An education funding system in which education dollars go to families rather than directly to school districts is “the ideal,” Gov. Chris Sununu said at the Josiah Bartlett Center’s first Libertas Virtual Event on Thursday.
New Hampshire should focus on student outcomes, not how much funding the system gets, the governor said.
“You can sum all this up with: It’s gotta be about outcomes for the kids, not outcomes for the system,” the governor said. “We have to stop worrying about the system as much as the kids.”
The governor advocated Education Savings Accounts, which are like health savings accounts, but for education.
The state would deposit a portion of a child’s per-pupil allotment of adequate education aid into a government-approved savings account, which the parent could then use for education expenses.
They offer a way to put students first, and the pandemic has increased demand for such a change, Sununu said.
“This isn’t about the traditional school choice battle. If you’re thinking about it that way, you’re way behind. Independent, non-political individuals… people that traditionally weren’t involved in this discussion are stepping up and saying, ‘wait a minute, where is my money going? Why isn’t my kid in school? Why are we stuck remote learning when we know that we can and should be having our kids in school, at least in some facet… and they’re getting involved in this discussion about where their money — not our money, their money — is being spent. That’s gonna raise the level of debate to where it needs to be.”
Letting the money follow the child is not about the quality of public schools, but about finding a model that serves every child’s needs, he said.
“We have great public schools here. But there are one, two, three, four percent of the population where it’s not ideal, and giving them that opportunity is huge.”
With so many parents angry and frustrated with the limited public schooling options presented this school year, 2021 could be the year that New Hampshire joins the six other states that have education savings accounts, Sununu said.
Republican House Speaker nominee Sherm Packard and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley have introduced bills to create education savings accounts.
In the 2017-18 legislative session, an education savings account bill passed the Senate but was narrowly defeated in the House.