Reply to State Rep that Opposes the ETC Scholarship

We received an email from Rep. Paul Dargie (D), of Milford stating that he is opposed to the “diversion of taxpayer funds to religious and other schools through the use of vouchers or voucher work-arounds.” He is referring to the Education Tax Credit program that is facing a repeal effort in House Bill 632.

Below is our reply to him.

The public hearing for HB 632 will be continued on Tuesday, March 5th starting at 1:00pm in the Legislative Office Building, room 202. Please join us and let the House Ways and Means Committee know how the scholarship supports your family and community, and brings hope for a brighter future to our most at-risk children.

Dear Rep. Dargie,

If you believe that earnings and income belong to the state before we pay taxes, then why is only one NH tax-credit program targeted for repeal? If you concur with Rep. Joelle Martin, the prime sponsor of HB 632, that people’s money is “state bound” funds before taxes are paid, then the only decision by the state is how much people get to keep.

Are you aware that the Education Tax Credit program is funded via private donations? NH has several other tax credit programs that are funded in this same manner including the Coos County Job Creation Tax Credit, the Research & Development Tax Credit, and the Economic Revitalization Zone Tax Credit. The Education Tax Credit program is the only one designed to help low-income students. Are you against supporting our low-income children?

Are you in favor of only wealthy families having access to educational options when their children’s local public school is not a good fit? Per statute, eligibility is based on two factors: 1) the family’s annual income cannot exceed 300% of the federal poverty limit, which is $75,300 for a family of four; and 2) that the child is “switching” out of their local public school for an out-of-district public school, private school, or home ed program or as of 2018, be entering an alternative learning environment as a Kindergartner or 1st grader. Over 60% of scholarship children qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program, meaning the family earns less than $46,400 for a family of four. Poverty is a major contributor to a range of long-term academic problems. According to The Condition of Education (2018) by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), living in poverty has a great impact for the duration of a child’s academic years, from kindergarten through high school. The report says, “…and living in poverty are associated with poor educational outcomes, including low achievement scores, having to repeat a grade, and dropping out of high school.” The ETC scholarship is the only one of its kind in NH that supports our most at-risk children. What do you have against poor children having a better educational fit and outcome?

Are you in favor of religious discrimination? Families, not the state or scholarship organizations, decide which school their children will attend. Other states with ETC programs and Blaine Amendments have faced challenges on these grounds. The Blaine Amendment is a bigoted clause found in the constitutions of several states and has origins against Catholic schools. Today it is facing more legal challenges, arguing that government must be neutral relative to religion, neither being for nor against any religion or its practice. It is discriminatory to eliminate religious organizations from participation in school choice programs for the sole reason that they are non-secular institutions. Are you in favor of continuing religious bigotry?

Over 400 low-income children utilize the scholarship program for the 2018-2019 school year. It would be devastating to them if they were unable to continue next year in the educational settings where they thrive.

They are children like Donovan, a 7th grader in a small private school. He shared his testimony with us and said,

I went to public school for 6 years and it was not a good fit for me. I am a lot more comfortable in a smaller school setting. Being in a smaller school setting has helped me to focus on my education compared to when I was in the bigger public school setting, which has more drama and distractions than the private school I am attending. If the Education Tax Credit Scholarship is repealed, I will not be able to get the education that best fits my needs. The Children’s Scholarship Fund made it possible for my parents to be able to send me to a place where I can thrive and learn.

Sam is another scholarship recipient. He was hit by a car a year ago. Even after he initially recovered, Sam is suffering from chronic headaches, vision problems, and it has impacted his learning. While a very bright and engaging boy, the public school would no longer provide supports to accommodate his learning needs. His mom, Jodie, told us,

The Scholarship Program is giving my 8-year old son the opportunity to forge ahead in his education. My son now has choices available to him where as before there was only one option. He is finally thriving!

Representative, I hope you will reconsider your position against the Education Tax Credit program before it comes to the entire NH House for a vote.


Michelle Levell, Director

School Choice for NH