EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

February 24, 2013

New tax credit program fights for survival

Only weeks after New Hampshire launched its education tax credit program to create private school scholarships for low-income students, it’s in danger.

An initiative led a year ago by Republican lawmakers has come under attack in the Democratic-led House.

It’s also been criticized by educators and others, who say its creates a private school voucher program that takes money intended for public education.

But supporters say the tax credit program offers more educational alternatives for families, especially low-income residents who can’t afford to send their children to private school.

As lawmakers debate the merits of the seven-week-old program in Concord, Kate Baker said she is concerned.

Baker is the executive director for the Network for Educational Opportunity’s New Hampshire office. The nonprofit organization has been chosen to administer the program, providing scholarships to many families in need, Baker said.

“It is, in my opinion, a win-win,” Baker said Friday. “Many of these children are in poverty.”

Some of the families testified before the House Ways and Means Committee during a four-hour hearing Jan. 31 to express their support for the program, she said.

They also came to oppose legislation, House Bill 370, which would repeal the tax credits given to businesses offering donations for scholarships.

The full House voted 188-151 in favor of the repeal Wednesday — the vote an indication of the split over the issue. While many Democrats support the repeal, many Republicans do not.

But caught in the middle of the politics and disagreement are the families of 450 children who have applied for scholarships through the program, Baker said.

“I think the 188 legislators who voted against the 450 children who have applied for scholarships is shameful,” Baker said.

“The families are outraged.”

Baker said she is disappointed lawmakers would try to derail the program, which began Jan. 1, before the first scholarship is awarded.

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