Cheering for New Hampshire Kids to Win Their Day in (the Supreme) Court

Welcome aboard, Little Eddie’s Virtual Airlines. Yesterday we made a landing in Kansas while skillfully avoiding the munchkins. Today the blog wheels touch down in the Northeast, where oral arguments in an important state supreme court case very recently took place.

Back in 2012 New Hampshire became one of the 13 (soon to be 14) states that have adopted scholarship tax credits. These programs encourage more private donations that give students access to educational choices that better serve their needs. After taking an attempt to roll back the program and nipping it in the bud, school choice in the Granite State took its defense to the courts.

Last June, some “particularly odd” judicial logic shot down part of the scholarship tax credit program. Not just odd, but scary. Namely, that any money you own potentially belongs to the government. Therefore, Judge John Lewis said money that might go to the government cannot help pay for private tuition at a religious school — well, because, I guess….

Enter the school choice defenders at the Institute for Justice to shoot that down:

But education tax credit programs do not violate state constitutional provisions that prohibit state funds from directly aiding religious schools because tax credit programs rely entirely on private funds, private organizations, and private decision makers. Private individuals set up scholarship organizations. Private businesses donate to scholarship organizations. And parents decide whether to apply for a scholarship and which schools to enroll their children into best meet their unique educational needs.

IJ’s argument, echoed by the state Attorney General’s office, got a full hearing yesterday before the New Hampshire Supreme Court. But it’s not what the lawyers say as much as the families affected that matter to me:

Esther Fleurant of Concord held a sign that said “End Education Discrimination” and had four of her seven children with her. A native of Haiti, she said she is a member of the Word of Life Church and favors the law, which would help cover some of the expense of home-schooling four of her children or give them the option of attending a religious school.

One of the unique features of the New Hampshire program is the inclusion of a tax credit for homeschooling expenses, as well as for donations to non-profit organizations that provide K-12 tuition scholarships.

A scholarship tax credit program for Colorado, as envisioned by my Education Policy Center friends, looks somewhat different in the details. But a big similarity remains, in the goal of serving the Colorado children who merit a chance at an education that best fits them. In other words, it would help Colorado Kids Win.

While we wait for that kind of choice to reach our backyard, I will cheer for those New Hampshire students to win their day in court.