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Action on Private School Scholarships in New Hampshire, Other States

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New Hampshire lawmakers have approved the creation of a tax credit program to support private school scholarships—though there was considerable push-and-pull at the finish line.

Backers of the measure in the Republican-led House and Senate were able to override a veto by Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat who opposed the legislation. Critics of the new law, as they have in other states, branded the New Hampshire plan as a back-door voucher measure.

As with similar measures approved in other states, the New Hampshire measure would give tax credits to businesses that contribute to organizations that grant private-school scholarships. It would cap the total amount of scholarship contributions at $4 million in fiscal year 2014, $6 million in fiscal 2015, and $7.5 million in fiscal 2016, according to the legislation. Families would be eligible to receive the scholarships if their annual household incomes are no greater than 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, according to the law.

Supporters of tax credit scholarship programs, which have grown increasingly popular in the states, see them as an alternative approach to creating private-school choice for families, one that can save states money. Opponents see them as an end run around provisions in state constitutions that restrict public funds from flowing to non-public religious institutions, in this case schools. They also worry that they're unaccountable to states, and taxpayers.

New Hampshire's not the only state expanding private-school choice. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, signed a tax-credit measure into law yesterday. And check out my colleague Nirvi Shah's dissection of a new law in Mississippi that offers vouchers to students with one particular type of disability: dyslexia. It was signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who says he coped with dyslexia as a child.

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