After the long pandemic year, thousands of parents are beyond frustrated with “remote” and “hybrid” instruction for their children. As a result, thousands of students have already left public schools, and many parents are desperately looking for alternative ways to give their children an adequate education.
Related: HB 20 Puts Homeschoolers at Risk
Meanwhile, Republican House and Senate Leadership support House Bill 20, “Education Freedom Accounts.” It’s a priority for this session. If signed into law, thousands of students would be eligible to register for “Education Freedom Accounts” this coming Fall.
As the bill is written today, every NH student between the ages of 5 and 20 years old, who hasn’t graduated from 12th grade, would be eligible.
The NH Department of Education projects that “Education Freedom Account” (EFA) funding would average $4,603 per student, ranging from $3,786 to $8,458, for 2021-22. Many parents think this is a fabulous idea!
There are over 190,000 eligible students in New Hampshire, most in public schools. There are 16,294 students registered in private schools. Each one of them is eligible for EFA funding. There are 6,110 students registered as homeschooled. Each one of them is eligible for EFA funding. That’s 22,404 students, costing over $103 million in potential EFA funding.
The state would be required to fund these students if they all registered for EFA funding. How many parents can afford to leave $4,603 on the table by not registering? Wouldn’t pretty much all of them register for an EFA account?
The NH Department of Education’s fiscal analysis says that EFAs will save the state money. Private school and home educated students registering for EFA’s will not be saving the state anything. They would increase state education funding up to $103 million. And that would be just the beginning.
How many more students would leave Public Schools?
The NH Department of Education’s fiscal analysis projects that only 28 students will apply for EFA funding in 2021-22. Over a ten-year period, they project that under 3,000 students per year will register for EFA funding. Over 3,000 students have already left public schools this year — without any EFA funding. How many more students will be able to afford to leave with funding? Answer: a whole lot more than 3,000.
Most states with Education Savings Accounts provide funding only for Special Needs students.
There are five states with Education Savings Accounts: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina. In four out of five of these states, ESAs are only for Special Needs students. In AZ, special needs students are given more funding than regular students. Only 2% to 22% of students statewide are eligible for ESA’s in these five states, with funding from 63% to 177% of public school per-student spending.
New Hampshire’s EFA bill allows for 100% eligibility of students statewide. Students with disabilities need to waive their rights under federal and state disability laws when accepting EFA funds. NH’s EFAs will fund only 23% of public school per-student spending. You can bet that once EFAs are in place, the lobby that will arise for them will push hard for parity with other states.
Will EFAs improve education?
Well, maybe, for a while. The unspoken goal (not so unspoken in many cases) is to decrease funding for and wind down the existing Public Schools. One can understand that motivation (frustration), but what will really happen is that the unions will find ways to keep funding high, which means overall spending will go up. On top of that, unregulated EFAs will last only until the first bunch of fraud and misuse scandals erupts. When that happens, there will be a call for increased State regulation and likely mandatory testing of ESA students. Most ESA states already require mandatory testing. Private and Home School independence will go down the drain, and we’ll start the process that led to the current education disaster all over again.
Can New Hampshire afford EFA funding?
With no cap on eligibility, State appropriations, or enrollment, the short answer is “no.” The Department’s fiscal analysis is a fantasy. Under the bill as written, funding costs will be much, much higher. The State portion of property taxes will skyrocket, and pressure for a sales and/or income tax will become very high. Look for one to be proposed next session if HB 20 passes.
-Please oppose “Education Freedom Accounts.”
-Ask your legislator to vote HB 20, “Inexpedient to Legislate.”
-Protect The New Hampshire Advantage.