UPDATE: N.H. education savings account bill SB 193 resuscitated, for now

  • Gov. Chris Sununu speaks at the Radisson Hotel Manchester Downtown in Manchester on Tuesday during a celebration of National School Choice Week on Jan. 23, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

Published: 5/3/2018 12:51:56 PM

A bill that would allow families to put state education money toward private schooling was revived by the state Senate on Thursday night in an eleventh-hour maneuver after being voted down by the House on Wednesday.

In a party-line vote, senators opted to tack the original version of Senate Bill 193 onto House Bill 1636, an unrelated bill about establishing a committee to study teacher preparation programs and charter school facilities.

The move followed a failed attempt earlier that morning to resurrect SB 193 in the House using a motion to reconsider. That motion failed narrowly, 172-165. The bill was referred to interim study – considered a polite death in the second year of a biennium – by the House on Wednesday by a vote of 170-159.

“It was very close in the House, and I think the supporters of 193 want one last chance. So that’s the reason behind it,” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro. “There are some skeptics in the House. We’re obviously going to have to win them over.”

HB 1636 – with SB 193 attached – now goes back to the House, which next convenes May 10. The chamber will have the opportunity to vote the bill up or down or to send it to conference committee, where a group of lawmakers from both chambers can craft a compromise piece of legislation. If the conference committee can agree on a bill, it will be sent back to the House and Senate for approval.

SB 193 would have established an “education savings account” program in New Hampshire. It had the backing of Republican leadership in both the House and Senate, and Gov. Chris Sununu’s strong support.

Introduced last year, SB 193 as originally crafted would establish a near-universal, quasi-voucher system – one of the most expansive school choice programs in the country. The bill was significantly overhauled in the House with amendments that restricted eligibility and added accountability provisions among other changes.

The original version of SB 193 is what was amended onto HB 1636 on Thursday. But Bradley suggested a conference committee would likely again revise the bill.

“This is just really more an opportunity to allow the discussion to continue,” he said.

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

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