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Lawmakers, Unions Say NH Must Shore Up Public-School Funding

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Republicans in the New Hampshire Legislature approved a grant aimed at doubling the current number of charter schools in the state. (Wikimedia Commons)
Republicans in the New Hampshire Legislature approved a grant aimed at doubling the current number of charter schools in the state. (Wikimedia Commons)
 By Lily Bohlke, Public News Service - NH - Producer, Contact
February 24, 2021

CONCORD, N.H. - Even after the New Hampshire House of Representatives rejected an attempt at a voucher bill, advocates for public-school funding say there's still work to be done.

House Bill 20 would have diverted funding for public education to a voucher program for families who choose to send children to private or charter schools. State Rep. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough, said she's glad the bill isn't moving forward in the House, but the Senate is likely to bring a nearly identical bill, SB 130, out of committee, and not all schools in the state are equally funded.

"There are places where the schools aren't doing well by the students because they don't have the resources that the more wealthy communities do," she said, "because most of our funding comes from our local property taxes."

New Hampshire consistently ranks among the top five states for public-school quality, despite unequal funding. School vouchers are up for debate in a number of other states, including Arizona, Arkansas and Indiana.

State Rep. Douglas Ley, D-Jeffrey, president of the American Federation of Teachers in New Hampshire, said the pandemic dip in public-school enrollment may have given some legislators more of an appetite for a voucher bill.

"The problem is that the vast majority of those students will be returning," he said, "and so you generally don't make long-term policy decisions of this sort of magnitude based upon what we hope will be a pandemic that will be coming to an end."

Late last year, Porter noted,lawmakers approved a federal grant aimed at increasing the number of charter schools in the Granite State and helping existing ones expand. She said she thinks government funding is better served on public schools, which have school boards that are accountable to residents, while private and charter schools have private boards of directors.

"The money goes, the taxpayer has no control over how it's spent," she said, "and no control over who's doing the spending."

She added that when a student leaves public school, the funding goes with them, as the state metes out funding based on enrollment numbers. But the many fixed costs, such as the facility and staffing needs, often stay the same.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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