Pushing for repeal, foes of N.H. biz tax credits for private school scholarships program say it's meant to primarily benefit 'families of creationist Christians'

  • Published in Local News
LACONIA — Saying a new state law that established that business tax credits could be granted for contributions to a private-education scholarship fund diverts money from public schools, former N.H. Board of Education chair and former state representative Judie Reever called on citizens to publicly support a bill currently being considered by the N.H. State Senate that would repeal the measure.
Reever, who was joined by the president of Defending New Hampshire's Public Education, Bill Duncan, yesteray outside the Laconia Public Library, said the law was an "irresponsible" effort by "Tea Party" Republicans Sen. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro and Rep. Bill O'Brien of Mont Vernon to gut money for public education.
House Bill 370, which earlier passed in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, was this week voted "inexpedient to legislate" by the Senate Committee on Health, Education and Social Services. It will now come to the floor for consideration by the entire Senate.
Supporters of the current law say the it allows relatively low-income people who send their children to private schools to get scholarships that helps them pay for tuition.
Duncan said yesterday that the money — so far only $140,000 of the projected $4 million dollars has been raised — would largely go to subsidize the families of creationist Christians who seek to destroy the concept of public education in America and the constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state.
He said the law as it stands now actually saves the state money because when a child leaves a public school, the state adequacy grant of $4,100 leaves the district but the scholarship is capped at $2,500 per student and $250 per home-school student. Likening it to a "voucher program, Duncan said it is available only to people whose family income is less than $70,000 for a family of four.
Duncan also said there are "odd" groups of people from California who manage the scholarship fund and there is a lack of oversight and accountability.
Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), who was not at the library, said yesterday he will support the repeal of the scholarship law.
"We are using taxpayer money to finance religious education," he said, adding the concept undermines public education.
Hosmer also said he has "grave concerns" about how the fund is administered and he thinks it may not be constitutional.
Duncan said the key to getting the legislation to repeal hinges on the votes of one or two "good government Republicans" who are in the state Senate.
Hampton Republican Nancy Stiles heads the Senate Committee that voted 3-to-2 to recommend against the repeal bill.
Duncan said he was surprised by her vote because she voted to uphold former gov. John Lynch's veto of the original bill last year. At the time she was quoted in the Union Leader as saying the bill was "bad policy."
He and Reever asked people to sign an on-line petition that would encourage state senators to support House Bill 370 when it comes to the floor.
Defending N.H. Public Education is also challenging the law in the Strafford County Superior Court.
State Rep. Beth Arsenault, D-Laconia-Belmont and her son also attended yesterday's press conference.