Honorable New Hampshire Legislators,
There are many tax credit funded private school voucher programs being debated in state legislatures right now. Most are far better than the plan proposed in HB 1607/SB372 because they target failing schools and require real accountability from the participating private schools. The New Hampshire plan you may vote on this week does not.
Louisiana, for instance, targets vouchers to poor children in schools rated "C" and below. Participating schools give the state assessment tests to all voucher students and the state issues an annual report with test results for each school. In the proposed New Jersey plan, students must come from "chronically failing" schools (about 8% of New Jersey's schools). Participating schools must meet high standards and provide extensive student testing. Florida just expanded its education tax credit program. It is targets to schools rated "F" and its accountability provisions are 10 pages long.
By comparison, the proposed New Hampshire program has no targeting provision at all. In fact, vouchers can go to children already in private school. Many children receiving vouchers would have gone to private schools without them.
Even worse, there is no provision for accountability for taxpayer funds. The only accountability provisions in the bill are in Sections (11) (A) and (B), starting on line 33 of page 4, and a reference to a study committee on page 10. (The newest proposed amendments of HB 1607 and SB 372 are not available on-line but they are identical and the Senate March 7 amendment is attached.) These "accountability" provisions do not pass the straight face test compared to any other program in legislatures around the country right now.
While other voucher programs have more highly developed accountability provisions, the New Hampshire Legislature could accomplish a lot with the simple step by adding a provision (11) (C) (page 5 of HB 1607) that says:
(C) ensuring compliance with all privacy laws, participating schools shall:
(i) annually administer either the state achievement tests or nationally recognized norm-referenced tests that measure learning gains in math and language arts to all participating students in grades that require testing under the state's accountability testing laws for public schools;
(ii) provide the parents of each student with a copy of the results of the tests on an annual basis, beginning with the first year of testing;
(iii) beginning with the first year of testing, provide the test results on an annual basis to the New Hampshire Department of Education for inclusion on its public web site;
(iv) report student information that would allow state to aggregate data by grade level, gender, family income level, and race; and
(v) in a manner consistent with nationally recognized standards, provide graduation rates of participating students to the New Hampshire Department of Education for inclusion on its public web site.
Bill Duncan, for Defending New Hampshire Public Education