New Hampshire passed its educational tax-credit scholarship program for low-income students in 2012. Under the program business that make contributions to charitable scholarship-granting organizations can claim a credit worth up to 85 percent of their contributions against their state taxes. Scholarships cannot exceed $2,500 ($4,375 for students with special needs), and students from low- and middle-income families can use them to attends the public or private schools of their parents’ choice.
Last year a lower court erroneous ruled that privately-funded tax-credit scholarships amount to public funds that can be used in support of religious schools—a violation of New Hampshire’s Constitution. In 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court utterly rejected the notion that taxpayer donations amount to public funds in a case involving a similar tax-credit scholarship program in Arizona.
As the Daily Caller reports the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously reversed the lower court’s ruling:
The court ruled unanimously against petitioners challenging a state law that grants families tax credits to attend private schools. …“[T]he petitioners fail to identify any personal injury suffered by them as a consequence of the alleged constitutional error, [and so] they have failed to establish that they have standing to bring their constitutional claim,” the court declares in its decision.
The ruling reversed that of a lower court, which had found the tax credits to be a violation of a state constitutional amendment which prohibits the use of money raised through taxation to fund religious schools.
Attorneys representing parents using the tax credits quickly praised the decision in a statement.
“This was a hard-fought battle and we are gratified that the parents have finally prevailed. The plaintiffs’ case and the Superior Court’s decision were based on a relic of anti-Catholic bigotry enshrined in the New Hampshire Constitution in 1877, which they extended beyond its intended scope. This is a victory for all who would live free in New Hampshire,” said Tim Keller, an attorney with the Institute for Justice.
Tax-credit scholarships expand options for parents and their children who would otherwise be trapped in schools that don’t work for them. Such programs also save limited public resources since private school s on average are less expensive than public schools—so they’re a win-win for students and taxpayers alike.