Effort to create ‘education savings accounts’ headed to N.H. House floor fight

  • Rep. Neal Kurk AP

Monitor staff
Published: 4/25/2018 4:20:25 PM

An effort to establish education savings accounts to increase school choice in New Hampshire is headed toward a last-ditch effort on the House floor to save the legislation that has faced pushback from lawmakers in both parties.

On Wednesday, three Republicans joined all of the Democrats on the House Finance Committee to recommend sending Senate Bill 193 for interim study, 14-12. The Republicans who joined the Democrats were committee chairman, Rep. Neal Kurk, Weare; Rep. Robert Theberge, Berlin; and Rep. Frank Byron, Litchfield. In the second year of a legislative session, interim study is generally considered a polite death for a bill.

Kurk said the bill, in its amended form, was much improved from when it was first introduced. But he said he couldn’t support a measure that diverted nearly $100 million from local school districts over 11 years.

“This bill downshifts $99 million to local property tax payers in ways that they will not be able to avoid by reducing expenses. I was not elected to downshift money on my constituents,” Kurk said before the vote.

The bill, which has already passed the state Senate, is headed for a final vote in the House next week. The chamber gave the proposal a tentative approval in January, voting in favor of the measure, 184-162.

The bill has the strong backing of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who has made school choice a central part of his education platform. Supporters vowed not to give up hope.

“I am disappointed in the Finance Committee vote, but I am optimistic on what will be voted on next week in the House,” said Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, who helped draft the latest version of the bill. “The House has already voted their support for education savings accounts, and I expect that they will do so again.”

SB 193 has gone through several major revisions since it was introduced last year. It originally envisioned one of the most expansive school voucher-like programs in the country, but has been substantially reduced in scope in a succession of draft amendments.

Republicans are expected to bring forward an amended version of the legislation to the House floor that narrows eligibility for the education savings accounts program to students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. School districts who lose students through the program would get a one-time $1,500 adjustment grant.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)


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