Over the past few months I've heard from a number of people in regards to the Education Tax Credit program and the efforts to repeal this program by enacting HB-370. I refrained from taking a position on HB-370 until I'd had the opportunity to study the original legislation and the current status of the program. I also attended committee hearings and spoke with people on both sides of this issue. I've been particularly impressed with the young people who've testified about their desire to get the best education they can. As a result, I intend to support HB-370. I have grave concerns about the constitutionality of the Education Tax Credit program, the administration of the program, the overall effect this program will have on public education, and impact it would have on local property taxpayers.
It's my belief that our nation's public education system is one of America's greatest resources. Public education strengthens our democracy and provides a gateway for millions of children to achieve their full potential. As a graduate of public high school and public university, I know how important a public education is to opening a world of opportunity. It's also clear that in an increasingly competitive global economy and the increasing challenges being presented to our professional educators, our public education system must be flexible, efficient, and accountable. Finding ways to strengthen public education by wisely investing in students' success is vital to continuing our nation's tradition of educational excellence.
Currently the Education Tax Credit program is being challenged in court based on constitutional grounds. Specifically the case challenges the use public money — our tax dollars — for religious education. During the hearings before the Senate Health and Education Committee, it was made clear that these tax credits would be used for religious education. On its face, the Education Tax Credit program is clearly in conflict with the New Hampshire Constitution.
When government allocates your tax dollars, I believe transparency and accountability are a must. Unfortunately, the group hired to operate the education voucher program, the Network for Educational Opportunity, does not meet that standard. It's a shadowy, out of state group, that's managed by people who have a political agenda that focuses on undermining public education. Unlike groups such as the Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA), NEO does not inspire confidence and until they do so I will continue to be opposed to their managing public funds.
What has also been made clear from speaking with educators, parents, and students is that this education voucher plan doesn't improve our public education system. This bill shifts limited state funds away from public school districts that need it to educate our children. Those costs are either downshifted to property tax payers or they result in education cuts at our local schools. Neither of those are acceptable outcomes to me.
Our public education system is not perfect. It needs to adapt to a changing world. But scrapping it is not an option I support. The best way to serve our children, strengthen our economy, and protect our New Hampshire way of life is to invest in our public schools — not destroy them.
Sen. Andrew Hosmer
N.H. State District 7