by Glenn Cordelli
NEW HAMPSHIRE has now become one of the leading states in the nation for education freedom for families and students. With our public schools rated among the best, why is education freedom important? The basic answer is that even the best school might not be the best educational fit for every student. Children learn differently. The pandemic and remote learning also opened a window for parents into their child’s education. Some parents did not like what they saw. And now there is the realization that there is instruction on Critical Race Theory and possible new mask mandates for students. Many parents want options. And now there are exciting new and expanded options available.
Education Freedom Accounts
Education freedom accounts will be a new opportunity for families whose income is below 300% for federal poverty guidelines ($79,500 for a family of four) and whose child is eligible to attend a New Hampshire public school. A family that enrolls their child for an account will receive the state funds for the child that would have gone to the local public school district (an average of $4,600 minus administrative costs). Parents can use the funds to customize the education for their child from a list of allowable expenses. These include tuition at a private school or out-of-district public school, curriculum, therapies, tutors, educational software, and transportation. Applications for an account will be available in early August. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tax Credit Scholarship Program
This program was started in 2013 and allows businesses to take a tax credit (85%) against their business taxes for monies that they donate to the scholarship program. Individuals can also do the same for a credit against their interest and dividends tax. The Children’s Scholarship Fund of NH awards scholarships to students. Again, the family income limit is 300% of federal poverty. For more information, email: email@example.com
Recovering Bright Futures Learning Pods
This new program will start in September. Our Department of Education has partnered with Prenda Schools to offer these small group (5 to 10 students) learning “pods”. The department will provide grants using federal funds to pay for the Prenda guide/teacher at either pods established by school districts based upon family requests or a group of families establishing a “community” pod. This is also an opportunity for teachers to work in a different environment with a small group of students. For more information, visit: prendaschool.com/new-hampshire
Expanding charter schools
The Department of Education secured a federal grant for public charter schools in New Hampshire — both for new charters and to expand existing charter schools. Charter schools are public schools and require application and approval by the State Board of Education. Students can apply to attend a charter school and the school is funded by state funds based upon enrollment. Charter schools are tuition-free. For a list of current charter schools, see the Department of Education web site at: education.nh.gov
This 2018 program recognizes the fact that children learn outside the classroom. It expands local school district programs to broader, larger organizations, such as New Hampshire Academy of Science and Kumon Learning Centers, that are approved by the State Board of Education. Completion of these programs result in awarding of high school graduation credits. For more information, email: Nathaniel.Greene@doe.nh.gov
Modern States Education Alliance and the College Board
This innovative program is open to any New Hampshire high school student to gain college credits. The College Board developed (CLEP) exams to test students on their knowledge for introductory college courses. The Modern States Education Alliance developed online courses to prepare students to take the CLEP exams. Modern States will pay the CLEP exam fees for any New Hampshire student completing their free online course. A student can actually earn enough credits to get their freshman year for free! For more information, contact Jennifer Leckstrom at (215) 681-0770 or firstname.lastname@example.org
These are needs-based scholarships for students who were negatively impacted by the pandemic. There are three categories of scholarships available, including two for children with special needs. Each category does have family income restrictions. The scholarships range up to $5,000 and each has specific allowable uses for the scholarships. For more information, see: yeseducation.nh.gov
The famous economist and author Thomas Sowell once stated the basic question is not what is best, but who says what is best. We believe it should be parents. We believe that a zip code should not determine a child’s future. We believe that every child, not just those in wealthy families, deserves the education that best meets their needs. We encourage every family to look at the educational opportunities available to them and decide what is best for their children. The door has been opened to education freedom and new opportunities in New Hampshire.
This op-ed appeared in the Union Leader