Teachers union head sues education commissioner over voucher program funding

Dec. 9—The president of the state’s second-largest lecturers union filed a lawsuit Thursday towards state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, claiming his division is violating the New Hampshire Constitution and state regulation through the use of state lottery {dollars} and cash from the Education Trust Fund to fund the state’s private-school voucher program.Deb Howes, president of the American Federation of Teachers-NH, mentioned she filed the lawsuit as a “citizen taxpayer,” citing the “unlawful diversion” of state public education funds to the Education Freedom Account program.”The state particularly earmarked this cash for public education,” Howes mentioned. “Instead, the state is stealing from public college college students in plain sight to pay for its non-public voucher program.”Public college college students are shedding out on thousands and thousands of {dollars} which might be wanted to repair leaky outdated buildings, buy and preserve trendy pc gear, purchase books and supplies printed at the very least within the final decade to help scholar studying, and supply extra social and emotional help and different wants that may assist college students excel,” Howes mentioned.”If Commissioner Edelblut needs to proceed together with his cherished voucher program, he wants to determine a authorized solution to fund it, however undoubtedly not on the backs of public college college students.”The Department of Education issued an announcement on Thursday saying it’s conscious of the submitting however declined remark.The controversial Education Freedom Accounts program handed as a part of the 2021 state funds provides property-taxpayer help to oldsters who ship their youngsters to non-public, non secular or different public faculties.The EFA program is anticipated to value $14.7 million this college yr, an 83% improve over the $8 million the state spent final yr, state education officers introduced in September.The program celebrated its one-year anniversary on Sept. 1 with an announcement that 3,025 college students at the moment are enrolled, together with 1,572 college students who participated through the launch final yr.Story continuesAbout 400 of the most recent 1,453 EFA college students, or about 27%, this yr switched from a public college to an EFA program, state education officers mentioned in an announcement. Among the 187 particular education college students taking part, 46 moved from a public college to an EFA — about 25%.Howes is in search of an injunction to forestall utilizing funds meant for public faculties on the voucher program.”If the state needs to function an Education Freedom Account or related program, whereby it grants public cash for fogeys to make the most of for personal use, it should individually fund it by means of extra taxation or one other supply of funds,” the criticism reads, noting there presently isn’t any mechanism for doing so.The criticism argues the New Hampshire Constitution states that “all moneys obtained from a state-run lottery and all curiosity obtained on such moneys shall, after deducting the mandatory prices of administration, be appropriated and used completely for the varsity districts of the state.” It additionally states that this cash “shall not be transferred or diverted to some other goal.”State regulation says that the Education Trust Fund cash “shall not be used for any goal aside from to distribute satisfactory education grants to municipalities’ college districts and to permitted constitution faculties,” the criticism states.Parents can use Education Freedom Account grants for tuition and charges for personal faculties and on-line studying applications, tutoring providers, textbooks, pc {hardware} and software program, college uniforms, charges for testing, summer season applications, therapies, larger education tuition and charges and transportation.The criticism claims Amazon was the most important beneficiary of the EFA program in 2021, receiving 18.2%, or $437,736, of the overall funds launched to oldsters.Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, mentioned the program’s diversion of funds is detrimental to college students Edelblut is “imagined to assist in his position as commissioner.””New Hampshire cannot fund its voucher program by illegally placing its hand within the taxpayer cookie jar that is meant for public college college students,” Weingarten mentioned in an announcement. “It’s so simple as this: No matter what program the state needs to fund, it has to do it legally.”The first precedence needs to be absolutely funding public faculties, so the state’s youngsters and lecturers are getting the assets they should be taught and thrive,” Weingarten mentioned. “Any scheme to divert public funds right into a voucher program with out absolutely funding public faculties first is an insult to the scholars, lecturers and households of New Hampshire, to not point out a violation of the regulation.”[email protected]


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