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February 19, 2013

Letter: Don’t repeal school choice scholarships

To the editor:

What’s the real reason behind an outrageous attempt to repeal the School Choice Scholarship Act passed by the New Hampshire legislature only last session, a law that has not even had a chance to prove itself and that just might improve education for all the children of New Hampshire? Perhaps it’s simply the fear, primarily of teachers unions, that this law will actually work.

The New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee recently approved a bill (HB 370) that would repeal the School Choice Scholarship Act, a law enacted last session that provides tax incentives to businesses who contribute to Education Tax Credit Scholarships. These scholarships are intended to help lower-income families afford alternatives to their local public schools. This proposed legislation will now go before the entire house for a vote.

Opponents of the scholarships claim that they will take money away from public schools. While there are certain fixed costs not based on enrollment, other costs, most notably salaries, are directly related to the number of students. Each child that goes to a private school, therefore, actually saves a public school district a significant percentage of the cost of a public education (currently over $13,000 per year).

Detractors also claim that the scholarship program is unconstitutional because the funds can be used at religiously affiliated schools. But the Supreme Court has already upheld the constitutionality of similar programs in other states. President Obama himself has supported the American Opportunity Tax Credit that has provided tax credits to many families whose children attend religiously affiliated colleges. The money donated for Education Tax Credit Scholarships in New Hampshire comes from private businesses and represents pre-tax dollars, the same as other donations to charities.

The teachers unions have promulgated these two myths because they are threatened by the competition that school choice would create. This healthy competition would force public schools and teachers to improve in order to retain students who would not have to settle for the mediocrity that a monopolistic school system creates.

These unions have been lobbying hard for HB 370 because it’s a bill that supports their members’ best interests rather than those of our children and our future. Please email your representatives today and urge them to support a better future for our kids by voting “No” on HB 370.

Arlene Quaratiello


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