NH House Rejects Bill to Expand School Vouchers, Public Education Advocates Praise Vote

Educators, Parents, Public School Advocates Celebrate Defeat of Bill to Expand School Vouchers from 350% to 425% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines

CONCORD, NH – Today, the New Hampshire House voted against the Committee of Conference report on HB 1665-FN, the school voucher expansion bill, by a margin of 185-168, which defeated the bill. School voucher expansion is now dead for the legislative session.

HB 1665 would have expanded eligibility for the state’s unaccountable school voucher program from 350% to 425% of the federal poverty level. Lawmakers had previously increased the eligibility, from the original 300%.

Public education advocates celebrated the vote with the following statements:

Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-NH, said: “We are thrilled to see state representatives agree that taxpayers can’t afford yet another expansion of New Hampshire’s unaccountable voucher scheme. Public dollars belong in public schools. Period. We look forward to working with lawmakers in the future to focus on fully funding public schools, which are attended by nearly 90% of Granite State students.”

Deb Howes, President of AFT-NH, said: “This is a victory for the 165,000 Granite State public school students, their families  and local property tax payers! Each and every Granite State student has the constitutional right to a robust public education and the State has the responsibility to fund it without disproportionately burdening local property taxpayers. The school voucher scheme takes away badly needed resources from achieving that goal. AFT-NH thanks the members of the NH House who listened to their constituents and voted against this runaway school voucher program. We are thankful for the outcome of today’s vote.”

James McKim, President of Manchester NAACP, said: “This is a win for our public schools, and a win for our families. 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 many 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. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is 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. Today’s vote is an important step in the right direction to stop the expansion and refocus our efforts on supporting strong public schools.”

Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director, Granite State Progress, said: “Today, public education advocates breathed a sigh of relief that the crisis of potentially expanding our already out-of-control school voucher program was averted. But make no mistake, our current school voucher program is still doing active harm to public school students and their families and should not exist in the first place. Politicians voting to expand New Hampshire’s school voucher program want to take 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.”

Maggie Fogarty, School Board Member, Dover School District, said: “Lawmakers acted today to prevent further defunding of our public school system, which is good news for our students, families and school staff. It is also a positive outcome for taxpayers, who are already being forced to pay millions in increased ‘give aways’ to private institutions without accountability and standards, and who would have had to shoulder another $53 million in service to a careless and politically extremist agenda. Today’s vote prevented further harm, but there is much work to be done to restore and expand the resources we invest in the well-being of our students, our communities and our future.”

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.

Indiana’s Jump to Nearly Universal School Voucher Eligibility Bloats Budget to Nearly Half Billion Dollars 

Recent reports out of Indiana show that when nearly every student became eligible to receive a school voucher, costs ballooned to nearly half a billion dollars. 

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.

Report: Hate Group Funded by School Vouchers

The Keene Sentinel broke just last week that the Saint Benedict Center, which runs the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Richmond, New Hampshire and is a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is part of New Hampshire’s school voucher program. The founder of the Center, Father Leonard Feeney, used antisemitic language and well-worn Jewish conspiracy tropes. The group calls Jewish people ‘perpetual enemies of Christ’ and rejects the Catholic Church’s 2nd Vatican Council, which, among other social reforms, condemned antisemitism and rejected the notion that Jews were to blame for Jesus’ death. The Sentinel confirmed that families with students attending the Immaculate Heart of Mary School use New Hampshire’s school voucher program, which this year is projected to cost NH taxpayers $24 million dollars.

Report: School Voucher Program Shows Large Expenditures on Amazon, Republican House Majority Leader’s Wife Financially Benefiting from School Privatization

NHPR (1/30/23): “Families participating in the state’s new voucher-like school choice program spent the bulk of their state aid at Amazon.com and at local private schools. According to data recently released by the New Hampshire Department of Education, participants spent a total of about $805,000 at Amazon.com and approximately $2.76 million at private schools last year.” NHPR went on to detail, “Among the program’s biggest supporters in the Legislature is House Majority Leader Jason Osborne. According to records, a homeschooling nonprofit run by his wife received $28,750 last year in Education Freedom Account funding.”

New Hampshire’s School Voucher Program Has Few to No Safeguards and Guardrails

Efforts during the current and past legislative session to implement guardrails and safeguards into the program – for fiscal accountability and student safety – have been rejected by the Republican majority. More details available by request.