Every year we build momentum to improve educational options for New Hampshire families. This year is no exception and it is amazing to reflect on where we were just one year ago. In the last 12 months we made tremendous progress in many areas, especially regarding Education Savings Accounts that will position NH as the national leader in educational opportunities. Once again, our grassroots community is the critical factor to all this success. Caring families, community leaders, and engaged citizens are making the difference for our children and their futures.
We enjoyed several achievements in multiple areas. This article features our broader community successes; legislative highlights will be featured in Part 2. Later this summer we will publish a 2018 Report Card on legislators’ roll call votes; our 2016 and 2017 Report Cards are available on our website. And new this year, we are surveying all non-incumbent candidates and will share their grades in the coming several weeks.
This is a big growth year for School Choice for NH. Earlier this summer we announced that we filed for 501c4 non-profit status. This will help us do more to inform and engage NH families and community leaders about educational opportunities. As you probably noticed, we revamped our logo and website; it has a fresh, brighter look. If you want our updates sent directly to your email, please subscribe to our website and you won’t miss any of the latest news and information. Also, our Facebook page now reaches a few thousand people every week. Please share our posts with your friends and invite them to follow us, too! We are also producing more videos and utilizing our YouTube channel more often. We have more big plans to better engage families and school choice supporters – stay tuned for great things ahead!
We had numerous advances regarding home education this year. A few months ago we exposed that many districts ask more of homeschoolers, in part based on a recommended policy by the NH School Board Association. After bringing it to the Home Education Advisory Council’s (HEAC) attention, the NHSBA drafted a new policy with input from the council. To date, many local districts still have outdated and unlawful policies; we will continue to monitor and report as needed. Additionally, all year we encouraged, and sometimes prodded, HEAC to improve their transparency and accountability to the homeschool community and these efforts are finally showing improvements. At the April and May meetings HEAC announced they are reaching out to the public-school community to improve communication re homeschool requirements; they brought in a person from the Attorney General’s office for a presentation on NH’s Right to Know law as it regards required operations and disclosures of all public boards; and the NH Department of Education will resume asking SAUs and private schools for the number of homeschool students that report to them. This will help counter the misperception that NH is the Wild West of home education. These misunderstandings only aggravate potential problems between homeschoolers and SAUs and is a contributing cause of homeschool regulation efforts.
We are devoting significant resources to NH’s homeschool community with five introduction sessions already held since last September and more scheduled this summer across the state. We want to host more, so please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to help organize one in your community.
In November 2016 we launched our sister organization, Granite State Home Educators (GSHE), with a few friends. In this short time, we experienced tremendous success. Our Facebook group has over 1.3K members and over 500 followers on our Facebook page. This spring we launched Granite State Home Educators Marketplace, a Facebook group to help connect buyers and sellers of homeschool materials. We also gained a seat on the Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) and that is helping us provide more and better input to their efforts. GSHE also hosted two successful events: a Not-Back-To-School Picnic in September with over 50 people in attendance and a homeschool art show in April. We are planning even more events for the 2018-2019 school year!
The Children’s Scholarship Fund NH continues to double every year. For the 2017-2018 school year, they awarded more than $560K to 260 children. Their scholarships put educational opportunities within reach for low-income students across the state. They make a tremendous difference in the lives of their scholars.
Finally, the state Board of Education approved three new charter schools that intend to open this fall: Capital City Public Charter School (Concord), Kreiva Academy Public Charter School (Manchester), and Windham Academy Charter School (Windham). It is wonderful to see more educational options available to our children within the public-school system.
Clearly New Hampshire is a vibrant and growing community for educational options! While we are thrilled to see all these developments, our work is not done. Many families are not aware of all the choices available to them. NH has a culture of freedom and innovation; education opportunities are part of our proud tradition. Unfortunately, too many families are still trapped in zip-code assigned schools that do not fit their children’s needs. School Choice for NH is committed to doing more to reach out to families, community leaders, and other caring residents to empower them with information and resources and to facilitate putting educational opportunities within reach. We have more to accomplish in the coming year and we look forward to working with you to make it happen.