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My Turn: Opportunity for low-income families at risk

If the New Hampshire House has its way, children from low-income families will be forced to rescind scholarships that enable them to attend private elementary and high schools. When passed last year, the Education Tax Credit was a major victory for low-income parents because it gave them the opportunity to send their children to more academically rigorous schools. Now, both the governor and the Democratically controlled House are shamelessly attacking this legislation.

Since its implementation on Jan. 1, the Education Tax Credit has been popular among parents as well as the business community, which has given generously to the fund. In fact, the program is run solely upon donations from businesses, which are then distributed by the scholarship organization to families who apply for assistance. These businesses are then able to take a tax credit equal to 85 percent of any amount they donate. The Education Tax Credit is not derived from taxpayer funds and is, in fact, a charitable program working to the benefit of our most vulnerable families.

So why do so many Democrats want to see it overturned? In short, because its opponents believe that all young people should be funneled into public education. Instead of recognizing the healthy competition that comes from private schools – as well as the superior test scores and academic rigor seen in those students who graduate from them – Democrats are attempting to force all young people into a one-size-fits-all educational program that takes choices away from parents.

Of course, they cannot legally infringe upon the rights of those parents who can afford to send their children to private schools, but they can make it difficult for low-income families. And that is precisely what they are doing.

Former Democratic Executive Council candidate Bill Duncan, who lost his race to Republican Chris Sununu, recently filed a lawsuit against the Education Tax Credit, asking that it be banished altogether. Duncan founded an organization entitled, “Defending New Hampshire Public Education,” and is using it to champion public schools at the expense of parental choice.

Duncan claims that this tax credit violates the Blaine Amendment to the state Constitution, which states that “no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applies for the use of schools or institutions of any religious sect or denomination.”

This is a false claim. The money secured from the scholarship program never goes to the state. In fact, those who established the program carefully designed it so the money is moved into a charitable organization and is completely protected from greedy hands in Concord.

While I appreciate the value of public education for all, we must never forget that it is parents who are responsible for the education of their child.

While I appreciate their desire to improve public education, denying 400 students from low-income families the right to attend an academically rigorous school with a more wholesome culture is a selfish act that must be called out for what it is.

(Ashley Pratte is executive director of Cornerstone Action and Cornerstone Policy Research.)

Legacy Comments6

I think it would be interesting to see just how "low income" these low income families that want to pay the extra thousands it would cost to send their kids to private schools really are. Even with the extra help most "low income" families are just surviving and paying all this money to their kids to private schools doesn't seem like it would be in the budget. Especially since our public schools seem to be doing so well here in NH with low drop out rates and four schools with no drop outs at all. Methinks there is some dirty work afoot here.

Take a look at Pell Grants Lilac that is free money for college. Those grants do not state what college you can attend be it Jewish, Catholic etc. So your tax money does fund religious schools already. These scholarships also allow for parents to change districts if they do not like the school they live in. If you do not like a school in your district you can see if another public school will take your kid. As far as private schools and tests. Do you actually believe that folks would pay for their kid to go to a private school, plus pay taxes for public school if that school was not terrific and showed results? Check the results of the voucher program in DC for low income families and what a success it is. Low income folks should also have school choice.

If I recall correctly, the scholarships were not necessarily for schools with "rigorous" academics. It seems that the funds were a way for businesses to subsidize religious schools. Home schoolers were benefiting as well. As far as superior test scores as outcomes, a quick glance at NH Dept. of Ed. website seems to indicate that private schools do not participate in the same battery of testing that public schools do. "Democrats" are not preventing low income families from choosing a non public school. The scholarship was a back door way of funding private schools that in the long term could decimate public education. This could occur if virtually all the children without learning disabilities, mental or medical challenges , physical handicaps or ESL needs (ie the less expensive kids to educate) left the public schools. The most $$ kids would require a huge shift in how schools are run.

Private schools are actually prohibited by the public schools from taking the same standardized tests (NECAPs); however, at the high school level, they do of course take the same SAT / ACT tests. If the question of "rigorous" can actually be determined by standardized testing, then yes, these private schools are indeed far more rigorous than their public competition (even excluding all special ed scores). Also, there's a 4.1 million dollar cap on the program; there's absolutely no way that "all the children without learning disabilities" could leave public schools under this program. Another point to consider is that - last I checked - children living at this percentage of "the poverty level" are actually considered part of that "at-risk" category . . . wouldn't it be GOOD to get some of them out of the taxpayer-funded schools?

good one

democrats hate choice...they just say they are pro choice to get votes.....just look at all the laws they pass to limit your freedom & liberty...dare you to name even 1 law democrats have passed that have increased your freedom and liberty

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