources for public education, higher education, or school building aid?