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Issue Analysis

    NH School Choice Bills Provide Prime Example for PA

    As a vote on school choice reform looms closer in Pennsylvania, a potential school choice victory in New Hampshire is moving forward.  Two bills promising to provide tax credits to businesses that donate to nonprofit scholarships have been passed by both houses of the legislature.  Despite the governor’s "real concerns" about the proposed legislation, both bills have veto-proof majority support.  While opponents argue that these bills will take money out of the failing public schools, supporters counter that they will work towards providing much needed competition in the public school system all the while providing low- and middle-income children with ample opportunities at a better education.

    HB 1607 and SB 372 will enable more children in New Hampshire to enter into private, religious, or home-schools.  The scholarships cap at $2,500 for children entering private or religious schools and $650 for home-schooled children.   However, according to Sen. Jim Forsythe, prime sponsor of the Senate bill, they will be flexible, taking into account other factors such as income of students’ families as well as schools’ tuitions.  These scholarships, combined with financial aid packages, will allow many families the opportunity to get their children out of failing public schools.

    Whereas many opponents claim that the scholarships do not go far enough in providing sufficient funds to support the growing costs of private school education while simultaneously complaining that they take money and children out of the public school system, you simply cannot have it both ways.  The reality is that legislation providing better quality education to more children is always better than the alternative of doing nothing.  Through enabling more children to choose the schools they attend, these tax credits force schools to compete more on merit, rather than simply relying on location to automatically fill up classrooms, regardless of the quality of the school or its teachers.

    Legislative leaders in New Hampshire have scheduled June 27 as the date on which to vote on all potential vetoes from lame-duck Governor Lynch.  Thus, if he does in fact attempt to veto the bill, the New Hampshire legislature should know about it by the end of next week.  Regardless of the governor’s decision, the numbers are in favor of school choice. If nothing else, as the school choice vote approaches in Pennsylvania, this should serve as validation that it can and will be done on the state level.