Education is Not One-Size-Fits-All

Children need educational options for a variety of reasons. Education is not one-size-fits-all. Even good schools cannot be all things to all children.

The right educational “fit” can change everything for a child.

Below is the testimony from Shalimar Encarnacion. She attended both public hearings of the Education Tax Credit (ETC) repeal bill, HB 632, but was unable to testify; the first time because her name wasn’t called during the truncated hearing, and the second because of other commitments. It is shared with her permission.

The House Ways and Means Committee will vote on the ETC repeal bill this Wednesday, March 13th at 10:00am. Please continue to contact committee members. Calls are best, but emails are helpful. We have a tool that sends emails to the committee as well as your own state representatives; the message can be customized for additional impact.

My youngest son received a scholarship, from the education tax credit scholarship program, for him to attend a private school, and it significantly changed him and his outlook on academia and himself. He could see that indeed he was capable and, actually smart, not stupid, like he had been made to feel in his previous public schools. He felt included, instead of excluded and in essence, “exiled” to the in-house suspension, repeatedly, for issues that he had that were in fact a part of his IEP. His self-esteem sky-rocketed and he began to smile more. Towards the end of his last year there, he begged me to not to ever send him back to the public school as he was fearful of what lay otherwise lay ahead for him. I now want to tell you about two examples of what happens when a child does not fit in with mainstream public education and is not able to access a private school environment.

My two oldest children also had much difficulty in the public schools. They were both overlooked, underestimated, and not given the assistance they needed to succeed. My daughter, a child cancer survivor, is a fighter. Despite her resiliency and strength, the deep wounds and negativity that was thrown her way when she struggled to catch up to graduate on time, eventually wore her down, to the point where she now believes what was told to her by those who were supposed to lift her up and help her succeed, that she really isn’t cut out for college. My oldest child, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 17, always had difficulty in school. It was only when he had a MRI to officially diagnose him with MS, that they found a small, very old lesion, that was in the main part of the brain that processed information. Though he hadn’t been officially diagnosed with a learning disorder, he did have difficulty with reading comprehension, and even deciphering regular conversations at times. He needed help, but instead, he was sidelined, constant detentions and suspensions, but the greatest obstacle was that he was denied an IEP. By the time public-school officials finally listened to me, he was almost 18, and it was too late, the damage had been done.

How many more of our children, our future caretakers and workers and leaders, have to go through this?

A report from the Juvenile Reform Project, a coalition of New Hampshire advocacy organizations, says that school discipline in New Hampshire is disproportionately harsh on students of color and students with disabilities. The report draws on data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

  • It shows that students of color and students with disabilities in New Hampshire are twice as likely to get suspended as their white, non-disabled peers.
  • Students of color, who make up about 14 percent of the general student population, comprised about 23 percent of student suspensions.
  • Students with disabilities, who make up about 20 percent of the population, comprised around 40 percent of student suspensions.

What’s even more concerning (from this report) is that students of color who also have a disability are 5.5 times as likely as their white non-disabled peers to be suspended out of school. This is not acceptable.

We cannot allow this scholarship program to be dismantled. There are so many children who need this help. Here in NH, we say “Live Free or Die” Live free, means the freedom to choose, and in that creating and implementing equitable programs to empower them to have a choice.

Families shared compelling stories at both public hearings; read about them here and here. We also have a page about ETC scholarships that compiles relevant information on the background of NH’s program, how they work, constitutional issues, and media coverage – one-stop reading!