From The Foundry, by Theresa Shumay, July 2, 2012 - Just when school choice proponents thought they’d hit a wall in the Granite State, the New Hampshire legislature united across party lines for a solid victory on a promising school choice bill.
New Hampshire is now one of 11 states to offer scholarships for underprivileged students to attend private schools through tax credit scholarship programs.
The new programs grant 85 percent tax credits to businesses and individuals who donate to private school scholarship funds organized by nonprofits. The nonprofits award scholarships to low-income families to help them move their children out of failing schools and into schools that they feel would better meet their children’s needs. In New Hampshire, scholarships will average $2,500 for students whose families earn up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
Though right now the scholarships and the number of students eligible are relatively small, the bill includes a provision for growth in the coming years. The program will be capped at $6.8 million for the first year, but the funds will increase by 25 percent every year that 80 percent of the cap is reached.
What’s more, New Hampshire’s law provides first-in-the-nation support for homeschooling expenses. The Home School Legal Defense Association notes that this makes New Hampshire “the first state of the country to allow scholarship tuition organizations to provide for scholarships for homeschooled students to help defray expenses incurred by homeschooling parents.” As Cato scholar Adam Schaeffer noted:
[T]he New Hampshire House and Senate took a stand for choice and freedom in education. Both bodies mustered an overwhelming 69-percent super-majority in favor of the School Choice Scholarship Act, over-riding the Governor’s veto.
This is by far the largest margin of victory ever secured for a new private school choice program.
The law is path-breaking, supporting for the first time in the nation a family’s choice to home school their child.
The law protects independence and innovation in private education, imposing no new restrictions on private or home schools, because the lawmakers understand that direct accountability to parents and taxpayers is the most effective kind of accountability.
The New Hampshire legislature has taken a strong position in support of school choice. The tax credit scholarship program is a significant step toward empowering all New Hampshire families with a choice in their children’s education.