N.H. School Choice Meets Resistance

This news is of local interest to the citizens of New Hampshire. It should also interest those beyond the Granite State’s borders, who are interested in education reform.

This past summer, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives overrode a gubernatorial veto and passed the “School Choice Scholarship Act,” which assists private scholarship funds that help low- and medium-income students by offering state tax credits to businesses or individuals that contribute to those funds.

The legislation was applauded by both the Education Action Group Foundation and The Heritage Foundation. It was estimated that the act “would save the state budget $8 million over the next two budgets.”

But for all its accolades and advantages, including offering real educational choice to parents and saving the state money, the act is being met with resistance, as related here by a local blogger:

(Richmond-NH.org) A rabbi, two reverends and the ACLU walk into the court house.  Sadly this is not a joke, they are in fact the actual plaintiffs in a lawsuit claiming that tax money will be used to fund “religious indoctrination and proselytization.” The complaint argues that since 2/3 of private school students currently attend religious schools, the School Choice Scholarship Act forces tax payers to fund religious organization. The fact that this suit is brought by a rabbi and two reverends is bizarre in itself; the fact that the US Supreme Court has already ruled that this type of program is constitutional in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn points to the futility of the argument. (see also Justice Douglas’ opinion)

The truth is that the School Choice Scholarship Act (SCSA) does not force anyone to pay a tax to contribute to religious or secular education. The SCSA is completely voluntary. Businesses can make charitable donations to whomever they wish and they get an 85% tax credit on their donations. This is the same scheme as deducting charitable contributions from you personal income taxes — just because you gave it to a church doesn’t mean you cannot deduct it. The donations would go to scholarship foundations which would award scholarships based on need to low-income children.  The scholarships can be used to attend a different public school, a private school, or for home-schooling costs. Nothing in the law mentions religious schools.

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