Guest Blogs


Kate Baker - Back to School: NEO Families Speak Out 

Back to School: NEO Families Speak Out

By Kate Baker

New Hampshire families and the business community are reaping the benefits of the state’s education tax-credit law, which boosts educational choice in the Granite State.

The modest awards derived from business contributions to The Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO) result in children attending schools with better educational settings and outcomes – not schools that fail to meet parents’ definition of the best available option.  In its inaugural year NEO awarded more than 100 need-based scholarships totaling more than $100,000, no easy feat but one we consider praiseworthy.

NEO recently heard from its devoted community of scholarship families, and their opinions about NEO might surprise critics of the education tax credit.  Time and again parents tell us they’re the ones best able to make decisions concerning their children’s education.  So while it doesn’t bewilder us at NEO, we’d like to insert a few of our scholarship families’ experiences into the broader “back to school” media coverage we all enjoy reading.  And we’ll do it in their words.


Preferred Outcomes 

Ann Pinkham of Conway, single mom to Zac, who experienced difficulty due to inadequate discipline at the middle school level.  Zac now attends The Community School (TCS) in South Tamworth.  Ann speaks glowingly of the close-knit, respectful environment TCS fosters.

"I feel TCS is home schooling for those who are not able to provide it for their family.  The school offers a unique environment that celebrates the student's individuality.  The children take part in all aspects of their education including making and instituting rules, discipline, and educational class trip choices.  Bullying is not tolerated.  I feel lucky that we found the Community School!"

As for her financial situation, Ann is like many parents in that she’s determined to surmount virtually any obstacle that prevents her child from accessing the best education possible.  "I have and will continue to borrow whatever it takes for my son to attend The Community School.  The scholarship I received lessens the load," she said of her modest NEO award.

Kathy Bochinski of Derry, also a single mother, sends her daughter Ivy to Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy (SNHMA). 

SNHMA teaches Spanish in kindergarten, practical life lessons such as table setting, folding clothes, and cooking.  Students’ wear unadorned uniforms to limit distractions and maintain the focus on learning; students participate in cleaning and maintain orderly classrooms, and assist their peers in learning so confidence among all increases. Despite its inclusion of music and the arts alongside rigorous academics, “SNHMA is not a school where,” Kathy wrote, “five and six year olds know who Justin Bieber is.”

Kathy’s financial situation due to the absence of Ivy’s father has been altered, and absence of funding such as scholarships, financial aid, and the like could mean Ivy would have to leave SNHMA.


Response to Critics

Unsurprisingly, recipients of NEO scholarships have a message for critics of the tax credit law that makes possible NEO scholarships.  Some wrote to NEO with measured incredulity.

“I don't understand why people would be against helping families get the best education for their children other than not being informed enough, or having their political strings pulled,” wrote Lori McLaughlin of Franklin, mother of Samuel Peter. 

“Would you want the best available for your own children?” she asked.

Other parents writing to NEO expressed hope for reconciliation between tax credit law supporters and detractors.

“Even if you despise or wholeheartedly disagree with the concept of school choice, I know that you care very deeply about the poor.  This program is a creative, innovative, and cost-effective way to empower lower-income families to make choices for their children that will improve their standard of living now and in the years to come…a worthy goal we can all agree on,” wrote Megan Ebba of Barrington.  Megan homeschools her daughter, Liberty, now using a greater array of up-to-date, unused learning materials thanks to a NEO scholarship. 

Détente concerning NEO scholarships sourced from charitable giving that the hard-fought education tax credit permits is uncertain. What’s assured, however, is parents’ resolve to preserve their access to the scholarships. 

“My daughter deserved to continue that level of education,” wrote Kathy, the single mom who sends her daughter Ivy to SNHMA.  “As a single parent, tuition is difficult.  There is a need for this assistance.”


Darryl W. Perry - Ballot Access Reform Bill Proposal

Keene, NH - On Friday Sept 6, the Ballot Access Fairness Coalition sent an email to every member of the NH Legislature with a publicly listed email address. The email included a white paper on ballot access reform (attached) and a proposal for a ballot access reform bill, the Ballot Access Fairness Act. The proposed bill would treat all candidates equally for ballot access purposes.

According to Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, “The original bill for government-printed ballots was passed in NH in 1891. State session laws 1891, chap. 49, p. 348. It required 500 signatures for statewide petitioning candidates and defined 'party' to be a group that polled 3% for Governor. The petition deadline was 30 days before the general election.”

Now, candidates are required to file a declaration of candidacy in June, and the petition deadline is 5 weeks before the election. The signature requirement has also been increased to 3,000 signatures for a statewide independent or minor party candidate, with a requirement of 1,500 signatures from each US House district. A “party” is now defined as any group that polls 4% for Governor or US Senate.

A new parties may opt for the “party petition” which requires the party to submit petitions signed by a number of voters equal to 3% of the total votes cast in the previous election. This procedure cost the Libertarian Party nearly $20,000 last year, and the party did not retain ballot access because the candidate for Governor did not receive 4% of the vote, even though both Congressional candidates did.

Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution states, “All elections are to be free... Every inhabitant of the state, having the proper qualifications, has equal right to be elected into office.”

In the letter to the NH Legislators, Darryl W. Perry, founder of the Ballot Access Fairness Coalition asked, “how does every inhabitant have 'equal right to be elected' when there are not equal procedures for obtaining a place on the ballot?”

The Ballot Access Fairness Act would establish equal procedures for obtaining a place on the ballot for all candidates, regardless of political affiliation.


Ballot Access Fairness Act

652:11 Party. – I. "Party'' shall mean any political organization which at the preceding state general election received at least 4 1 percent of the total number of votes cast for any one of the following: the office of governor or the offices of United States senators.

II. Political organization shall mean any group which intends to run candidates for public office and has filed a copy of the party bylaws and a slate of officers with the Secretary of State.

655:42 Number. –I. It shall require the names of 3,000 registered voters, 1,500 from each United States congressional district in the state either the names of 200 registered voters or a fee of $100, to nominate by nomination papers a candidate for president, United States senator, or governor.

II. It shall require either the names of 100 voters registered in the district or a fee of $50 the names of 1,500 voters registered in the district to nominate by nomination papers a candidate for United States representative; either the names of 50 registered voters or a fee of $25 750 to nominate a candidate for councilor; or either the names of 20 registered voters or a fee of $20 to nominate a candidate for state senator; either the names of 150 registered voters or a fee of $10 to nominate a candidate for county officer; and 150 to nominate a candidate for state representative or county officer and either the names of 150 registered voters or a fee of $2 to nominate a candidate for state representative.

III. It shall require the names of registered voters equaling 3 percent of the total votes cast at the previous state general election to nominate by nomination papers a political organization. Any political organization as defined by RSA 652:11 shall nominate candidates in accordance with Section I and II, as prescribed above.

Click here to read ----> Ballot Access White Paper 



The Ballot Access Fairness Coalition seeks to reform the ballot access laws in the State of New Hampshire so that all candidates are treated equally for ballot access purposes.




Patrick Hynes - Rand Paul vs. Chris Christie: A New Hampshire cage match

Rand Paul vs. Chris Christie: A New Hampshire cage match
Patrick Hynes, Politico
August 8, 2013

It’s never too early to speculate about presidential politics to this Granite Stater’s way of thinking. And the feud between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has given us a sneak preview into what the 2016 Republican presidential primary might look like. How would such a rivalry shake out in the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire?

Paul and Christie lead the field among named candidates in the Granite State according to a recent poll conducted by New England College on behalf of the NH Journal, a news site I co-own and help operate. Senator Paul earned 19 percent of the vote, while Gov. Christie earned 17.5 percent. A huge share of the primary electorate in this July poll — 20 percent — was undecided, however. So, although the field is still wide open, both Paul and Christie start with strong bases of support and should be considered co-front-runners, presuming they both seek the Oval Office in 2016.

What’s more, the friction between the so-called establishment and the grass roots, which the Paul-Christie feud personifies, is especially coarse in New Hampshire these days. The next Republican primary will kick off against a backdrop of legitimate beefs, bruised egos and long-standing grudges between two groups of Granite State Republicans, who actually question whether members of the other side are of the party at all. It’s almost the perfect arena for these two politicians to battle it out.

On the specific cause of the feud, National Security Agency spying, the point would have to go to Sen. Paul. This is just my gut; I don’t have any data to back it up. But New Hampshire never fell under the spell of the “war on terror.” Granite Staters never cottoned to George W. Bush, neither as a candidate nor as president, and the Iraq War was always unpopular here. So while Gov. Christie might have perfectly reasonable arguments for why the government should track our personal communications, he’ll be fighting a built-in New Hampshire distrust of big government. There’s a reason “live free or die” is the state motto.

Now, onto the nuts and bolts of the coming campaign.

Issues: It neither begins nor ends with NSA snooping. Senator Paul’s issue profile is likely to be a considerable strength for him. As a purist, he’s free from the usual catalogue of votes that scuff up a candidate’s image. He’s very much the real deal. That’s not to say Gov. Christie is some typical politician who will be easily smeared. But running a big, diverse state like New Jersey requires compromise, and those compromises make devastating TV ads. Advantage: Paul.

Grass roots: It’s extremely likely that Paul’s grass-roots strength will overwhelm a Christie field operation, as well as those of all other probable contenders. In addition to inheriting his father’s grass-roots legacy, Paul will also benefit from the Free State movement in New Hampshire, which has blended with, though is not completely synonymous with, a very vocal tea party movement. The resulting amalgamation refers to itself loosely as “liberty Republicans” and they are very active, highly motivated and belligerently anti-establishment. They can also be extremely difficult to get along with and their belligerence will turn off some Republican voters. Nevertheless, expect that grass-roots strength in New Hampshire to give Paul a significant leg up. Advantage: Paul.

Mass appeal: But which candidate will have broader appeal? This appears to be an area of strength for Christie — by a lot. This Republican governor is likely to win reelection in bright blue New Jersey in a walk, a feat that is achievable only if he is comfortable reaching out to a broad array of voters and straying from the base. Christie’s willingness to hit the trail and hash it out with voters, even those who disagree with him, will also be a tremendous asset in New Hampshire, a state that prides itself on getting to know, and I mean really know, the candidates. This is important because former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will have a nearly uncontested primary, provided she runs, which means that undeclared voters, who can vote in either primary in New Hampshire, are likely to pull a Republican ballot. Advantage: Christie.

Multicandidate field: Let’s be honest: Paul and Christie will not be the only candidates in the mix. How are the other prospective candidates likely to affect the outcome of this rivalry? In virtually every primary I have experienced, there has been a secondary contest between conservatives to be the consensus insurgent candidate against the establishment choice (in 2012, it was Rick Santorum vs. Newt Gingrich; in 2008, it was Mitt Romney, who was running to the right of John McCain/Rudy Giuliani vs. Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson). But rarely has a consensus emerged. More often, this play-within-the-play prohibits any one insurgent from emerging. An insurgent by instinct, Paul is more likely going to have to deal with this dynamic than Christie, who may find himself vying for the establishment throne with more mainstream candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Bobby Jindal. That could pose problems for Paul, as each of the 2016 prospects will be showcasing his right-wing bona fides and self-consciously endeavoring to eat into the Kentucky senator’s base of support. Advantage: Christie.

Intangibles: There’s something about Chris Christie, isn’t there? He’s larger than life and often very entertaining. But George W. Bush’s Texas swagger annoyed reserved Granite Staters, and it’s possible that Christie’s boisterous New Jersey attitude will irritate just enough New Hampshire voters to cost him at the ballot box. Meanwhile, Paul is surprisingly unassuming and soft-spoken — two traits that seem at odds with his passion and principles, but might well mirror the personality traits of regular folks here. Advantage: Paul.

So who would win the New Hampshire presidential primary if both Paul and Christie were to run in 2016? With all the obligatory caveats (we don’t know who else would be running, issues change, scandals can erupt, etc.), I would give a slight advantage to Rand Paul.

Patrick Hynes is president of Hynes Communications. He was an adviser to the two past Republican presidential nominees, Sen. John McCain and Gov. Mitt Romney.


John F.J. Sullivan - Casino gambling slightly favored, but NH is hardly ‘all in’

By John F.J. Sullivan, Live Free or Die Alliance (

On May 15, a New Hampshire House joint Fiscal and Ways & Means Committee voted 23-22 against Senate Bill 152, which seeks to clear the way for a single casino in the Granite State’s southern tier. An assessment of the Live Free or Die Alliance’s 13,500 Facebook followers who responded to a related question showed strong support for casino gambling in New Hampshire, though a significant level of opposition was also evident.

In the wake of the House “supercommittee’s” vote, we asked our followers: “Do you support or oppose casino gambling in New Hampshire?” Within 24 hours the question received 126 responses, including “likes,” “shares” and comments, from 115 individuals.

Most (56 percent) expressed support for casino gambling, while 32 percent opposed it and 12 percent of the comments were either judged unresponsive to the question or too ambivalent to tally.

Those who supported casino gambling pointed to its potential for revenue (and the hopes that slot machines and legalized, for-profit table games would serve as a hedge against future tax increases). What’s more, supporters said, other states have already figured this out.

“I wholeheartedly support casino gambling in NH, and really wish we could get this going sooner rather than later,” said one woman whose comment was echoed by many. “We are losing huge amounts of revenue to other states. We need to keep NH money in NH, and get other people to come here to gamble.”

Others said that, in a free society, the state shouldn’t attempt to “legislate morality” and ridiculed arguments tying gambling to vice and more serious crime. “The arguments against it are weak. People that oppose it lead sheltered silver spoon lives,” one man said. “The problems they say it will create already exist and have for a while.”

But opponents insisted that a casino promises nothing more than profits to gambling moguls and would present a dangerous distraction to New Hampshire’s fiscal problems.

“This will victimize the weakest in our society, increase crime, and siphon off business from legitimate enterprises,” one man said. “Most of the money goes out of state. This scheme simply points out the need to implement real reform.”

In addition to the pros and cons, just over 7 percent of respondents criticized the “one casino” model, regardless of whether they supported or opposed gambling in general. One respondent who said gambling wouldn’t pay off as a panacea for the state’s fiscal woes suggested that, were New Hampshire to expand gambling, it should allow small casinos or video poker at numerous established businesses, rather than looking to a single casino. Another, a man who supports expanded gambling, objected to state-sanctioned “gambling monopolies.”

The Live Free or Die Alliance presents this report not as any sort of scientific poll or survey, but rather a digest of citizen testimony. As New Hampshire's Town Hall, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Live Free or Die Alliance is free and open to all, offering a unique and important mechanism for nearly 16,000 community members to express their views.

As legislation to allow casino gambling makes its way to the House floor this week, lawmakers – already equipped with their own research, judgment and conscience – would be wise to recognize the views of the citizens. Judging from our response, support for Senate Bill 152 is significant, though hardly absolute and not without reservation.

John F.J. Sullivan is editor-in-chief of the Live Free or Die Alliance (


Andrew Manuse - Here's what I would have said to apologize

Here's what I would have said to apologize if I was Stella (Thank God I am not, currently. I would never say the things that she did.). I send this response, "From Stella's Shoes," to you as commentary on the whole episode.

Andrew Manuse

To those people offended by the insensitivity of my comments regarding the Boston Marathon Bombing: please accept my sincere apology. I understand that some folks are not ready for bold questions meant to provoke thought, particularly when human life and limb are involved so close to home.

At the same time, I would like to retract and then refocus my commentary regarding the tragic event that touched many of us here in New England. The bombing was horrific, whatever the cause. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones. I’m grateful for the quick response of regular citizens with medical experience acting as good Samaritans, as well as the quick and professional aid of those hired to respond.

In light of these thoughts, which I failed to acknowledge in previous commentary, I think it is critically important for Americans to seek a true and full understanding of the tragic event that occurred; not just to give meaning to the lives lost or forever changed, but also to search for truth and a better way of life in the future for our countrymen. Part of that search for truth requires a measured inquiry of our government and accountability from law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Following the bombing, many of New Hampshire’s neighbors to the south in Massachusetts had their homes violently invaded by swarms of police officers dressed and outfitted in military gear. There were no required warrants. There was no respect for human dignity. Police pointed rifles at the homes and heads of innocent citizens, whom were told to comply--or else. Capturing a suspected terrorist who was seen bombing and shooting at police is critically important, but shouldn’t all resources be directed toward that end, and not toward unnecessary and unproductive home searches? There was blood. A bloodhound would have made a beeline for the guy. Why the army?

The point of the comments I tried to make earlier, and the point I hope to make now is that each tragedy (each “crisis”) under both Presidents Bush and Obama has been used (not gone “to waste”) to expand the power of government. Our founding fathers warned about standing armies, blanket searches and the criminalization of the free acts of a free people, and they tried to protect us from such a government. Our Constitution still represents those protections, but only the people, by changing their minds--by asking questions--, can revitalize the culture of freedom that America once represented.

At the time that President Richard Nixon resigned, the media did their job to uncover his corruption by asking the tough questions. Inquisitiveness is essential in a free society, and it is only natural when our press is no longer free to do their jobs as in our present situation. Media standards among an independent press should apply consistently to each story, which should never be slanted or manipulated for a specific outcome. The government’s talking points are always only one side of the story. The Law and the Constitution are always the most important side, but there are many angles we should use to approach a true understanding of reality.

What would be even more tragic than the Boston Marathon Bombing, 9/11 or any horrible event like them is an all-encroaching federal government that controls our every move and watches our every breath. As Americans, we need to pull ourselves up from terror, face our enemies, both within and outside our nation’s borders, and peacefully reclaim our rights to life, liberty, property and justice that God himself gave each one of us upon our creation. If we do not reclaim our birthright, consider the terrorists the victors. Our future could be quite bleak.

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