For Immediate Release
Contact: Molly Cowan
CONCORD – Following Governor John Lynch’s successful State of the State address yesterday urging legislators to work together, Senate Republicans pushed through a thinly veiled school voucher bill, SB 131, on a partisan vote.
SB 131, which now goes to the House, allocates $2 million of taxpayer money to the newly created 21st Century Scholarship Fund. This money is then allocated, in the amount of up to $3,500 per pupil per year, for low income children seeking alternatives to their local public schools.
“While $3,500 is not enough to cover the costs of private schools today, it is sufficient for tuition to most religious schools,” said Sen. Sylvia Larsen, Senate Democratic Leader. “There is no language in the bill that would prohibit the money from being spent on parochial schools. “
Several senators questioned the constitutionality of this bill. Two specific provisions in the New Hampshire Constitution prohibit the appropriation of taxpayer funds to religious schools.
SB 131 also places over $2.5 million in financial obligations on the state, which has recently been forced to cut back on critical social programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, Healthy Kids, Development Disability waitlist, and many other under-funded necessities for citizens in the state of New Hampshire.
“This is not good public policy. The bill allows businesses in New Hampshire to donate money to a school voucher program in exchange for tax credits, yet the Republican majority refused to back a bill allowing businesses who provide health care to employees to qualify for the same tax credits,” said Sen. Estabrook, (D-District 21.) “We’re using taxpayers’ dollars to create private school funding obligations yet refusing to address critical health insurance shortages.”
“SB 131 requires the state continue to give tuition assistance to students until they are twenty one years of age, regardless of whether or not funds are available. This entitlement to private education will create a huge financial obligation for the state,” Estabrook commented.
Sen. D’Allesandro (D-District 20) said that tax dollars designated for public education should not go towards anything but the public schools in the state of New Hampshire. “We need to fund an educational system that provides an adequate education for all.”