Sunday, February 6, 2011

No to HB 301, Yes to HB 595

HB 542 appears to be the only Bill that will give homeschoolers complete homeschooling freedom however, HB 542 appears to be stuck in Committee. I hope that Representative JR Hoell, a homeschooling parent will get HB 542 out of committee. At this point HB 301 supported by HSLDA is a big threat to homeschooling freedom as the article from the Union Leader states below, "House Bill 301 also would repeal the home education law and make it a violation under child welfare laws for parents to "purposely" fail to provide an education for their children."

Homeschooling parents need to come out in full force to the State House to speak out against HB 301 and in support of HB 545.

Spelling errors, grammar errors, misuse of homonyms and typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

Education bills could create tax quandary puzzle
New Hampshire Sunday News Staff

Several bills aimed at supporting parental choice in education, if all were to pass, could create a financial incentive for some parents to keep their kids home to learn, one sponsor acknowledged last week.

House Bill 340 would require communities to grant property tax abatements of up to $3,500 for each taxpayer's child not enrolled in the public schools.

There's some confusion about whether the proposed tax abatement would apply to home-schooling parents. Rep. Carol Vita, R-Middleton, the prime sponsor, said that wasn't her intent.

Her idea was to give parents who pay to send their children to a school out of their district -- private, parochial, charter or even another public school -- the tax break. "This is only if you want to send your child out of the school district," she said.
But Sen. James Forsythe, R-Strafford, the sole Senate sponsor of the measure, said it "would also apply to home-schoolers as well."

"The intent is if you're not using a public school system, and spending money on private school or home school, this would allow you to get a tax break," said Forsythe, who said his wife previously home-schooled their two children for seven years.

"I think respecting parental choice is what this bill's all about. And empowering them to have more choices for their kids' education."

The tax abatement proposal comes at a time when home-school advocates are pushing for less state regulation. The House Education Committee on Tuesday will hear three bills related to home education:

House Bill 595 would repeal the state home education law and assert "the natural right of parents to determine and direct the instruction of their children."

House Bill 301 also would repeal the home education law and make it a violation under child welfare laws for parents to "purposely" fail to provide an education for their children.

And House Bill 545 would repeal the state Department of Education's rule-making authority for home education.

Forsythe, who also co-sponsored HB 595, said he does have some concerns about unintended consequences should all the measures pass.

"The only problem with that is it might set up an incentive for some folks to keep their kids at home to get the tax break but not actually school them," he said.

Daniel Kimble is president of Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire, which represents more than 100 families in the state. His six children, ages 2 to 17, are home-schooled.

He said his organization is looking for less regulation.

"You go back to the beginning of the founding of our country, and it's always been the parents' rights, the parents' responsibility, to educate their children," he said. "Required schooling, it's a modern phenomenon ... and it's ended up causing problems for home-schoolers and for those that want to go back to traditional ways of schooling."

Kimble said he supports repeal of the home-schooling law and likes the idea of a tax abatement for families like his. He doesn't believe it would create an incentive for parents to keep their kids home.

"I see it as a benefit that somebody who wanted to home-school their children but felt they didn't have enough money to be able to buy curriculum, you're now getting (money) ... back," he said.

Rep. Lucien Vita, Carol Vita's husband and a co-sponsor of HB 340, said the bill might have to be amended so it does not include home-schoolers. "The purpose of this bill is to stop people having to pay twice for something you only get once," he said.

Some have other concerns about the proposed abatement.

Greg Moore, House policy director, said Republican leadership supports the home-education bills, but has not taken a position on HB 340.

There is some concern, he said, that "because it requires the municipalities to offer tax abatements, it may well violate Article 28A of the (state) constitution." That prohibits adopting unfunded mandates that pass on costs to local communities, he explained.

Rep. Betsy Patten, R-Moultonborough, a member of the Municipal and County Government Committee that will hear the tax abatement bill, said she shares those concerns. And she said it also might open the door for other taxpayers who don't have children in the schools to demand abatements as well.

Passing a tax abatement or exemption for one group of taxpayers, Patten said, "just shifts it to everybody else in the community."

"You have to realize the consequences of it are that everybody else has to pick up that $3,500," Patten said. "And that's some amount on everybody's tax bill."

Judy Silva is deputy director for legal services and government affairs at the New Hampshire Municipal Association. She said the association would have "some real problems" with HB 340 as written.

Silva explained towns can collect an extra 5 percent on the municipal portion of property taxes, called an overlay, that is used to cover abatements. But she said HB 340 calls for the proposed abatements to come out of the education portion of the property tax bill, where no overlay exists.

Silva also said the proposal could raise equity issues, with other taxpayers claiming they are entitled to abatements if they don't use their municipality's schools, fire departments or landfills.

And she agreed with Patten that other taxpayers would have to pay more if the abatements were mandatory. "Since what is collected in taxes is based on what the budgeted amount is, it needs to be made up," she said.

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