The New Hampshire Supreme Court did something yesterday that will be the subject of conversation and controversy for the foreseeable future. While it finally ruled on the lawsuit filed by opponents of a state law that conveyed business tax credits to companies that donated to private, not for profit scholarship funds to help low and moderate income families choose other than their assigned public school, the court raised more questions than it answered as they didn’t actually rule on the merits of the case, which primarily had to to with whether or not parents could use the scholarship funds to help pay for religious schools. A lower court had ruled that allowing parents to use the scholarship funds to pay for a religious affiliated school amounted to the state supporting religious education, which violates the state’s constitution. The court made that ruling despite the state having no role in dispensing the scholarship funds and despite the fact that the state made no appropriation for the scholarships, which were privately donated and dispensed. Instead of addressing the voucher law, the supreme court actually struck down a two thousand twelve law that gave any taxpayer standing in any New Hampshire court to sue over laws they felt violated the state’s constitution. The court said that because the plaintiffs could show no personal harm or damages to themselves as a result of the law, they had no standing to sue. Therefore, they threw the case out.
Supporters of the law hailed it as a victory as it wiped out the superior court’s prohibition on parents using the scholarship money to pay for a parochial or other religious school, restoring the statute to its original construct, making scholarships available to a much broader number of families. State Senator Sharon Carson, Republican from Londonderry, said quote “This is a great day for school choice, and for all parents looking to provide their children with the best education possible. School choice is a proven tool to increase educational quality.”
State Rep. Laurie Sanborn, Republican representing Bedford and Amherst said quote “(the) court decision to dismiss the case is a significant victory for families in New Hampshire. The intent of Senate Bill 3 7 2 was to provide equal educational opportunities for all children, regardless of income or where they live. By preserving this legislation the court has ensured that parents can choose the best possible education to match their children’s needs.”
Kate Baker, Executive Director of the Network For Educational Opportunity, a scholarship organization that receives and doles out funds under the law, hailed the decision saying they would no longer have to discriminate in the granting of scholarships.
Critics of the law attacked the ruling on two fronts, saying on the one hand, as did the Governess Margaret Wood Hassan, that it allowed for the diversion of funds from public schools to the benefit of private ones, for which there is no basis in fact, by the way, and on the other hand that by striking down the law that gave taxpayers standing to challenge its government in court, the court has removed a vital tool for the people to hold its government accountable, noting that the legislature passed the law in two thousand twelve to restore a New Hampshire tradition that dated back to eighteen sixty three following a court ruling in two thousand ten that stripped the people of their right to challenge their government when they felt it had passed laws against the state constitution.
It should be noted, however, that supporters of the voucher law did file briefs with the court arguing the plaintiffs, which include State Board of Education Member Bill Duncan, had no standing and that the court, therefore, should dismiss the case. They got their way, but at what price? We’ve posted the ruling with this newscast at Girard at Large dot com.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Are mischievous things afoot at the Hooksett School Board again? I have to admit, I watched with interest the special meeting specifically held this past this past Tuesday to discuss a variety of high school related issues. After receiving an update on various matters from Superintendent Charles P. “Chucky the Super” Littlefield, the board acted to unanimously approve another year long contract with Pinkerton Academy that will govern next year’s freshman class.
Just prior to adjourning, board member David Pearl asked if there was any update regarding discussions with Manchester, noting its board meeting on Monday night. In response, Littlefield mentioned that he spoke with Manchester Superintendent Debra Livingston earlier that day, who called regarding the Manchester Board of School Committee’s actions the prior night. He said he was uncomfortable meeting with her to hammer out the details of an amendment to the current contract to facilitate the Hooksett board’s requests and that he wanted to involve their negotiations committee, among other things.
After Littlefield gave the update, board member John Lyscars said he’d watched the Manchester board’s meeting and said he understood where it was coming from and what it wanted and had a motion to address the situation. After that statement, Board Chair Joanne McHugh, in a bizarre move that made me wonder if she was channeling the spirit of vanquished former chair Trisha “The Gavel” Korkosz, more or less told Lyscars that his motion was out of order and demanded he justify his motion before she would let him make it.
In what can only be construed as a serious violation of that board’s rules and parliamentary procedures, a lengthy discussion ensued without a motion on the floor in which Board Clerk Todd Lizotte, long a pro-Pinkerton only proponent, trashed the city and tried to revisit the question of designating it the school of record for the assignment of students. He didn’t get anywhere with that, but Lyscars was finally allowed to make his motion, which was to amend the current contract to enable any students who start in Manchester to finish in Manchester, prevent Hooksett from removing students before they graduate and increase the tuition for next year’s freshman class by two percent for its senior year. It failed on a four to two vote, with Pearl and Lyscars in favor and James Sullivan absent.
I’m hoping we won’t have to break out the Benny Hill music for Hooksett School Board news again, but if this continues, it doesn’t look good. Lyscars, by the way, will be our guest this morning at seven twenty.
That’s just some of the news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next.