The school choice bill, SB 193, was approved in the New Hampshire House of Representatives by a vote of 184-162, with most Republican representatives voting in favor and most Democratic representatives voting against the bill.
Republican Governor Sununu is expected to sign the bill into law after it goes through the House Finance Committee. He expressed his support for the bill after it was amended so that the only children eligible for the voucher are those from low-income families, those who were denied charter school admission due to space constraints, those who are on special education plans, or those who did not get a tax-credit scholarship due to a lack of funding. This means that about a third of New Hampshire students could qualify.
The proponents of the bill use school choice talking points to argue in favor, such as touting the benefit of competition for the public schools and the importance of family choice. Opponents express concerns that vouchers will affect public school funding in a state that already underfunds their local school districts. To address these funding concerns, a provision was included in the House bill that would reimburse local districts for monies lost due to vouchers; however, the process and procedures for this reimbursement have not been detailed.
The House Finance Committee will conduct a hearing on April 4, 2018 to try and reconcile funding hopes and dreams in the bill with the realities of and costs to state and local budgets.
Another lingering issue is whether or not SB 193 violates the NH State Constitution Part II, Article 83: no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination” by making public money available for religious schools. Anne Edwards, the Associate State Attorney General had told legislators in a hearing that the bill would not be constitutional if it didn’t exclude provisions for religious schools, and that the state would have to change its constitution if public money would be going to religious schools. Two days before the vote, however, Associate Attorney General Edwards emailed support stating that “SB 193, with its proposed amendment 2018-2530, is constitutional.”