Who Pays When Special Interests Win?

Maureen doesn’t know the powerful special interests who are trying to ruin the future of her grandson, Brandon. She only knows that her grandson hadn’t been thriving at their local public school. Maureen knew it wasn’t Brandon’s fault, nor did she even blame the school. No, to Maureen, the real problem was simply that her grandson just did not fit in to that one particular school. (And given the wide diversity of children, can we really be surprised that one school cannot fit them all?)

But in 2013 the New Hampshire legislature passed a remarkable bill. And its result gave her a new Brandon. Instead of an angry, sullen child, failing in a school he hated, Brandon now could go to a school that he loved. And instead of looking at what might have been a diminished life of self-destructive behavior ending in welfare, drugs, and jail, Brandon is looking forward to college, and then returning to build his community.

Because this bill, the “NH Education Tax Credit Scholarship Program”, or as Maureen simply calls it, “Brandon’s Scholarship”, encourages business leaders to come to the aid of children like Brandon.

Harold is one of these business leaders. His own son had also not fit in well at one of those one-size-fits-all public schools. But Harold had had the resources to transfer his son to a school that fit his son much better. And his whole family had benefited so much that Harold is happy to now be able to help other families — like Brandon’s — that do not have the funds to pay for such a transfer.

Harold gets a tax credit for part of the money that he gives to Brandon, and Maureen still has to contribute out of her own pocket for the new school, but between the two of them, Brandon gets a second chance for a bright future, one he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Since passing in 2013, the Education Scholarship Program has enabled hundreds of business owners like Harold to help over 800 children like Brandon attend scores of alternative schools. Fewer than ¼ of one percent of all the students in public schooling used this program to find a better fit through this program, but these were students who most urgently needed saving, or they could have been lost, stuck in an institution that didn’t fit them and just couldn’t serve them. Had this program not existed, these struggling students would cost us taxpayers far more long-term. But instead — by leveraging the power of neighbor-helping-neighbor — the community is helping these children, allowing them to attend schools that fit them, and helping them to create a productive life in which they can give back to the community.

But unfortunately, this year, powerful special interests have lined up to stop Harold from leveraging his resources to help his neighbors through this program. And if not for men like Harold, the dreams of children like Brandon will be crushed, because such dreams require a school that fits them, rather than cripples them.

The special interests are already in Concord, whispering into your legislator’s ear; so, it’s up to you to send a different message. Call your legislator; he controls the ability of these families, students, and communities’ leaders to work together. Ask your legislator to stand up to the special interests. If the special interests repeal the Education Scholarship Tax Credit, the families that finally found relief for their children will likely have no other option but to send their children back into the same schools that do not match them. That’s not what NH citizens want! Instead, we want to encourage community leaders like Harold to help children like Brandon and create a better life together.

With your help, maybe New Hampshire lawmakers will make a different choice — and decide to side with students and with community leaders. Please ask your representative to reject House Bill 632.

And let’s make sure that neighbor can help neighbor, which is what true community is be all about!

By Dennis Pratt

The entire NH House of Representatives will vote on this HB 632 on Tuesday, March 19th at 10:00am.

This is the time to contact your own state representatives, urging them to support the ETC scholarship program by voting NAY on the Ought to Pass (OTP) recommendation by the committee.

CALL: Phone calls are especially effective, particularly if you share what educational opportunities mean to you and your family. Mention you are a constituent.

EMAIL: This can be effective and is one of the easiest ways to communicate with your representatives. You may use this easy tool to send an email to your state reps, urging them to reject the ETC repeal bill. The message can be customized for even greater impact. Please share the link with your friends and family, too.

Read about the repeal effort here — public hearing #1 and public hearing #2, and House Ways and Means Committee’s exec session.