Earlier in the week, NEA-NH received a request to provide information for an article being prepared by the Union Leader on the massive voucher expansion program recently signed into law by Governor Sununu. Specifically, we were asked if we would challenge the new law in court, what effect vouchers will have on public schools and our members, and were we planning on organizing public schools.
We sent our response on Thursday afternoon, well ahead of the Friday noon deadline we were given. When the article was published, it was noted that NEA-NH failed to respond to the Union Leader’s request for comment. This is incorrect.
Below are the comments we sent to the Union Leader:
“In testimony during hearings on the budget, we implored the legislature to refrain from including an unprecedented expansion of school vouchers into the budget.
As Rep. Neal Kurk asked in his floor speech against such an expansion only a few years ago, ‘Do we really want to make things worse for local property taxpayers?’
That question was answered by our governor when he signed onto a voucher program far more expansive and expensive than the one rejected in 2018 which Rep. Kurk spoke against. Governor Sununu’s signature put the cost of the new expansion squarely on the backs of New Hampshire property taxpayers.
Local taxpayers will now be forced by Governor Sununu to pay the tuition of students who choose to attend private, or religious schools. Given the hardships the pandemic imposed on so many, asking working families to foot the bill for someone else’s child to attend a private school is unconscionable.
The impact of this voucher expansion on our local public schools will be felt in the form of larger class sizes, fewer resources, and higher taxes.
Despite the unprecedented upheaval, exhaustion, and loss of the past 16 months, New Hampshire’s educators are, as always, ready to harness their power for the collective good of the students and communities they serve.
We’re looking ahead to the new school year and to hopefully putting the pandemic behind us. Being back in classrooms, hallways and cafeterias in schools that are safe and healthy is a return to normal we can all look forward to.
Sadly, the other side of normal also remains – gaping inequities, chronic underfunding, and lack of respect for educators. These things were made worse by the budget supported and signed by Governor Sununu.
Educators fought the confusion and chaos of the pandemic to design and collaborate on new ways to teach and learn. Food service workers delivered meals to families. School nurses emptied out supply closets and donated everything, including thermometers, gloves, and respirator masks. School counselors spent endless hours tracking down students who had fallen through the cracks. School buildings might have been closed, but we made sure our students’ needs were met because we are driven by a deep conviction and powerful purpose.
Taking funds away from certified, qualified and financially transparent public schools and teachers to hand them over to unaccountable and untraceable private schools not only make our jobs harder, it is also fiscally irresponsible.
NEA-NH remains open to all options regarding potential legal challenges and organizing private schools that receive public funds.”Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH President