April 17, 2014
Despite the chilly temperature, approximately 50 people, including more than a dozen children, arrived early to participate in a demonstration prior to the hearing. Although the court staff brought in additional seating, the room could not accommodate everyone who arrived in support of the scholarship program.
Once the hearing began, the attorneys were riddled with questions from the justices. Many of the questions centered on charitable donations to religious organizations and a donor's tax credit or deduction for the gift.
The core issues discussed in yesterday's New Hampshire Supreme Court hearing regarding the Education Tax Credit Scholarship Program were:
Parents know best and should have the right to direct their children's education.
Private donations are not government/state funds regardless of tax treatment.
The State of New Hampshire currently gives vouchers for use at any daycare, including religious pre-K.
The State of New Hampshire currently allows deductions for donations to 501c3 nonprofit organizations including religious organizations and these institutions receive other tax breaks.
Scholarships from the Network for Educational Opportunity give low-income students the ability to attend a private school or an out-of-district public school of their choice, or afford homeschooling.
Although funds donated to the Network for Educational Opportunity for the Education Tax Credit Scholarship Program are ultimately distributed to an educational institution, where the funds are distributed -- which school the child attends -- is the family's choice. As an attorney for the Institute for Justice said, "These are private donations for private decisions."
Associate Attorney General Richard Head argued, “The family is deciding which school receives that funding at the end of the day, whether it be a public school in another district, whether it be a home school, or whether it be a private school, which could be either religious or otherwise, the decision maker is the family.”
It is well known that low-income students are the beneficiaries of the charitable donations.
The justices also focused on the tax implications of charitable donations to religious organizations, whether they are schools, hospitals, or other institutions. States and the federal government currently allow businesses and individuals to claim credits or deductions on taxes for charitable donations without differentiating between secular and religious affiliations.
Now the New Hampshire Supreme Court will deliberate the case and we look forward to the publishing of their opinion.