The N.H. Senate just passed a voucher bill that puts educational service providers [ESP] above the law and spends taxpayer dollars recklessly.

ESPs are persons or firms that receive voucher money. The bill sets an independent scholarship organization in charge of approving ESPs after they submit a form agreeing to follow EFA rules. Once accepted, according to the bill:

RSA 194-E:7, II — “Education service providers shall be given maximum freedom to provide for the educational needs of EFA students without government control ...”

And paragraph V — “An education service provider shall not be required to alter its creed, practices, admissions policy, or curriculum in order to accept payments from an EFA.”

In other words, an ESP may exclude students by special needs, race, religion or the fact that they have freckles. ESPs may teach creationism, white supremacy or that the moon is made of cream cheese, and still receive taxpayer dollars.

In Arizona, which has a similar voucher program, one problem with ESPs has been fraud. For example, ESP Prenda is being investigated by the state attorney general. It accepts students’ $5,500 voucher payments, then contracts another firm that subcontracts “guides,” who receive $2,500 per student hosted in their homes. Guides need have no educational training or experience. Although the vouchers here will average only $4,600, Prenda is also seeking guides in New Hampshire. Prenda guides need not accept any student; they are responsible for finding and choosing their own cohort.

At a time when our state is so fractured, should we seek to create even more bubbles of like-minded people? When every thriving nation in the world relies on a public school system to build its talent pool, are we going to toss our third-in-the-nation system to the wind for vouchers that have faced cost overruns and problems in states ranked far lower?

Some 3,340 people signed in, opposed to the voucher bill, at the hearing, 516 in support, yet the bill passed along straight party lines. Why does the GOP insist on spending taxpayer money so recklessly, in opposition to voters’ wishes?

JEANNE DIETSCH

Peterborough