Today, House Bill 1636 went down in flames! This ends SB 193, the school voucher program, (at least for this year). Had HB 1636 passed, the experts I heard from say it had the potential to do more harm to the towns than SB 193, the original school voucher program.

Earlier in the year, the House had passed HB1636, the intent of which was “establishing a committee to study teacher preparation and education programs.” It passed onto the NH Senate, where it was amended to include the worst parts of SB 193, the school voucher program, which had already failed in the NH House.

The expectation for SB 193 was that not enough students would leave the school system to make a significant impact. There were safeguards in place to prevent a mass exodus from our public schools. Those safeguards were removed from HB 1636, which became a bill “establishing a committee to study teacher preparation and education programs, relative to chartered public school use of unused school district facilities, establishing a death benefit for a school employee killed in the line of duty, and establishing education freedom savings accounts for students.”

The education freedom savings accounts for students means that our tax dollars would be used to pay to send children to private schools, including religious schools, or to pay parents to home school their children. With the safeguards that were put into SB 193 removed, there is the possibility that many more students could leave the public school system … although the exodus would be spread out across all of our schools. There would probably not be enough leaving (at least at first) to allow condensing classroom sizes, so we would not see much, if any, change in necessary school personnel. Therefore, by removing funding for these students, the school budget would have to increase to cover those losses, and/or “unessential” programs or supplies would have to be cut. Everyone would have to pay the difference in our property taxes. (And rents would have to go up to cover the owner’s taxes.)

Since the two chambers (House and Senate) had approved two different versions of HB 1636, there was the opportunity for the House to agree to send the bill to a special committee, the Committee of Conference (CofC), to try to work out the differences between the two versions.

Today the NH House voted to decide if HB 1636 should be sent to the CofC. The vote was 173 Nays to 168 yeas, with the majority voting to end this version. A second vote was taken for “Non Concur;” that vote was 180 v. 163. HB 1636 is done.

Except for Bob Elliot, Salem reps voted with the minority, in support of HB 1636.

Art Barnes: Not Voting/Excused
Bob Elliot: Opposed
Betty Gay: In favor
John Janigian: In favor
John Manning: Not Voting/Excused
John Sytek: In favor

(Note: Salem elects nine State Reps. We lost one by death, and two by resignation, so, with four votes, we had less than 50% representation.)

Below is the letter that I sent to our state reps, and why I would have voted with the majority:

 

Dear Representative,

Tomorrow you will be voting on HB 1636, as amended by the Senate.

Please vote “NO!”

Yes, there are good parts to this bill, such as the death benefit for school employees killed in the line of duty. But HB 1636 brings back the worst parts of the original SB 193:

1. HB 1636 has set NO income limits. This means our tax dollars can help the most wealthy of our state send their kids to expensive private schools.

2. There are no caps on the number of kids who are allowed to participate.

3. It will allow families to get an Education Savings Account, even if their child has never been to a public school.

We need to find ways to make public school better, and to meet all of the needs of all students. I am concerned that HB 1636 will take funds away from our school systems. It could have a tremendous impact on our local school budget and, ultimately, our local property taxes.

Please vote “NO!”

Thank you for representing me.

Best regards,

Bonnie Wright