Home > Uncategorized > Small NH Town’s Experiment with Vouchers Result in Deficits, Ballooning Budgets, Turnover

Small NH Town’s Experiment with Vouchers Result in Deficits, Ballooning Budgets, Turnover

April 2, 2019

As reported in an article by Sarah Earle in today’s Valley News, the town of Croydon NH, part of the so-called libertarian Free State Project, is learning that the free market can sometimes be costly… especially in a libertarian State like NH that provides less than $4,000/pupil in state aid to “needy” districts.

Here’s what happened in Croydon in a nutshell. The school board was taken over by a group who wanted to break away from the both the tuition agreement and administrative unit that linked them to the neighboring Newport Schools for grades 5-12. Instead, the small district (it enrolls 28 students in grades K-4) wanted to offer its residents the chance to attend any school of their choice with the proviso that they would only fund $14,000 of the tuition and gain local control of the district by hiring their own Superintendent, business manager and special education staff. To make this happen, the board needed to get a special bill passed by the legislature and secure waivers from the state’s Department of Education. Both were done in short order given the pro-choice GOP legislature at the time and the appointment of Frank Edelblut, one of the underwriters of the lawsuit filed to secure waivers needed to make the breakaway possible, to Commissioner of Education.

Predictably some parents seeking to attend private schools moved into Croydon and when those parents were combined with residents already enrolled in private schools the budget ballooned. A $167,000 deficit in FY 18 followed by a projected $43,000 deficit in FY 19 left the Board with no where to look for cuts except their small elementary school… and when they cut one of the four staff members at the school the others all resigned. When those openings were combined with openings for Business Manager and Superintendent it meant that Croydon had basically no one left on the staff. To make matters even worse, it seems that more folks are moving in to the area trying to take advantage of the de facto $14,000 subsidy to attend whatever school they want.

Despite these financial challenges, most in the town are now satisfied with the decisions made by the board a few years ago. But the road may get a bit bumpier if more private school parents move into the community and if the Newport secondary schools charge more per pupil as their enrollment declines and they begin paying their teachers a more competitive wage.

But Croydon is serving one purpose: those who believe that the forces of the free market will drive down costs are finding that it just isn’t so.

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