New Hampshire Republicans pushing to expand school vouchers

By Christian Wade | The Center Square

Republican lawmakers are making another push to expand private school options for students by redirecting state education aid, but the move faces pushback from Democrats and teachers’ unions who say it will hurt traditional public schools.

House Bill 20 would, if approved, create an “education savings account” that authorizes the same per-pupil share of state school funding for students who want to leave public schools attend private, parochial and charter schools or receive home schooling.

The proposal is named after the late-House Speaker Richard “Dick” Hinch, who died from COVID-19 a week after he was sworn into office. Hinch was a staunch supporter of the proposal.

Gov. Chris Sununu Facebook

New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who also supports education freedom accounts, has been publicly advocating for approval of House Bill 20.

The state has a tax credit program, created in 2012, that provides scholarships for public school students who want to attend private schools or get home-schooled.

But advocates say the program doesn’t go far enough to meet the demand, and only covers a portion of the expenses. The average grant in the 2019-20 school year was about $2,800.

“The learning needs and family circumstances of every child are unique, so we need to be giving families the freedom to pursue an educational path that is best for their children,” said Andrew Demers of Respect New Hampshire, an advocacy group. “Having education freedom gives children the opportunity to flourish and grow to their fullest potential.”

Under the proposal, the public school dollars would essentially follow K-12 students if they decided to attend private or charter schools. The proposal would authorize annual grants of up to $4,597 per student. The state currently spends about $3,800 per student. Most cities and towns supplement the spending with local property tax revenue.

“This program wouldn’t take any money away from the schools, other than the state money that would follow the child irrespective of where they live,” Demers said.

He said the grants would be “multi-use” and parents would be allowed to use the money for “any education or learning expense” both inside and outside of the classroom.

Republicans have filed similar proposals in the past, all of which have been blocked by Democrats, who were in control of the Legislature for two years until the Nov. 3 elections.

With the GOP controlling a majority of the seats in the House and Senate, Republican leaders are planning to make a major push to approve the bill in the current two-year session.

House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, says the proposal is at the “top of the agenda” for the Republican-controlled House this year.

“We have no doubt in our mind this will help students in this state get a better education,” Packard said during a recent news briefing.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who also supports education freedom accounts, has been publicly advocating for approval of the measure.

“You can sum all this up with: It’s gotta be about outcomes for the kids, not outcomes for the system,” Sununu said during a livestreamed forum last month, sponsored by the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. “We have to stop worrying about the system as much as the kids.”

The proposal is strongly opposed by teachers unions and Democratic lawmakers who say it would siphon limited money and resources from traditional public schools.

“There’s virtually no transparency or accountability of how the money would be spent or used,” said state Rep. Doug Ley, D-Jaffrey. “It would also include sectarian schools, and I would strongly oppose that.”

Ley, who also serves as president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said it will force local governments to raise property taxes to make up for the loss of state education funding.

“Because it will siphon away money from the public schools, which serve the vast majority of New Hampshire students,” Ley said.

A recent analysis of the proposal by the state Department of Education projects the expansion of vouchers will save the state between $360 million to 393 million over the next decade.

The proposal is one of several in the upcoming legislative session that seek to divert more state money to expand private education opportunities for students.

Earlier this month, the Republican-led Executive Council approved the acceptance of a $46 million federal grant to expand the number of taxpayer-funded charter schools.

Even with GOP majorities in the House and Senate, the measure is anything but a sure bet. In 2018, when Republicans last controlled the Legislature, a similar measure failed to win support from some GOP lawmakers.

Images courtesy of Public domain and Gov. Chris Sununu Facebook

8 thoughts on “New Hampshire Republicans pushing to expand school vouchers

  1. For decades, the Vermont government has proven it does not know how to effectively and economically run the PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, which invariably, has poor outcomes.

    The best approach would be to privatize all of it.

    Parents would pay 50% of tuition.

    The state would require parents to set up an Education Savings Account, at birth of each child, and would require parents to make a minimum tax-deductible contribution of $2000/y, up to $5000/y, to each child’s account.

    The state would pay the other 50% of tuition, but would have no voice in what is taught and how it is taught, just as with the existing Private Schools.

    That would save Vermonters at least one $BILLION per year.

    The Vermont School Choice ‘tuitioning’ program could be kept in place ON A TEMPORARY BASIS.

    The funds would go to private schools and public schools, AS CHOSEN BY PARENTS.

    If the cost is less than the voucher, parents can keep the difference in their ESAs to use for future education costs.
    If the cost of their choices are more, parents make up the difference.

    The vouchers are as follows:

    The 2020-2021 Average Announced Tuition of Union Elementary Schools is $14,859.00
    The 2020-2021 Average Announced Tuition of Union 7th-12th Grade Schools is $16,233.00

  2. Imagined the glint in their eye @ savings of nearly $400 million per year = a future of trillions plus. And revenue increase from related services. People are tired of being caged and this will be a Godsend to the wearied many.
    1. – Will attract dwellers in Americas hellholes and other places – increasing population = taxpayers
    2. – Attract conservatives alarmed at the increasing level of transgender tyranny including males included in female locker rooms and allowed to shower, Marxist agenda spoonfeeding our youth Communist poison and serving of Fool-Ade and takeover of educational system including book banning
    3. Nations parents and students crave in person learning experience as we can see from rising level of childhood suicide

    • Hopefully will do same with Medical-Industrial Complex as Educational Industrial Complex – decentralization via portable vouchers = competition; reducing cost, improving outcomes and resultant higher quality of product and services.

    • The NH Dept of Ed Wants “Increasing Equitable Access” – About That…
      by Skip / 27 January 2021
      Got this Presser from the NH Dept of Education. Actually, I get a lot of them (don’t know if I get them all). At first blush I just went through it and then one word caught my eye: Equitable.

      Unsure what the effect of vouchers these decisions would have on each other. Sad to see DOE everywhere doing what’s possible to diminish options for students and families.

  3. Offtopic alert: Couldn’t find a place to put this but needs to be shared.
    NH does a lot of things right, and much moreso than VT – but this is a jawdropper and cannot in recent memory think of a VT counterpart. Live Free or Die has its own maddeningly unjust leadership members in RNC and glaring example of why all voting must be done in person.

    And also an additional example of the real reason for online and mail voting – i’ts easily manipulated. Bipartisan officials have known this and spoken out for decades. If we can go to Walmart, Cannabis shops, supermarkets and liquor stores etc etc and survive the ordeal – we can vote in person. *Shame* on NH GOP for this setup of election robbery aka “voter fraud” via refusal to take corrective action.

    Breathtaking example of disturbing level of dictatorial malfeasance and voter fraud. May I suggest there are no liquids in mouth while reading – they are known to harm electronic devices and computer screens.
    From our friends across the river at Granite Grok – bringing truth to daylight flipping one rock at a time – while VT GraveDigger is still digging away in “pursuit of the truth” lol:
    NH RNC – An Organization Intent on Denying Due Process to Its Members
    by Terry Cox / 29 January 2021
    — “Somewhat like the DNC and a sizeable number in the US Legislature, the NH GOP denied my right to vote at the Jan. 23rd online meeting because of their own problems operating an online election.”

  4. “House Bill 20 would, if approved, create an “education savings account” that authorizes the same per-pupil share of state school funding for students who want to leave public schools attend private, parochial and charter schools or receive home schooling.”

    There is still hope here for Vermonters to learn a lesson too. Go for it NH. Show us the way.

Comments are closed.