By Todd Smith | The Caledonian Record
On Thursday a group of New Hampshire educrats gathered to slam an expansive school choice law close to becoming law in the Granite State.
SB-193 will provide tuition vouchers to New Hampshire students for use at any school (private, parochial, home, etc.) of their choosing. The bill already passed the Senate and has the full support of Governor Chris Sununu. The House Education Committee gave it an “ought-to-pass” endorsement. It is currently being considered by the House Finance Committee.
It’s the most expansive school choice bill we’ve seen anywhere in the country and we fully support its passage. As you might imagine, public school special interest groups are less thrilled.
According to a report we published yesterday from the Associated Press, public school administrators and teachers say SB-193 will “siphon money from already cash-strapped public schools and send it to private schools that can discriminate against children with disabilities and require participants to give up their right to special education services.”
They also argue that school choice will drive up property taxes as the same number of teachers will be needed in public schools even after voucher students defect.
These are classic scare tactics with little basis in reality.
As the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy outlined in a report released this week, “between 1992 and 2014, spending per student increased by 56 percent, while enrollment grew by 4 percent.” Meanwhile, “the number of teachers increased by 29 percent during that time, while the number of non-teaching staffers increased by 89 percent.”
Those figures certainly suggest that New Hampshire public schools have some fat to trim.
But the real magic is going to happen when families are empowered to chart their own educational paths.
Can’t you just imagine a system where parents could choose the best educational environments for their kid without being held hostage by the public school monopoly?
As National School Choice Week President Andrew Campanella often points out, “We choose everything in this country – the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the candidates we vote for. Why don’t more parents get to choose the educational environments that are right for their children?”
We firmly believe, based on years of observation and study, that school choice is the solution to wildly out-of-control education spending crises.
Consumer choice drives innovation and efficiency for one simple reason – survival. If a company makes a bad product, or offers a poor service, it will cease to exist. Choice rewards excellence as efficiently as monopoly promotes inefficacy. As George Will often says, “It is axiomatic: When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate.”
Jeb Bush once posed a great question: “How is it that parents have a say over every aspect of their children’s lives, yet often must delegate the critical decision of where they go to school to political boards and government bureaucracies? This has created an education monopoly that spurns accountability, views innovation as a threat, and prioritizes the job security of employees over the learning of children.
“The result is hardly surprising,” Bush argues. “America has become a global leader in education spending and a global laggard in academic achievement.”
We know choice works for families and is good for communities who embrace it. Take the Northeast Kingdom’s own East Haven, for example.
On Town Meeting Day, 2016, East Haven residents voted to retain full school choice. They upheld their sacred right to choose where their children are educated, even though it could have meant higher taxes in the short term.
East Haven has experienced a housing boom ever since it closed the elementary school and became a choice town. That’s great for property values, dozens of new arrivals, and prospects for the community’s future even as the growing pains of new tuitions strain taxpayers in the short term.
The East Haven outcome is in keeping with conventional wisdom. Families covet school choice and flock to communities where it’s available. A 2013 study “School Vouchers Seen Driving Home Values,” examined Vermont real estate transactions and quantified the choice effect … “homes in towns that have high school choice sell for 5.9 percent more than comparable homes in similar towns that have an assigned high school.”
Co-author David Harrison, a former UVM professor who now teaches finance at Texas Tech, said Vermont is a nearly perfect test market, based on the state’s racial homogeneity and economic parity. “It wasn’t a big surprise to us to see a difference in property values… A rule of finance is that options have value,” Harrison said. “What was surprising was the magnitude of the difference.”
That’s not a surprise to us. Our independent schools compete for students, worldwide, and so strive for excellence; public schools are guaranteed enrollment based on their monopolistic choke-hold on families, and so don’t have to strive at all.
What is a little surprising is that, even though liberal legislators know 1) independent schools perform better than their public counterparts; 2) families desperately crave school choice; and 3) choice drives real estate markets and housing booms… they continue to fight for public schools’ monopolistic choke-hold on children.
It’s a cynical bow to the powerful, parasitic teacher unions whose very existence depends on statutorily guaranteed enrollments. New Hampshire lawmakers realize this and are finally taking bold action. We guarantee it will be a panacea for the Granite State.
Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record, where this editorial first appeared. He lives in St. Johnsbury.