I am writing in response to the articles concerning educational choice by Councilor Cinde Warmington and state Sen. Ruth Ward on Aug. 30.
The item by Sen. Ward shows an astounding lack of understanding of school finances by the chair of the Senate Education Committee. She claims the new voucher program will actually result in saving money by local school districts and that the lost state funds will not have to be replaced by local taxpayers. She apparently believes the myth that each child represents a fixed cost that is incurred when a child enrolls and that goes away when a child leaves a school district.
That is nonsense. The driving factor in a school district budget is the number of classrooms operated by the district. There are no savings unless enough children go elsewhere to allow a classroom to be shut down. That would require 15 to 20 children in the same grade in the same school to take vouchers and go somewhere else.
In a district like Keene, enrollment could drop by 100 children, spread over 13 grades and six schools, and not one classroom could be eliminated. In that situation, state funding would be reduced by approximately $400,000. That would be more than the salary and benefits for three teacher positions that could not be eliminated under state class-size restrictions. The school board would be forced to increase local taxes or reduce other programs and services.
Sen. Ward states that private schools must follow the same guidelines and regulations as public schools. That is entirely false. Public schools are bound by Chapter Ed 300 of the N.H. Code of Administrative Rules, while private schools must follow Chapter Ed 400. The two are quite different.
Among many other things, private school teachers are not required to hold a license from the state. She also needs to read Part 1, Article 6, of the state Constitution, regarding public money and religious schools.
She mentions potential savings for students with special needs. She should be aware that federal law clearly places the cost of paying to educate those students on the district of residence, regardless of where the child attends school. There are many good reasons to send a child to a private school. There are many excellent private schools in our state. The story that school vouchers reduce taxes is, however, a fairy tale.