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Editorial: Education tax credit program should be repealed

It’s not every day that the attorney general and the governor find themselves publicly at odds over important state policy, but it happened this week – and thank goodness.

At issue is a 2012 law that set up a tax credit program for businesses, essentially rewarding them for donating money to a fund that provides “scholarships” to help some children attend religious or other private schools, receive home-schooling or attend a public school outside their home district. Controversial from the get-go, the program was approved by the Legislature over the veto of then-Gov. John Lynch.

A superior court judge ruled last summer that the program could not be used to support religious school education. And this week Gov. Maggie Hassan weighed in, filing a brief encouraging the state Supreme Court to uphold the lower court ruling – in opposition to the attorney general’s office, which is defending the law.

“The governor treasures the diversity of private schools in our state, and fully appreciates their contributions to tolerance and learning. But the decision to contribute to a private religious school is a personal decision. It should not be supported by the state’s tax structure, and it should not have the effect of diverting scarce taxpayer dollars from crucial public needs,” Hassan said in her brief.

She’s right. The Supreme Court should do as the governor suggests. And, beyond that, the Legislature should pull the plug on the entire program.

The religious aspect to the program is the most objectionable. Supporters have attempted to blur the line between church and state, granting a tax break to those who would support religious institutions – diverting much-needed tax money for that purpose and forcing the rest of us to make up the difference. But even with the religious schools exempted from the program, the scheme still robs public schools of needed resources in order to make it easier for families to send their kids elsewhere. In a state so miserly in financing public education, the idea is misguided in the extreme.

Does the government have an interest in helping families send their kids to Bishop Brady or the New Hampton School? Should businesses be rewarded by the government for contributing to such an effort? Of course not.

Traditionally, on the federal and state levels, constitutional provisions separating church and state banned taxpayer support of religious institutions. But in 2002 a U.S. Supreme Court dominated by conservatives knocked a hole in that wall and permitted the issuing of taxpayer-funded vouchers that could go to a religious school if the money was used only for secular purposes. Then, in 2010, the court threw open the door to forced taxpayer support of religious education by approving tax credit programs similar to the one now at issue in New Hampshire.

How does any of that square with the part of the New Hampshire Constitution that specifically says “no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for use of the schools or institutions of any religious sect or denomination,” and also holds that “no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination”?

We hope the court here agrees with the governor and sees the tax credit program of a clear violation. But like-minded legislators, those who believe they have a responsibility to improve the public schools rather than thwart them, should go even further: repeal the program and focus their energies on making the public schools the best they can be.

Legacy Comments19

The law is an attempted end-around the NH Constitution, using the weasel word 'donation'. But getting a tax credit for one's 'donation' still takes scarce money away from public education. It's a distinction without a difference, and the law should be overturned.

"Scarce money"? LOL. All we do is hear about e-d-u-c-a-t-i-o-n and "the children" and we spend and spend and spend and spend and spend more and more and more and more and more every year. And where do we place on education on the world stage? It will take more than money and I can tell you that money is scarce in NH households as half of their property taxes go to pay for schools. If you have extra, feel free to chip in some more if you feel that it is scarce.

For the LIDV's in this forum: State scholarships for college can be used to go to St Anselm College - I am sure that is a mental twister for you all but think it over awhile...you may get it

What the heck is a "LIDV?"

Give you a hint, first word is "low". I am so used to Sail's posts now I knew exactly what he meant. He is not very original, only surprised he capitalized the "D".

Oh . . . as in "low information voter"? And I suppose the "D" stands for "Democrat"? Notice I didn't say "Democratic."

We are not talking college. We are talking public school. Just what state scholarships are you referring, out of curiosity? What is a LIDV anyway

so public funds are Ok to use at a catholic college but you cant use state funds to go to a catholic grade school - the hypocrisy is epic - the LIDV's need to read Charles Alinghaus article to be informed

One very big difference is that at mot of the Catholic colleges and universities, religious education courses are no longer mandatory, nor is chapel. One can get a very good secular education at a Catholic school.

A good secular education. I guess you mean evolution, a theory concocted by a man who lived in the 1800's. Have you read about the recent discoveries that suggest that homo sapiens and others may have lived side by side at the same time? Many skulls have been discovered lately that suggest that the "theory" may be fkawed.

Pardon, your ignorance is showing. How exactly does that "suggest that the 'theory'" is flawed? Look up the scientific definition of 'theory' while you're at it. But the theory of evolution was hardly "concocted" by a single man--there was also A.E.Wallace, who deserves credit as 'co-discover'. But it wouldn't be a theory if it hadn't been confirmed over and over and over....

Both men from the 1850's, you folks love the mid-19th century, as in windmills and trains. Take a look at those latest discoveries. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/04/new_fossil_rewr070641.html or http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/17/world/europe/ancient-skull-human-evolution/ or http://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/mar/19/evolution-darwin-natural-selection-genes-wrong

So what is your point? That these discoveries and findings, by indicating that evolution and the fossil record for human ancestors are more complex processes than previously thought therefore lends support to any notions of intelligent design or creationism? Seriously? There is almost zero support for intelligent design is the biological sciences community. And zero evidence--the claims of the intelligent design community are based on fabrications and distortions of the factual record.

I think you need to try to wrap your head around this, St.Anselm's "statement of inclusiveness", which is something few if any primary or secondary religious schools will claim: "In order to realize our mission as a Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college, Saint Anselm College is committed to sustaining an intentionally inclusive environment that will benefit all constituencies. In particular, the college is committed to providing students with the richest opportunities to learn, both in the classroom and within the environment of the college community as a whole. We accomplish this, in part, by fostering understanding, experience, and appreciation of the world's diversity through the academic curriculum, with its spirit of scholarly inquiry and respectful discourse; through a variety of service, co-curricular, religious, and academic activities and support mechanisms; and through the different perspectives and backgrounds of the members of our community."

Todays MUST READ - Charles Arlinghaus: Gov. Hassan takes both sides of school choice debate: BY CHARLES ARLINGHAUS . a reader can find this article over at NH's real state paper.

Yes, it's a must read. If you want to read something by a man who doesn't understand the difference between secondary and higher education.

If hypocrisy is your debate tactic - you debate is vacant

A-MEN!!!!! Thanks for getting off the Chris Christie kick and the "duck" kick and getting on to some real important issues for the citizens of NH. Bravo, editorial staff!

Well, just to add to the "duck" kick, Campbell is "ducking" the issue of whether or not he was UTI.

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