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State Rep. Victoria Sullivan: In arguing against SB 193, opponents perpetuate myths



For the Monitor
Thursday, April 12, 2018

Senate Bill 193 has been called the voucher bill, the bill to destroy public education, the bill that will raise your property taxes, the bill that has zero accountability. These accusations have been published in newspapers, online papers and blogs across the state. It is time to put to rest these arguments in opposition, and dispel the myths, using facts and just the facts.

Myth: SB 193 is a voucher program.

Truth: SB 193 would implement an education savings account. ESA’s are different than vouchers because they are administered through a scholarship organization that oversees the spending to ensure that parents, who have qualified for the program, are using the funds for the expenses outlined in the bill. Parents are not simply handed the funds.

Myth: The ESA will raise property taxes.

Truth: The state portion of education funds, and the state portion only, would follow the child. Currently districts receive roughly $3,636 per child from the state. That money is given to the district for the sole purpose of educating that child. If that child chooses to leave the district, and attends a private school, or gets homeschooled, the district no longer receives those funds. Under the ESA, those funds would follow the child for his or her educational purposes.

Argument: I don’t want my tax dollars going to religious schools.

Truth: The fight regarding religion and public education is not a new one. American schools were at one time varying denominations of the Protestant faith. Bibles were provided and discussed as part of the curriculum. When the country saw an influx of Irish Catholics in the mid 1800s, controversy developed in public education. The Blaine Amendment intended to remove the ability of public funds to be used for schools of a “religious sect,” which was a term understood to mean the Catholic faith. The Blaine Amendment was discrimination against Catholic children that was placed into law, and continuing to have this amendment guiding our children’s education continues that discrimination and expands it to cover all religious education. Some think this creates equality and acceptance in public education. However, some people of faith have seen the values of their belief system ridiculed, belittled and mocked, and their children have been pressured to conform to secular beliefs through their public education system. As we saw with the recent walkout that was supported by so many New Hampshire school administrators, politics, and a very specific value system, has infiltrated our schools. Families deserve an alternative that supports their value system.

Myth: The ESA bill provides zero accountability.

Truth: Families have to agree to the terms of the program, which include taking assessments just as they would in traditional public schools. The scholarship organization has to approve the expenditures, just as with your medical savings accounts. There is oversight on several layers.

Argument: The ESA will destroy public education.

Truth: Most of New Hampshire parents are very happy with their public schools. That being said, each child learns differently, each family has different needs, and some children need a different type of learning environment than what their neighborhood schools offer. New Hampshire currently has the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which funds education choice through business tax credits. It offers a similar choice for qualifying children. The number of applicants each year is less than 300 students. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there would be a large number of students applying for the ESA.

The bottom line is that I have faith in our parents to make the right educational choices for their children. I also have faith in our public school system. I would have to conclude, from all of the misinformation, lies and fear mongering that I have seen regarding this bill, that its opponents either want to continue the practice of religious discrimination provided by the Blaine Amendment or they have so little faith in our education system that they fear a mass exodus, or perhaps it is a bit of both.

(Rep. Victoria Sullivan of Manchester is assistant majority leader and represents Hillsborough District 16 in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.)