I want the best for every child — the best health, safety, well-being, and the absolute best education. I want our New Hampshire public schools to be the best they possibly can be for every child and school choice is exactly what we need to help those children who are falling behind.
We all know that one family can have three children, each one with completely different educational needs. No child should fall through the cracks because they are not receiving the education that they need.
What I find so heartbreaking is the misinformation around this issue of choice in education. Your concerns are my concerns. I have always been a seeker of the truth and the truth is always how you help people in the best way possible. For this reason, I am going to address the truth and the myths about providing school choice for our most vulnerable children.
We’ve seen from school choice programs across the country that giving families greater control over their children’s education will not increase local property taxes. It is not going to hurt public school districts. Public funds will be transparent and accountable.
In order to ensure that we’re helping low- and middle-income families afford more choices, I have introduced an amendment to limit the program to families earning less than 300% of the federal poverty level, which is approximately the average household income in New Hampshire.
School choice will NOT increase property taxes. Under the Education Freedom Account program, the state portion of education funding — an average of $4,600 — would follow the child. If a parent chooses to move her child, the money that local school districts raise would remain in the school. That means the district school is left with more per-pupil funding not less.
We are also adding an amendment to phase in the program for local school districts, giving them three years to adjust to the small number of students who may participate. This will not increase property taxes and it could even reduce them over time.
Another myth I am hearing is that homeschooling parents cannot be trusted with money for their child’s education. This is sad misinformation and easily dispelled if you read the legislation we’re crafting. Scholarship organizations would pay educational expenses directly whenever possible, and would not reimburse parents for approved expenses without receipts. They would also randomly audit EFAs each year to ensure financial responsibility.
Allowable educational expenses are clearly defined in the law and further they must be approved by the same groups that have been running New Hampshire’s Education Tax Credit scholarship program for years, earning a 4-star rating for transparency and accountability. Every expense will be trackable down to the SKU level and will be reported with that level of detail, down to the pencil. There is even a process for reporting fraud to the New Hampshire Attorney General on top of that existing rigor, just to be absolutely sure.
I heard your worries. Every attempt to improve education in New Hampshire is called a threat to our existing schools. But most families will continue to choose their local public schools. There will not be a mass exodus from our high-quality public education.
School choice is about helping those families who need other options, not tearing down a system for the students who succeed in our local schools. Rather, school choice is about opening the doors to more education options for more members of the public, our children. Across the country, we have seen school choice programs benefit at-risk and underprivileged children. Let’s bring that innovation to New Hampshire.
Wealthy families already have school choice. If their child is being bullied or struggling academically, they can afford to find another path. Education Freedom Accounts make it easier for low- and middle-income families to exercise some of those same choices. School choice breaks down the economic barriers and gives more families the opportunity to choose the best educational path for their children.
I believe you should have the power to spend the taxes you pay for education to get the education you know will work for your children. I hope that anyone skeptical about Education Freedom Accounts will bust through the myths and misinformation, and investigate the possibilities of school choice as I have.
This article appeared in the Union Leader on March 14, 2021