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N.H. House Votes To Repeal School Choice Tax Credit

Thomas Favre-Bulle
Flickr Creative Commons

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has voted, 188 to 151, to repeal the Education Tax Credit that took effect less than two months ago. The law grants an 85% tax credit to businesses that donate to scholarship organizations, which give the money to students going to a private school, an out-of-district public school, or home school.

Much of the debate on the House floor centered on whether the program is equivalent to a voucher, a question that will likely be decided by the courts. Opponents of the repeal, like Republican David Hess drew the rhetorical battle lines early. Hess was emphatic before the assembled representatives, "The current Education tax Credit is not a voucher. It is not, I repeat, not a voucher," he said. Opponents fo the repeal say the program offers educational choice to low- and middle-income families, and say the law should be given a chance to work before it is judged.

The tax credit is worth $3.4 million dollars in the first year, but grows each year that it is fully utilized. The money, which would have been paid in taxes, instead goes to scholarships averaging $2,500 dollars a student. And yes, the scholarships might be used in religious schools.

Those who favor repeal, like Concord Democrat Mary Stuart Gile, equate it to a voucher program, and say it is unconstitutional. "Business Profit Tax or Business Enterprise Tax revenue is diverted to an intermediary scholarship organization, and could be used as tuition to religious schools." says Gile, adding that it is likely that more scholarships will go to religious schools than not, because "it is very clear that those schools which are religious in nature have lower tuition."

The repeal still has to go through the Republican controlled senate, where leadership has indicated it would not favor repeal.  The question of whether or not the money from tax credits is equivalent to government funds will be decided by a lawsuit now before the Strafford county superior court. A decision is expected in April.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.

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