Defending NH Public Education: "Why aren't we hearing from from people?", 1/18/12

posted Jan 18, 2012, 7:35 AM by Bill Duncan

I attended a series of House Education Committee hearings yesterday.  During a break, a legislator asked me, "Why aren't we hearing more from people?"

This is getting very real.  The hearings were on HB 1517, which would withdraw New Hampshire from No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration version of the vital Title I program that our schools have depended on for 50 years.  HB 1517 would cost our school districts $61 million per year in federal funding.  The chair of the House Education Committee, who wrote the bill, said federal money has too many strings and the school districts would just have to get along without it.

And the Education Tax Credit (school voucher) bills, HB 1607 and SB 372, could be up for floor votes in no time.

Anyone who opposes the effort to replace the public school system with private, religious and home schools needs to be heard now.  Call you legislator, regardless of party.  Write or call the sponsors of the voucher bills (listed here and here).  Write letters to the editor.  

And come to Concord next Monday and Tuesday and testify!  I know.  Most of us have never testified and think, "That's not my thing."  But it is easy - not fearsome.  You speak for 3 minutes or less.  You can hand in written testimony or not.  And your weight as a regular citizen who cared enough to come and testify is much greater than that of the every day denizens of Concord.

Do not think it doesn't matter.  It matters.  Here are the particulars.

Monday is HB 1607 before the House Ways and Means Committee, at 2:00 PM in the Legislative Office Building, Room 202.   (Schedule changes and updates appear here.)

Tuesday is SB 372 before the Senate Education Committee, at 1:00 PM in the Legislative Office Building, Room 103.  (Schedule changes and updates appear 

The testimony itself is straight forward.  I can help you, but the fundamental points are:
  • The Education Tax Credit program would 
    • cost a lot, 
    • provide little needed assistance to students, 
    • but do serious damage to New Hampshire public schools. 
  • The cost is high
    • The legislature is cutting everywhere but proposing to spend millions of new money here to give scholarships to children who do not need them.  (The scholarships are not targeted to low income families)
    • Any attempt to make it neutral would damage local school districts be taking back adequacy funding and reducing the schools' ability to serve their communities.
    • Also, if the proposal is to take back property tax funding, the State Wide Education Property Tax, that would be a disaster.  It is a re-introduction of donor towns.
  • There is no real need 
    • The scholarships are not targeted to low income families
    • They are not targeted to failing schools
    • Many recipients will be students already in private schools.  They obviously don't need the help.
    • Many will be students who would have left the public schools for private schools anyway, also not needing the help.
  • The damage to public schools is great
    • The Education Tax Credit program bleeds resources out of each local school district, reducing the district's ability to meet the needs of its children.
    • The basic demographics of the state of New Hampshire are leading to a declining school enrollment.  The Education Tax Credit program exacerbates that problem. 
    • The program sends a signal to parents that the state of New Hampshire has given up on the public school system and urges parents, if they want to give their children a good education, to send them to private schools.
    • The program, as written, could grow dramatically, funding many thousands of scholarships in a few years.

Your legislators need to hear from you.  They are on a path of replacing New Hampshire public schools with private schools.  They need to hear that you don't agree.


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