School Choice Comes To New Hampshire

By: Bill Walker
New Hampshire Liberty Alliance
Bill Walker lives in Plainfield and works at M2S in West Lebanon. He is a Republican candidate for state representative in Sullivan County District 1.

With the passage of SB 372 over the governor’s veto, school choice has come to NH. What does this mean for parents?

Actually, of course, we already had school choice… If we could afford it. The better off already send their children to private schools or select schools in wealthy suburbs. What the new education bill will do is extend those same choices to lower-income families. SB 372 allows a scholarship funded by tax credit to go to any family with an income less than 3 times the Federal poverty level, making the current income limit roughly $67,000.

The governor tried to confuse the issue in his veto message, claiming that the school choice bill was for wealthy families. This is not true; no one with an income over the limit is eligible. The money can come from a family’s taxes or from corporate tax contributions to scholarship funds.

According to the US Dept. of Education’s NCES website, from 1993 to 2007, the percentage of children attending a “chosen” public school (a public school other than their assigned public school) increased from 11 to 16 percent. The percentages of children attending private schools also increased (9 percent attend private church-related schools, 3 percent go to secular private schools). An additional three percent are home schooled.

So 15 percent of US students are already educated privately. Interestingly, private education costs less per student. The NAEP reported that the average private school tuition in 2003-4 was $6600 (for comparison, NH spent $9413 per pupil that year in public schools; last year it was $15,585). Yet private school students get higher ACT and SAT scores than public-schooled children.

The NCES website also points out: “Another form of parental choice is to move to a neighborhood so one’s child can attend a particular school. In 2007, the parents of 27 percent of public school students reported that they had moved to their current neighborhood so that their child could attend his or her current school.”

Kudos to parents who make the sacrifices necessary to take on an $800,000 mortgage so that their children can go to a safer, better-equipped school. However, obviously not everyone has the option to spend 100 times the cost of private-school tuition in order to switch schools.

School Choice Helps the Public Schools

The $2500 tax credit is much less than the variable cost per pupil in a public school. (Remember, last year NH spent $15,585 per pupil, and it will be more next year).). One study shows that variable costs can average 64% of total costs nationwide, and the lowest variable cost estimate from a state was well over $5000… in Utah, a state that spends less than NH.

Parents who take advantage of the home-schooling option will save school districts even more money, as the tax credit for home-school supplies is only $650. So the effect of school choice on public schools will be to help their budgets while reducing their class sizes. Who doesn’t want better teacher-pupil ratios in public schools?

The family has to chip in the difference between the $2500 and the private tuition. So overall, the proposed bill INCREASES the overall amount spent on education. School choice isn’t about money, it’s about helping children succeed.

Children Aren’t Clones

Instead of beating the student into the shape of a school desk, maybe the school should be tailored to the student. Despite what George Bush said, maybe children don’t come in standardized packages. The “nationwide standardized tests” don’t measure a child’s ability in ballet, violin, or web design. (Of course, public schools aren’t passing the standardized tests either. In April, NH commissioner of education Virginia Barry announced that 71% of NH public schools have failed the federally required NCLB tests.)

Some children will do well in public schools. School choice makes more resources available for those public schools by strengthening their budgets and reducing class sizes.

Other children need different educational styles. Public school teachers are well aware that children have different needs. A Fordham Institute study in 2004 showed that a high proportion of public school teachers send their own children to private schools. In Obama’s hometown, 38.7% of Chicago teachers sent their children to private schools at their own expense.

Shouldn’t educational choices be available to all children, not just those lucky enough to have wealthy parents? The NH legislature has said yes. If I am elected this November, I will work to support and expand school choice.

Bill Walker lives in Plainfield and works at M2S in West Lebanon. He is a Republican candidate for state representative in Sullivan County District 1.

One thought on “School Choice Comes To New Hampshire

  1. Pingback: School Choice Comes To New Hampshire – NoisyRoom.net – Blog - Home School Aggregator- Visit the original site by following the link

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