Andrew Manuse: Testimony for SB130 (education savings accounts)

To the esteemed members of the N.H. Senate Education Committee:

I’m writing in support of SB 130 as a NH citizen who would significantly benefit from what it is trying to accomplish–assuming the final bill DOES NOT include an income cap, which I oppose. My two older children attend a private school currently and my third is at home with us as we work. My wife and I find that the private school is superior to the public education system available in the town of Derry and provides our children with the challenging education that they will need to excel in life. We supplement this education, to some extent, with additional resources that we introduce to the children at home.

The problem is, we live in Derry, where our taxes are exceedingly high to pay for other children’s education, and then there is the state education tax on top of that. We also pay a significant tuition at the private school for our two children. Soon, we will have three students attending this private school, and this will significantly impact our family budget to the point where we will need to give up other things that most families do with their extra resources. While we feel that the sacrifice is well worth the education our children are receiving, we do believe it is unfair for us to have to pay twice for our children’s education, while other families only pay once through their taxes. Paying for education taxes that our children do not benefit from and tuition on top of it has severely impacted our ability to save for our children’s college education. In fact, we have not saved for it at all because the money we would devote to that purpose is going toward their education now. I’m not entirely sure what that will mean for our children once they get to that age except that they will be financially disadvantaged in comparison with other children whose parents are able to save for college because they do not have a double burden, and our retirement savings will also be disadvantaged. Perhaps they will face hardship with more debt in their early life and get a slower start due to the additional debt burden or perhaps my wife and I will face a more difficult retirement where we need to work longer to pay off the debt required to send our children to college? In either case, the current system punishes my family for seeking excellence, when we should in fact be rewarded by market forces for these decisions.

Secondly, while my family is blessed with enough resources to make this choice and this sacrifice for our children, how many families are just under the line and they are forced to make a decision to put their children in an inferior public school because they can’t afford to pay twice? How many parents who do make the choice we make are going to need additional state services later on in life because they haven’t saved enough for rainy days or for their retirement or for their long term care? 

In a nation where we were founded to encourage competition in order to achieve excellence in any product or service that is offered to the public through the free market, our education system is failing to live up to this American Dream. SB 130 would make things right on all of these counts. It would allow parents to choose where their children will go to school without creating a financial burden for their families, which would in turn increase the demand for schools that provide more educational excellence. This will not only drive up the educational outcomes for children who attend these better schools, but it will also increase the need for educational excellence at traditional public schools who will now have to compete for dollars and for students. I know there are some powerful private interest groups that oppose this additional competition against their status quo, but I would submit to you that the status quo is broken and needs the type of disruption that SB 130 would cause to bring education of our children to a higher level. What better time to do this than right now when we all have already experienced so much disruption due to the COVID-19 crisis? It’s a perfect time to restore a system that we already know from historical experience will work better.

Finally, in the midst of a pandemic where we have seen some children thrive with remote learning and others fail miserably and even commit suicide because of it, it is essential that we recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to education does not work. Parents who want to continue in remote learning for children who benefit from it should be able to use the tax dollars they pay for education (their own money) to fund that option for their children, whether in a public or private setting. Parents who want their children to attend school in person without harmful social distancing and masking requirements should be able to find a private school willing to offer a normal educational experience with an emphasis on academics and use their tax dollars they pay for education (their own money) to send their children there. Parents who don’t want to rock the boat and prefer a public school setting can continue with their children in that environment, if it is suitable for them. And finally, parents who choose homeschooling, which is completely and totally different from remote learning, should be able to simply keep their state educational tax money for themselves so they can use it on their own children’s education the way they see fit. 

As is true in any free market setting, when dollars are controlled by the people who have earned them for the products and services they believe are best for them and their children, the best products and services persist and excel and those that are not living up to the expectations of the people spending their own money fail. Such failure is an incredibly important part of any system, for it ensures that the products and services that are available are always improving and growing with the needs of the people who are using them. When it comes to the education of our future generations, how could we not want what is best for them at the expense of those educational providers that aren’t living up to our expectations? Ultimately, any educational system that begins to fail as a result of competition in the market has two choices: improve and regain market share or  get out of the business and do something else more productive. While I understand a lot of inferior providers of education are concerned about SB 130 for this reason, they should be welcoming the opportunity to improve themselves and society at large. 

Please pass SB 130 without an income cap so that we can begin to improve the future of New Hampshire for everybody, and not just those under an arbitrary income limit.

Sincerely,

Hon. Andrew J. Manuse
Derry, NH

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