Published DateTo the editor,
I have watched the exchange of letters between Mr. Hill and Ms. Merwin regarding the N.H. school "voucher" plan with interest. While Mr. Hill identifies himself as "one of the drafters," he does not appear to fully understand either the intricacies or the impact of the plan.
As it is presently designed, the voucher plan allows businesses to reduce the amount of taxes they pay to N.H. By doing so, this plan ensures that N.H. will have less money to support its public school system. Our public schools are under great pressure to meet the diverse learning needs of our students. Reducing the funds available to support our schools and teachers while our towns and communities are receiving less money from the state to support other community needs is irresponsible and shortsighted.
Clearly, the N.H. Legislature, in passing this poorly designed plan, was concerned about the financial impact on local school systems so it set caps on the amount of "voucher" money for the first two years of the plan. No one can predict how future reductions will affect local communities.
Supporters of this plan have talked at great length about the need to provide low income families with school choice. There are at least two problems with this argument. First, the amount of scholarship or voucher money available is limited to $2,500 per student. Anyone who knows what private schools cost must surely ask how low income families can come up with the additional significant amount of money to pay the remaining school bills when they are again "low income" by definition. The second point is that the current program allows a substantial number of non-low income families to benefit under the voucher plan. In many senses, this is a well-camouflaged way to benefit families with higher incomes who want to receive "voucher" money to send their children to private schools.
While I could discuss many other problems with this plan, the reality is that all taxpayers in N.H. will be forced to pay for the litigation costs inflicted on us by poorly informed legislators and poorly designed legislation. This plan is currently being challenged in the courts and before anyone receives voucher money, our state will have less to spend on public education than we would have if more study and thought was spent before we tax payers were left paying another large legal bill.
If you assume that I look forward to the N.H. Senate and our governor supporting the N.H. House's efforts to do away with this erroneous but costly experiment, you would be correct.