I am writing in response to Sen. Andrew Hosmer's April 18 letter to the editor in The Laconia Daily Sun entitled "Education Tax Credit Program clearly violates N.H. Constitution", wherein he indicates his reasons for supporting the repeal of the education tax credit bill passed by the 2011 legislature.
This legislation was passed to provide opportunity to lower income and underprivileged children and to level the playing field allowing all of New Hampshire's children equal access to the same schools and education that the more fortunate families are taking advantage of every day! This program has been well received by both businesses and the public as one more way to help empower our families and strengthen the middle class in New Hampshire.
The body of this law can be found at RSA 77‐A:5, XV, RSA 77‐E:3‐d, and RSA 77‐G, and here is how it works: New Hampshire businesses may voluntarily divert a portion of their state business tax liability into a scholarship fund. When they do so, they receive only 85 percent of that contribution toward their business tax liability. This gives New Hampshire businesses the ability to invest in the creation of a highly skilled and well‐educated workforce; which is the key to maintaining the New Hampshire advantage in the future.
Sen. Hosmer cites several reasons for wanting to dismantle this system, all of which are misguided, misinformed, and unfortunately could be misleading.
First, he states that he has "grave concerns about the constitutionality of the education tax credit program." Does this mean that it is unconstitutional for the state to pay chaplains who minister to our military personnel in the New Hampshire National Guard? Of course it is not! There are currently commissioned officers serving in the National Guard whose sole purpose is the religious and spiritual well‐being of our troops. The education tax credit program is simply a government partnership program which allows scholarship recipients to spend their scholarship in the most effective manner. Similar programs are, and have been in place for many years at the state and federal levels. As but one example, the U.S. Department of Labor, using Trade Act funds (funded by taxes on American businesses) provides tuition and expenses for qualified individuals to attend the school of their choice — including private and religious schools — to receive qualified education and training. Another example would be the G.I. bill for military veterans (there are more than a few students at St. Anselms and St. Josephs on
government scholarships). Both of these programs have been around for decades and neither have been deemed unconstitutional. Shouldn't we leave the interpretation of the constitutionality of the laws to the courts, and not to the senators?
Next, Sen. Hosmer states that he has concerns about the "overall effect this program will have on public education, and impact it would have on local property taxpayers." In fact, the effect that it will have is only positive! It builds organic accountability into the public school system by introducing more competition into the education marketplace. This country was founded upon the principles of fair play.
As for the impact on local property taxpayers, it would have a zero impact! Here is why. All monies to support this program are provided by New Hampshire businesses who voluntary contribute a portion of their business profits tax. Not one penny comes from local property taxes.
Finally, the opposition to the Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO) administering the scholarship fund is completely unfounded and an unfair mischaracterization. First, NEO is a private, not‐for‐profit organization working in partnership with the state government to efficiently and effectively bring scholarships to children who need it most. It is that simple. NEO is not a "shadowy" organization, especially when compared with the National Education Association (NEA) whose union bosses are more interested in huge profits than the education of our children. By contrast, NEO's director, Kate Baker, is available, accessible, and has committed a high level of transparency to the public.
In closing, I would agree with Sen. Hosmer that our public education system is not perfect. Though we need to constantly improve our public education system, it is only common sense that when something doesn't work, we need to try something different. After all, education is not like a baseball cap, one size does not fit all!