Education Tax Credit Repeal HB 632


Testimony delivered to House Ways and Means Committee by Ann Marie Banfield, Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action. For more information, contact cornerstone@nhcornerstone.org. 

HB 632-FN: please vote “inexpedient to legislate”

On behalf of Cornerstone Action, I urge you to reject HB 632-FN, repeal of the education tax credit. This tax credit program directly benefits business owners and individuals who have the generosity and vision to donate to a nonprofit education-choice scholarship program benefiting New Hampshire children.  These education choice scholarships, funded not with public money but with private donations, have helped hundreds of lower-income families to meet their children’ learning needs.

At today’s hearing, you’ll hear from parents who support the tax credit program in New Hampshire. They will tell you about the various issues their children faced in their local school. Listen to these families whose children would be hurt by a repeal of the education tax credit law.  

As a volunteer Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action, I’ve worked with parents all over the state with an interest in improving the public schools in New Hampshire. I focus on literacy, academic excellence, and parental rights. By improving those three areas, we could eliminate many reasons parents withdraw their children from public schools.

Remember that the education tax credit program did not suddenly create a demand among parents for educational options. Wherever parents perceive that their child’s needs are not being met, you’ll hear parents advocating for school choice.

Wherever a public school district administers a survey to students, and that survey is administered pursuant to a grant that is contingent upon a certain response rate, a parent may well be concerned that money is outweighing student privacy. When a public school district looks to federal guidance for curriculum development and student evaluation guidelines, a parent may determine that giving away too much local control will be to his child’s detriment. When a public school’s policies on bullying look good on paper but fail to address the abuse being endured by a bullied child, a parent will put her child’s safety first. In each of these cases, practical and affordable school choice is critical to the welfare of a student.

I know there are families who support school choice while remaining satisfied with their local public school. I’ve met many families, though, whose children’s best interests not well-served by their local school. When parents are concerned about a curriculum that doesn’t foster literacy, about student surveys with no academic value, or about a school’s inability to protect a bullied child, they will do what comes naturally when their own concerns go unheeded. They will remove their children from their local public school, and then exercise school choice in order to find a better environment for their children. Parents will go where their role and their judgment are respected, and where their children thrive.

It would be a mistake to think that repealing the education tax credit program will reduce the demand for school choice. The demand existed before the tax credit was created. What the tax credit program has done is make school choice a reality for New Hampshire families who want to exercise it but otherwise couldn’t afford it. You may have heard in discussions of the education tax credit law that the scholarships aren’t large enough to make a difference to a low- or moderate-income family. We disagree. More than 400 children are receiving education choice scholarships in New Hampshire this year. They are living proof that these scholarships make a difference.

If we had time, I could illustrate for you how sometimes the money spent on public education actually drives children away from their local school. I could tell you about the parents from all over the state who took time over the past eight years to come to Concord and testify about the problems they have seen in the implementation of Common Core in their districts. I could tell you about the parents who fought school districts over intrusive non-academic surveys. I could tell you about the parents who have come to us after being mocked by their elected representatives for questioning the quality of local public education.

But time is short. I hope we can agree on this much: We want our children to thrive. Each New Hampshire child deserves an education that’s a good fit. An education tax credit scholarship is one tool to empower parents to exercise the best option for their children. Don’t take away that tool.

You can support the education tax credit law with the same enthusiasm with which you support public education. All you have to do is put children first.

The education tax credit law should remain in place. We urge you to vote Inexpedient to Legislate on HB 632-FN.