Let's reverse the school choice setback
Today's Union Leader states: "Sullivan County Superior Court presiding judge Brian T. Tucker has sided with the state Department of Education, ruling against school choice in the Croydon School District."
For those of you not familiar with this case, I'll break it down as simply as I can:
Croydon, pop. 764, has a one room schoolhouse that goes to middle school. After that, kids have to be sent to a neighboring town's high school. Some of the kids did not do well in the public Newport School, and their parents, working with the Croydon school board, then selected the Newport's Montessori school instead.
The private Montessori school costs thousands of dollars LESS than the state school, saving Croydon taxpayers $16,000 for the school year. Oh, and the 4 kids thrived.
Enter the Department of Education. Late last year, they filed a motion for injunctive relief to take the kids out of the Montessori school. In the middle of the school year. Initially, the attorney for the DOE argued the state (not the children) would be irreparably harmed if the kids were not removed. After the judge asked for clarification, the DOE lawyer then claimed the students would be harmed if allowed to remain at the Newport Montessori School as part of the town’s school choice program. Thankfully, the judge did not buy this argument, said the DOE had prior knowledge the children were in the Montessori school, and stayed the injunction, letting the kids remain in their school of choice until the end of the school year.
In the meanwhile, school choice advocates worked with legislators to try to clarify the law. During testimony on the bill, the DOE lawyer argued the private Montessori school did not provide "an adequate education." Most of the room, legislators included, erupted in laughter. One legislator said something like: "Are you really arguing private schools are worse than public schools? Surely market forces prove that to be absurd."
The bill handily passed the legislature, however, Governor Hassan vetoed it. Surprise, surprise, Hassan sided with the Department of Education, rather than parents and children. She vetoed what could have created a school choice precedent for New Hampshire’s small towns. She vetoed what could have provided an incredible benefit to Granite State parents and children. She vetoed the idea that your tax money can go to a school that works for your child. She vetoed tax savings to taxpayers. She vetoed something that would have made parents and children happier. She vetoed a bill that would have taken the burden off public schools by removing students whom they have difficulty serving. She vetoed the idea of competing markets provide the best choice for New Hampshire children. She thinks she knows what is best for YOUR child, and she is willing to force you to comply.
Yesterday, Judge Tucker granted a permanent injunction ordering the small-town school district of Croydon to send all public school students to public school in the fall. By order of the state, these kids--and all Croydon students in the future--will be forced to return to--or remain in--a school that does not serve their needs.
The decision is a setback for school choice in New Hampshire, but I am confident the case will be appealed to the NH Supreme Court.
The questions you should be asking yourself:
- Why is the state so interested in keeping control over these students? Is it because they fear a precedent that will create more market competition?
- Why is it that other schools in other districts are allowed to send children to private schools, as we see with, for example, Fryeburg Academy?
- Is school choice only for the wealthy?
- Why do private schools cost less than public schools? Could waste be built into the system?
- If you are a teacher, wouldn't you rather work with students who want to be in your classroom? Do you realize that longterm, more school choice will give YOU more attractive options as an educator?
- Ultimately, who should decide what is best for your child and his or her education? Should that decision rest with bureaucrats in Concord, or should it reside with parents, their school board, and, of course, the child?
New Hampshire should be leading the national school choice movement, not taking steps backwards through poor court decisions and vetoes. Between 2001-2013, families making nonresidential school choices via open public school enrollment, home schooling, charter schools and private schools increased 21%.
Students aren't all the same. Kids don't all fall into one bucket. Each is unique. We need more choices to address this reality.
As your senator, I will respect this individualism. I will work with you to create more choices in education (and elsewhere), and save the taxpayers some coin in the process.
If you are interested in learning more about NH school choice, join this Facebook group.