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.)