New Hampshire, Virginia Join States Offering School Choice

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice reports that New Hampshire and Virginia have become the latest states to offer private school choice. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed the act into law and the New Hampshire legislature overrode Governor John Lynch’s veto to adopt the plans.

“Virginia’s and New Hampshire’s leaders deserve a lot of credit, but the real victors are underserved children,” Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, said. “This is a step in the right direction for both states, and we hope it is but the first step toward universal school choice for all families.”

Both of the new programs set eligibility at 300% of the federal poverty level. As an example in real terms, this means that children from a family of four with income of less than $69,150 will be eligible to attend a private school now. The major difference between the two programs is that in New Hampshire scholarships have a maximum of $2,500 on average while in Virginia the scholarships will be vary between school divisions and be worth the amount that the state pays per child.

“The successes achieved in Virginia and New Hampshire should be a lesson for other states looking to adopt school choice,” Enlow said. “It takes time before the educating and advocacy done by school choice supporters lead to the enactment of programs. But, even then, the work doesn’t stop.”

Local organizations in the two states have already started raising funds for scholarship granting nonprofits and plan to inform parents of their childrens’ eligibility.

Charlie Arlinghaus, head of Josiah Bartlett Center and a driving force behind the program, hailed the program as one that would make a huge difference in the lives of the states’ children. Others were equally ebullient:

“This has been a decades-long journey, but it doesn’t end now,” Chris Braunlich, vice president of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson Institute, said. “It is critical that we have this program but that we have one that actually works, provides better opportunities for children, and incentivizes the private sector to weigh in and help. We’re going to have to ramp up quickly and in a way that will be effective.”

Tax-credit scholarship programs operate via the government providing tax credits for individuals and corporations that donate to nonprofits. These nonprofits then distribute private school scholarships. The two states join nine other states which already offer such programs. These are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.