NH Supreme Court Upholds School Choice Program For Religious Schools


New Hampshire's Supreme Court unanimously upheld low- and middle-income students' right to use tax credit scholarships towards attending religious schools, after anti-school choice organizations attempted to ban them from doing so.

Under the state's tax credit program, corporations who donate to nonprofit scholarship groups for low-income students are given back tax credits equal to 85 percent of those donations. Students then choose where to use those scholarships, be it a secular or religious school, or even homeschooling programs.

The anti-school choice groups argued that the scholarships amounted to "money raised by taxation" and therefore, according to New Hampshire law, could not be used at religious schools.

A lower court ruled in favor of the program's detractors, but the state Supreme Court has now struck down that decision. The Cato Institute, which filed an amicus brief in support of allowing students unrestricted choice, details the case and predicts future wins for school choice in other states:

The NHSC did not address the merits of the lower court’s decision because it held the petitioners were unable to demonstrate that "their personal rights have been impaired or prejudiced." Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court, in rejecting the petitioners’ standing in ACSTO v. Winn, held that the tax-credit funds did not constitute public money because they had not "come into the tax collector’s hands."

This is great news for the tens of thousands of students who qualify for tax-credit scholarships—parents like Melissa Cogan, who used the program to cover homeschooling expenses for her two children, Hope and Hunter. […]

The decision’s import reaches far beyond New Hampshire’s borders. The NHSC’s ruling today takes some wind out of the sails of the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA), which is inexplicably suing the Sunshine State over its more-than-decade-old scholarship tax credit law, in a complaint that mirrors the legal reasoning of the NH petitioners.

Published under: Education , New Hampshire