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AFT-NH Testimony In Opposition to HB 1665 ( eligibility for the school voucher program)

Thank you, Chair Ward and Members of the Senate Education Committee.

My name is Debrah Howes. I am president of the American Federation of Teachers – New Hampshire. I am here to speak on behalf of our 3700 members across the state. Our members include preK through 12 public school educators and support staff, university faculty as well as town employees. We are parents and grandparents of public school students as well as property owners and taxpayers in the Granite State. I am here today to testify in opposition to HB 1665 relative to eligibility for the school voucher program.

The State of New Hampshire has a constitutional duty to all its children to provide the opportunity for a robust public education through its public district schools. It is currently failing to meet this obligation in a way that provides the same robust public education to the students in Claremont, Berlin, and Franklin as it does to the students in Windham, Bedford, and Hanover. Moreover, the taxes raised to fund those schools so students can have everything that makes up a robust public school education: the teachers, the paraeducator support, the books, the school libraries, the counselors, safe buildings, transportation – those taxes must fall equally upon citizens across the state as providing a public education is constitutionally a state responsibility. Numerous court cases have enumerated these principles over the past three decades. It is each Granite State child's right to have access to that quality public education, but the state is still not living up to its obligation!

With the State of New Hampshire underfunding its public schools and all of the 165,000 students who rely on them for an education by more than $500 million every single year, we can’t afford to be spending taxpayer money on any school voucher program. It is certainly not the time to expand school vouchers to all families up to 500 percent of the federal poverty level who choose to use them. Analysis shows a voucher program at this eligibility level could cost up to $66 million dollars a year, with nearly $43.5 million of that being new spending from students already in private educational settings. Particularly with state tax revenues coming in behind projections, surpluses dwindling, and costs for other obligations such as the settlement of the cases arising from the abuse at the youth detention center, now is not the time to expand spending on school vouchers.   

The Granite State can’t afford any discretionary spending on other educational choices until it gets its constitutional obligation to public school students sorted out. At a time when the state is failing to meet its constitutional duty to all its children of providing a robust public education, there is no way it should be making any expenditures of choice on education for a school voucher program. It most certainly must not expand that program and compound the error, especially since numerous studies in states across the country have shown voucher programs to be harmful to student achievement, and therefore a waste of student learning time and opportunity as well as taxpayer money. 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. In state after state, vouchers have led to achievement declines. 

For these reasons we urge you to find HB 1665 Inexpedient to Legislate.



Debrah Howes

President, AFT-New Hampshire


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