AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1652 (local school voucher bill)
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
Thank you, Chairman Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee for reading my testimony.
My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers-NH.
AFT-NH represents 3,700 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service
employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. My members work with approximately 29,000 of the 165,000 public school students in New Hampshire in one way or another as well as thousands of university students. We are residents and taxpayers in the Granite State. I am writing today in opposition to HB 1652, relative to establishing a local education freedom account program.
HB 1652 would create a local voucher program that could easily decimate our local neighborhood public schools and rapidly increase already burdensome property taxes across New Hampshire. The new program will further impoverish our neighborhood public schools, leaving our students with only a threadbare education. As school districts struggle to cover costs, we’ll see massive cuts: Music, art, student learning support from paraeducators, library, transportation, and sports would all be on the chopping block as local communities struggle to keep up with cutbacks necessitated by having to fund two systems of education. The NH Constitution places a duty on the state to provide and fund a robust public education for all Granite State children. This bill would oblige local taxpayers to pick up the tab for a second system of education based on families’ individual choices. Since there is only so much money you can wring out of local property taxpayers, the creation of this second system of education would lead to cutbacks in the constitutionally required public education system.
Like the state voucher program, the local voucher program allows students who are already in private school or being homeschooled to obtain a local voucher costing local property taxpayers across the state hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars more than is currently budgeted. Unlike the state voucher scheme, this program has no income eligibility restrictions, which means a family struggling in Concord would also now be responsible for helping to pay the tuition of a millionaire who wants to send their kid to St. Paul’s. As I have stated above, to pay for these program cuts will have to be made from our local neighborhood schools or property taxes will have to be raised.
Unlike the state-level voucher program, this local voucher program at least requires some independent measure academic accountability to make sure students are learning. Nationwide, voucher programs have a poor track record on student academic achievement where they are actually allowed to be measured. Independent studies of voucher programs in states across the country have found that children in voucher programs perform far worse than their peers. In fact, education researchers who study vouchers say their negative effects are larger than natural crises like Hurricane Katrina and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poll after poll has shown the families across New Hampshire want to see the legislature improve and invest in our local neighborhood public schools so all of our kids can succeed. Granite state families want quality, stability and predictability, which overall they get from their public schools. This program would have the opposite effect and could lead to barebones education instead of the robust education our students receive today.
For the 165,000 public school students who rely on their local neighborhood public schools and all the local property taxpayers in towns and cities across the Granite State we urge the committee to vote Inexpedient to Legislate on HB 1652.