JOINT RELEASE: NH Senate Passes Bill to Expand School Vouchers, Increasing Household Income Eligibility Cap from 350% to 400% of Federal Poverty Guidelines Despite Strong Public Opposition

Educators, Parents, Public School Advocates React; Warn Lawmakers of Devastating Financial and Educational Consequences

CONCORD, NH – Today, the New Hampshire Senate voted 14-10 on party lines to pass HB 1665-FN, as amended, which would expand the state’s unaccountable school voucher program yet again. 

As passed by the House of Representatives, HB 1665 sought to expand school voucher eligibility from 350% to 500% of the federal poverty level; as amended by the Senate, this bill would expand eligibility to 400% of the federal poverty guidelines, or $124,800 for a family of four. This bill’s language now mirrors SB 442, which was rejected by the House earlier this month. 

HB 1665 now goes back to the House for a vote to determine if the House will concur, non-concur, or request a committee of conference.

Public education advocates are deeply concerned about the financial and educational impact of expanded school vouchers in New Hampshire. Statements from current and former educators, parents, public education advocates, and community members are below, followed by background on NH’s school vouchers – and warnings from around the nation.

Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-NH, said: “Public dollars belong in public schools. Period. Any vote to expand the state’s unaccountable voucher scheme – yet again – is a vote to divert even more taxpayer funds from public schools, which are attended by more than 165,000 Granite State students.”

Deb Howes, President of AFT-NH, said: “There are 165,000 students and their families who trust and rely on our local neighborhood public schools for their education. Our public school students, our local neighborhood public schools, and our local property taxpayers deserve better than pouring more tax money into a program that has been over budget for its entire existence and has not shown any independent evidence of improved academic outcomes, all while the State of New Hampshire is still failing to meet its constitutional duty to fully fund its public schools! Remember, this is also the same Legislature that earlier this year decided feeding hungry children in public schools, whose families earn up to 350% of the poverty level, was too expensive. The vote to expand school vouchers does not reflect Granite State values and is not what voters want!”

James McKim, President of Manchester NAACP, said “Nationally,  51% of children who attend public schools live in poverty. School vouchers are promoted as a means of increasing academic gains for students from low socio-economic backgrounds by enabling them to attend a private school. But school vouchers give parents the false idea that public schools are inadequate to meet their child’s needs. And they impede communities from creating stronger relationships among public schools, parents, and teachers because of the stigma attached to the public school system. Thus, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stands opposed to the government dissemination of school vouchers as a means of undermining public education and using tax dollars for vouchers that will subsidize private and sectarian education.”

Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director, Granite State Progress, said: “Politicians voting to expand New Hampshire’s school voucher program are taking public dollars away from public schools. A vote for school vouchers is a vote to increase local property taxes to pay for wealthy families to send students to private and religious schools, at the expense of our beloved public schools. The vast majority of Granite Staters choose a strong public education for their children, and deserve to have fully funded, honest and inclusive public education.”

Chris Prost, father, veteran, and small business owner in Croydon, NH, said, “I’ve seen firsthand what happens when extremists attempted to defund and privatize our local public schools. Through a grassroots effort, our town banded together to restore the original budget. As towns like ours fight to maintain the basic funding while managing property tax rates, the state has decided to open up the education trust fund to a voucher program with little oversight. Meanwhile, it continues to avoid its constitutional duty to adequately fund existing schools. It’s only a matter of time before small communities like mine feel the crunch of this program”

Carisa Corrow, parent, educator and social entrepreneur in Penacook, NH: “Education Freedom Accounts are no more than a coupon giving wealthier parents a discount off the cost of private or religious schools. Our public schools are already underfunded and understaffed which isn’t good for kids, teachers, or New Hampshire. We should be focused on investing in high quality public education for all, rather than divesting resources that benefit a select few.”

Heidi Crumrine, parent and 2018 NH Teacher of the Year: “Parents expect quality community public schools to exist as a foundational part of society. Vouchers are a scam that funnels tax dollars back to families and organizations. They are a redistribution of wealth with no accountability that leaves our most vulnerable students at even more risk. Private schools that accept state money do not have to provide special education services, and many require that parents sign away those rights if accepted. They can discriminate on the basis of sex, race, gender, religion, or against any group they want to leave out. To a fiscal conservative, vouchers make no sense because they start a second education system that is not currently funded and pulls that money out of the tax base, raising the amount that goes to vouchers, all while underfunding public schools. Politicians in NH have systematically attacked public schools at the roots by forcing them to fight for adequate funding every year and then psychologically attacking teachers by asserting they have failed students while at the same time calling them “indocrinators,” groomers, and monopolizers. Teachers have had their moral integrity put into question and many have had enough. These are the same teachers who you sit next to at church, talk to in the grocery store line, and who purchase classroom supplies out of their own salaries. If our legislature was truly committed to funding ‘students’ and not ‘systems’ then they would create a system that provides adequate funding for all students, and funnel their energy into addressing the growing teacher shortage, the inequities that exist between urban and rural schools, and creating opportunities for mentorships and internships between public schools and local businesses so that students can see themselves as successful members of NH’s economy.”

Micaela Demeter, Dover School Board Member, said: “Recent court rulings have upheld what Granite Staters have known for decades: NH underfunds its public schools by the largest margin in the entire country, downshifting about 70% of the true costs onto taxpayers in local districts. To borrow a concept I frequently use with my children, our legislature needs to do its constitutionally mandated duty and adequately fund public schools – the “Must Do” – rather than continuing to siphon public funds into private education – a “Want To” for some in our state.  Today a group of self-identified fiscally conservative legislators voted to expand eligibility for the ‘Want To’ school voucher program, which will cost New Hampshire taxpayers tens of millions of dollars that could – and should – be used to support students in public schools.  The irony of this decision does not escape me.”


Background on NH School Voucher Eligibility

School vouchers are currently available to families who earn 350% of the federal poverty guidelines – an increase from the original 300% cap. Universal school voucher programs overwhelmingly subsidize education for wealthy families who have never had a child in the public school system; a report by Reaching Higher NH states that 75% of school vouchers in New Hampshire have gone to students who already attended a private or religious school.

NH School Vouchers Already 275% Over Budget

Reaching Higher NH also reported that New Hampshire’s current school voucher program will divert over $24 million from public schools in the 2023-2024 school year  – or 275% over the initial budget estimates since the program started in 2021. According to their data analysis, universal school vouchers could cost over $105 million per year. 

Study: Student Performance Worse in School Voucher Programs

Additionally, when states collect data on students who use school vouchers, those students do not report improved outcomes compared to their publicly educated peers. In fact, in a study on the impact of the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, they performed worse after participating in their state’s school voucher program – which is consistent with findings in other states.

Arizona and Florida Warn of School Voucher Devastation

Recently, public education advocates from Florida and Arizona published an op-ed in the Concord Monitor warning states considering school voucher expansion of the devastating budget impacts their states have experienced. 

New Research Further Validates ‘School Choice’ Increases Racial and Class Segregation

Recent research out of Stanford University further validates that “school choice” policies only increase segregation. You can read more about Stanford’s research at this link: 70 years after Brown v. Board of Education, new research shows rise in school segregation.