By Ben Velderman
CONCORD, N.H. – Teacher union leaders and their political surrogates in the New Hampshire legislature are trying to drum up public support for a repeal of the state’s new school tuition scholarship program that took effect earlier this year.
The program provides children from low-income families with $2,500 scholarships that can be used at the school of their choice, including private and religious schools. Many families like the program because it provides them with an escape hatch from their local public school, which might not be meeting their child’s educational needs.
The scholarships are funded through business donations, 85 percent of which can be written off as tax credits. The program is currently capped at $4 million, but it can grow every year, the Union Leader reports.
When a student chooses to use the scholarship program, his or her local public school loses about $4,100 in state aid, the Union Leader reports.
Teacher union leaders and other government school apologists want that money to help pay all the automatic salary increases and lavish benefits that are written into school employee union contracts. Without it, labor union members may have to settle for fewer financial goodies.
The stakes are high, which is why National Education Association New Hampshire leaders are working with union-friendly Democrats to kill off the program.
The repeal legislation – known as House Bill 370 – has already cleared the House of Representatives and is scheduled for a Senate vote on April 18.
Repeal advocates were dealt a major setback when Republican Sen. Nancy Stiles announced she would not support the measure.
Without Stiles’ support, the vote is expected to be 12-12, the Union Leader reports.
Gov. John Lynch opposes the education tax credit program, which means the Republican-controlled Senate is the only thing preventing the program’s demise.
Should the repeal measure fail in the Senate, union advocates are hopeful that the courts will toss the program out over constitutional concerns that it diverts state money to religious schools.
But Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, told the Union Leader that similar tax credit plans have been found constitutional in every state where it has been challenged.