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Committee works on school choice bill

Sep 07, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

On Wednesday, September 6 a New Hampshire House subcommittee continued work on a bill that would allow students to spend state funds at private schools.  The full House of Representatives will get a chance to vote on the bill in 2018.

About “education savings accounts”

The bill, SB 193, allows parents to establish “education savings accounts,” administered by a private scholarship organization.  The state would fund the accounts with 90% of the amount of per-pupil funding they would otherwise send to a student’s public school, roughly $4,000 per student. Parents could use the funds to pay for private or charter school tuition, tutoring, transportation, supplies, or a range of other approved education-related expenses.

Generally speaking, supporters of SB 193 argue that parents and students should have the power to choose the schools that are best-suited to their needs.  Opponents argue that SB 193 will take money away from public schools without adequate oversight of how those taxpayer dollars are spent.

Should a private organization be in charge?

One issue the committee is debating is whether a private scholarship organization, rather than the state, should administer the funds.

The Children’s Scholarship Fund is the organization that would manage the accounts.  Right now that organization is responsible for managing roughly 300 scholarships from the state’s business tax credit scholarship program.

Supporters argue that the organization already has a system with the Department of Education that ensures accountability.  They also argue the organization operates more efficiently than the state.

Opponents question whether any private organization should have so much power over taxpayer dollars. 

Are “education savings accounts” constitutional?

Another issue is whether it would violate the constitutional separation of church and state to let taxpayer dollars go to private religious schools.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has cautioned legislators that SB 193 could open the state to a lawsuit.

However, on Wednesday the right-leaning Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy released a report from the Institute of Justice that concluded education savings accounts would likely withstand a challenge in court. 

What’s next?

The House subcommittee has another meeting on SB 193 September 21.  They will present their recommendations on the bill later this year.

The state Senate already passed SB 193, but if the House makes significant changes to the bill, the Senate will need to approve those changes.

When we asked our community about SB 193 on February 25, commenters were evenly split on the idea.  Click here to read a summary of the discussion.

Do you support SB 193?  Share your opinion in the comments below.

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