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N.H.’s School Choice Program Launches In Time for Fall Semester

Michael Brindley for NHPR

New Hampshire’s new school choice program is officially underway, after a speedy approval process by lawmakers and the State Board of Education during August.

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The program establishes an Education Savings Account for families to access taxpayer funds to pay for tuition at private schools, home learning programs, or other non-public school options.

It was a major victory for Republican lawmakers this year and is part of a movement for school choice that has grown during the pandemic. The program in New Hampshire is one of the most expansive of its kind in the country.

Families that make under 300 percent of the federal poverty level and aren’t sending their kids to public school are eligible to apply for an account. The application requires documentation of income, but once families enroll, they can remain in the program even if their income pushes them out of the eligibility levels required for entry.

The state estimates participating families will receive an average of $4,600 per student each year. The first payment to participants will be available in November.

The Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire, a private organization, oversees the program. It says it’s received about 600 applications from families so far. Some are from families sending their kids to private schools; others are from parents homeschooling because of concerns about COVID-19 transmission in schools.

The process is currently operating under interim rules that were developed and approved by the state Board of Education last week, despite major concerns about oversight and transparency raised by a state lawyer and Democrats.

The state Board of Education will develop permanent rules this fall.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.

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