School Choice Bill Up For A Vote, Public Schools Worry About Funding

Nov 6, 2017

A revised school voucher bill would allow parents to use tax dollars allocated to public schools to send their children to other schools, or homeschool them. Advocates say this gives children a better chance to find a school that suits their needs, while opponents worry too much money will be withdrawn from public school education, and put a strain on districts. 


GUESTS:

Highlights from the conversation:

Recent research from Reaching Higher NH, which supports public schools, suggests the new bill will put a strain on public school funding:

Dan Vallone:

We are a rural state with many small schools and we have an education funding system that relies overwhelmingly on local property taxes... So it's really hard to achieve cost savings because of how New Hampshire funds education... The average class size in New Hampshire for middle school is 20 students. So 20 students for every teacher...

So let's take [a] scenario... 20 students in a middle school take a voucher, that school is going to lose 20 students worth of state aid, which is about $80,000. The average teacher's salary is $58,000. So no matter what, that local community is now on the hook for [that money]... Imagine if 10 students leave, that school loses $40,000 and now either has to increase class size or cut a teacher. 

School choice advocates see this new program as an expansion for public education:

Kate Baker: 

I pay my property taxes in Manchester and support my neighbor's children's education, whichever education they might choose. So I see it, rather, as an expansion of public education... because it's state dollars... I know my taxes go to Manchester whether my children attend those schools or  not. So they do keep that money. This is a really small portion of state funding [being allocated to parents who want to send their children to different schools] but it means so much to the families that [would be helped]. 

Related Reading:

"As N.H.'s School Voucher Debate Heats Up, New Analysis Adds Context," by Jason Moon at NHPR. 

"Lightly revised school choice bill moves forward," by the Concord Monitor.

"Advocates: Education aid bill would drain money from public schools," by the Union Leader.