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My Turn: Voucher ruling an attack on low-income families

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. This program has been run solely upon donations from businesses, which are then distributed by the scholarship organization to families who apply for assistance.

The Education Tax Credit was a godsend for low-income parents as it allowed them to send their children to more academically rigorous schools, increasing their likelihood of breaking the chain of poverty and realizing their full potential as citizens.

Now the Education Tax Credit has been ruled unconstitutional by Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis. Unconstitutional? The money secured from the scholarship program never goes to the state. In fact, those who established the program carefully designed it so the funds are moved into a charitable organization and are completely protected from greedy hands in Concord.

Why are so many on the Left arguing that the Education Tax Credit is unconstitutional? Because the Education Tax Credit allows for young people to be educated in private schools as opposed to government-run schools. Gov. Maggie Hassan boldly called the ruling “a victory for New Hampshire public education.”

What the governor and the Left fail to recognize is that private schools offer a healthy competition to public schools. Many are demonstrating what education can – and should – accomplish. Allowing parents to send their children to schools with superior test scores and greater academic rigor does not threaten public education – it should encourage public education to improve.

Worst of all, they are violating the rights of the most vulnerable in our society by forcing them into a one-size-fits-all educational model that takes choices away from parents. They cannot legally infringe upon the rights of 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 chose to do.

While I appreciate the value of public education for all, we must never forget that it is the parent who is responsible for the education of their child. It is a manipulation and a rejection of this fundamental right that is animating the actions of the Left.

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 Comments8

Correct TCB. It is not the money, it is parenting, and the breakdown of the family structure. In other countries where I have lived, you see a huge difference in parenting techniques. The kids are taught to be indepependent, obligated and self reliant. They are also taught to be polite and have respect. They also play outdoors more, eat healthier, and have no fear that climbing trees will hurt them. The US pretty much teachers their kids the opposite of what they should be teaching them. That is if they teach them anything at all. They have shifted the parenting role to others, especially teachers. And countries like Finland are made up of cultures that are not very diverse.

Another Bill O'Brien/ALEC sponsored piece of legislation shot down. Tragic, just tragic.

I think it is Ms. Pratte that is being selfish as she would rather have a few private schools making improvements in education rather than having the entire "public school system" making improvements. Why does she not want every child see the improvement..... At a quick glance Cornerstone-Action and Cornerstone Policy Research appear to be a religious based lobbyist group. How many websites have a page that starts out " Pastor’s Page Dear Pastor and Faith-based Leader, Cornerstone empowers and encourages faith-based institutions to be persuasive advocates for timeless principles and make a difference within their circles of influence."

One could make the argument Jim, that we have sat back and watched our public school system fail, no matter how much money we have put into it, and we have put a lot of money into our school system. Folks in DC love the voucher system there. Many low income families have benfited from that program. Their kids get to go to schools that have students from all income levels, not just poor students in their district. If you are exposed to different environements outside your own, you do tend to benefit from that. As far as religious schools go, they are no different than a public school that promotes a social agenda. The issue is results, can your kid read, add etc. You may be surprised to realize that many folks who send their kid to Bishop Brady are not religious. Religion plays a very small part. They send their kid there for the education, the community service required of the students etc. If is is about quality of education, results, etc, agendas should have nothing to do with it. No matter what that agenda is. .

My problem is that just a few students get the gain. I think we should be pushing the school system to fix the problems for all students to gain. I totally agree a lot of money has been spent over the years so I don't think just throwing more money at the schools (higher salaries, fancy buildings, fancy computers etc..) is the answer. The demand should be put on the governor to force the directors and commissioners to make some valid changes. You seem to feel Bishop Brady are doing things better, so bring in some of their leaders at minimum for a discussion. Bottom line to me (and my children are no longer in the system) is that we don't forget the masses of students so a "few" can get the gain.

Jim, its not the comparatively minor differences in funding that make a school good, exceptional or sub-par. Evert educator I have talked with says the same thing; the big influence is parental involvement or the lack of it. Other's peoples money, via taxes, is just a proxy argument - most by parents who could do more.

Sadly, you are partially correct about watching the public educational system fail. But that is where the truth ends. You make blanket statements that are not entirely accurate. Bishop Brady does have a community service requirement but then so to does Bow High School and many other ones. The big problem here is that private schools get to pick and choose their students and ultimately their parents. For your information, their is no substitute for parental involvement. So you're right parents did indeed sit back and watch. That was and is the problem, not a failing necessarily of the system but of the parents. Once and for all, teachers do as instructed by their administration and their School Board. The point being overlooked is that our State Constitution specifically bans any tax money from being directed to any religious organization, for any purpose, period.

Contrary to Pratte's assertion, the author's of this law have little interest in improving access to quality education for the poor.Nor is it at all clear that "healthy competition" improves a struggling school's performance. More likely is that it further harms struggling schools. This law was purely designed to have two effects: to evade Constitutional strictures on public support of private, religious entities--most of the money "donated" by businesses goes to religious schools--and to harm the public schools in the process. The net effect of the law is to reduce the amount of money available for public education purposes. Ashley Pratte's claim that this law is designed to promote "greater academic rigor" is laughable-- the canned curriculum that most Christian evangelical schools use can hardly be described as rigorous. At best, they're religious fundamentalism in secular garb, offering "creation science" and biblical literalism taught as history, all underwritten with taxpayer support. Considering the source of this law, the other kind of school likely to crop up and seek "donors" under this law would be one with an ideological bent, such as the right-wing libertarian school in Epsom that recently closed. As with the religious schools, these individuals are purposely seeking public funding ( or places to in effect 'donate' their tax bill) to underwrite activities that are, antithetical and openly hostile to notions of 'public good' and the public interest. One promotes and encourages the 'end times', the other makes a fetish of an extreme form of individualism, by elevating selfishness as the ultimate virtue, and teaches that reliance on Social Darwinism is the best guide to public policy.

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