DNHPE 3/22/12 Update: The Governor's Statement and the Senate Vote on Vouchers

posted Mar 22, 2012, 5:13 AM by Bill Duncan
Defending New Hampshire Public Education
Contact: Bill Duncan, 603-682-4748


The Senate voted 15-9 in favor of the voucher bill yesterday, but it wasn't a bad day.  Here's the story.

The Governor's statement

Governor Lynch spoke to a Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce.  (Whether you agree with the Governor on everything, we're going to miss the pragmatic tone he sets.)  In response to a question about the anti-public education posture of this Legislature, he talked about damage from HB 542 (enabling parents to intervene in curriculum) and cuts to university system and then said:

"....I think the concern that was also implied was the focus on vouchers – allowing vouchers, whether they’re funded through the private sector or funded by state government, to be used for non-public schools including religious schools.  The  economic argument against that – forget the policy argument – is that public education is basically fixed cost.  And business people in the room will understand that - fixed cost.  So if you take a kid out of school, you give the kid a voucher, and you take that money away from the school district itself, just because you’re removing that one child, it’s not going to lower the fixed cost of the school, school district, public education.  So I think it has the potential consequence of eroding the quality of education that we offer in our school system.


"So I’m very, very concerned about where they’re going with regard to vouchers – again, whether they’re direct vouchers, supported from the general fund, or whether they’re created and financed indirectly through the private sector with the use of business tax credits….


"You know, among some legislators, there’s an anti-public education attitude which I just don’t understand.  I talk about – and you all in this area are very supportive of public education – you always have been supportive of education.  And I think, in part, that’s why you do so well from an economic standpoint. But if we develop and anti-public education posture, it may not hurt New Hampshire next year, in 2013, but over time it will affect the quality of our state.  And that’s why we need to worry about that.  Thank you for the question."  (emphasis added)

Here is the whole speech, as broadcast by WSCA. Go to 44:15 for the question and his whole response and 45:50 for the voucher answer.

Side point:  The voucher bill sponsors have been effective in making their case to the press that there's a difference between a voucher program directly funded by the state budget and a voucher program funded by tax credits, as this one is. (Here's a good example from the Portsmouth Herald today.)  Notice that the Governor doesn't buy that any more than we do.  There are active debates about tax credit funded voucher plans in over half a dozen other states right now.  In all of these debates, the matter is settled: If it walks like a voucher, it's a voucher.

The Senate Vote

Then SB 372, the Senate version of the voucher bill, came to the Senate floor.  There was a full and lively debate.  The video is not up yet but it will be available here(3/21/12.  SB 372 comes late in the morning session).  Senators D'Alesandro, Kelly and Larson spoke up forcefully against the bill.  Senator Forsythe responded energetically and in detail.

The the 15-9 roll call vote will be here when it is posted.  Sixteen votes would be needed to override a veto.  Senator Stiles who, as Chair of the Education Committee, has looked at the bill very closely, voted against it. 

Next steps

Since SB 372 is a money bill, it will now go to the Senate Finance Committee.  The public hearing is not yet scheduled, but we will provide testimony on the damaging long term financial impact to the school districts and the state.

Then, after a recommendation by the Senate Finance Committee, the bill will be voted on again by the full Senate.  The findings of the Senate Finance Committee could impact the final Senate vote, so it will be important to ensure that the bill gets a more thorough financial review than it has so far.