Letter: Send voucher bill back to drawing board

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Proponents of Senate Bill 193 (the school voucher bill) say it’s a necessary safeguard to ensure that students who “just don’t fit” in public school have a different choice. However, the bill doesn’t restrict vouchers to students who find it difficult to thrive in their public school. As currently written, it allows parents to use $5,000 to $7,000 per year in taxpayer funds for private school tuition, even if the public school is providing a good education for their child.

Why might a parent take a child out of a public school that was meeting the child’s educational needs? Surveys from other states show that the main reason parents use vouchers and similar entitlement programs is because they prefer a religious education for their children, not because the public schools are lacking. In New Hampshire, 82 percent of students using education tax credit scholarships for tuition at private schools attend religious schools.

In addition to religious preference, sometimes parents move their children to private school because it offers a better sports or arts program or it’s more conveniently located.

While most taxpayers would probably sympathize with the goal of helping students whose needs aren’t being met in a public education setting, I doubt that they’re eager to see public funds drained from their local schools to satisfy parents’ convenience or personal preferences. SB 193 should be sent back to the drawing board and be much more limited if its intent is to serve those few who truly need an alternative to their public school.