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Amazon, private schools are among the top beneficiaries of NH's school choice program

Trinity Christian School is among the dozens of private Christian schools receiving funding from the education freedom accounts program.
Dana Wormald
/
New Hampshire Bulletin
Trinity Christian School is among the dozens of private Christian schools receiving funding from the education freedom accounts program.

Families participating in the state’s new voucher-like school choice program spent the bulk of their state aid at Amazon.com and at local private schools. According to data recently released by the New Hampshire Department of Education, participants spent a total of about $805,000 at Amazon.com and approximately $2.76 million at private schools last year.

The program, called Education Freedom Accounts, is open to low and middle-income families in the state whose children do not attend local public school. It allows participants to spend state money - at an average of $4,800 per student - on a myriad of educational expenses, including online tutors, private school tuition and homeschooling supplies.

Last year, there were roughly 700 approved vendors in the program, ranging from music programs to publishing companies. Of the money that went to private schools, a little over $2 million went to private Christian schools. Trinity Christian School in Concord and Laconia Christian Academy were the single largest private school beneficiaries, each receiving about $227,000 in Education Freedom Account money.

Republican lawmakers are pushing to expand Education Freedom Accounts this year, citing the program’s popularity. Among the program’s biggest supporters in the Legislature is House Majority Leader Jason Osborne. According to records, a homeschooling nonprofit run by his wife received $28,750 last year in Education Freedom Account funding.

Democratic lawmakers have introduced a number of bills to curb the program’s growth this year, citing its over-budget price tag and concerns about transparency.

The Education Freedom Accounts program is currently run by the Children’s Scholarship Fund of New Hampshire, which approves each purchase made by participants through a digital wallet. It currently costs about $14.7 million, equal to roughly 2% of the total amount of the “adequacy aid” New Hampshire sends to public school districts each year. The cost for the program is expected to at least double if lawmakers expand some eligibility requirements this year.

Updated: February 3, 2023 at 4:14 PM EST
This story has been updated to clarify that the organization run by House Majority Leader Jason Osborne's wife is a nonprofit.
Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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