Op-Ed by Scott McGilvray, NEA-New Hampshire President
Senate Education Committee Chair John Reagan wrote in the Concord Monitor recently that the budget vetoed by Governor Hassan was good for education. The Legislature’s unbalanced budget was not good for the students in our public schools or for the taxpayers who fund them, and Governor Hassan did the right this by vetoing it.
When Senator Reagan says aid to public schools was increased by phasing out the cap on adequacy grants, he is only half right. In other communities, their taxes will go up substantially because their grants are decreased in his budget. Those communities are going to see substantial increases in their property tax rates just to maintain what they currently have.
Senator Reagan cites changes made to charter school funding as good for public education since the Legislature increased funding for charter schools by $1000 per student per year. What he didn’t say is that New Hampshire charter schools already receive enhanced aid that exceeds the adequacy grants for students in public schools.
Under the adequacy formula, the grant for a public school student is about $3400 per year. Charter schools receive the same $3400, plus, under current law an additional $2000. The extra $1000 contained in this budget means that charter schools would receive $3000 more per pupil than public schools, for a total annual grant of $6400.
If that amount is good for charter school students, then why isn’t it good for every public school student? Increasing the adequacy grant for all students would mean local property tax relief for homeowners. Increased aid to charter schools does nothing to lower property taxes for anyone. In fact, it raises property taxes because it takes money which could have gone to public schools away from them.
There are those who counter that charter schools are public schools. That’s true in name only. Unlike public schools, with elected schools board who are held accountable for how they spend tax dollars, charter schools are run by an unelected Board of Directors who get to use our tax dollars however they choose with no recourse from taxpayers. Only half of charter school teachers have to be certified. The remaining faculty does not. Unlike public schools, who educate every child who comes through the door, charter schools get to pick and choose their students.
The budget also indexed charter school aid which means it gets an automatic increase every year-guaranteed. Public schools get no such automatic increase. The legislature determined it was good policy to increase aid to charter schools to keep up with inflation but not good policy to do the same for public schools and provide relief for property tax payers.
The Senator’s budget creates two, unequal classes of funding for public school students in New Hampshire. Make no mistake, in the Senator’s budget, any extra funding for charter schools is taken directly from public school students.
Senator Reagan’s budget also include tax cuts for the richest 1% of the corporations doing business in New Hampshire-even though many of these corporations are located out of state. Ultimately the cuts would total over $90 million in lost revenue to New Hampshire residents. These cuts were not paid for and we know where the cuts would come from to offset the lost revenue.
If Senator Reagan and his colleagues think we have too much money, they should pass what they feel we don’t need on to local property tax payers rather than giving multi-million handouts to out of state corporations.
Signing the House and Senate budget would have been a disservice to our public school children and to the state’s taxpayers. The Governor was right to veto it.