All three are education saving accounts and called Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs) so they are not confused with Coverdell education saving accounts or college savings programs like 529 plans.
According to EdChoice, an Education Savings Account, or in NH’s case, an Education Freedom Account, is a mechanism that allows public funds to be deposited into accounts with restricted, but multiple uses for approved educational purposes. Six states currently have some kind of ESA and they vary by funding sources and amounts, approved uses, and eligible students.
New Hampshire has two types of Educational Freedom Account bills: a universal version that uses state funds is filed with the House and Senate, and a local EFA is filed with the House only.
The universal EFA in the NH House is HB 20 establishing the Richard “Dick” Hinch education freedom account program has several categories of eligible students, but does not include home educated children. Among its eligible students is a new type of compulsory attendance option, an EFA student, who is a state public-educated student not affiliated with a local district or chartered public school. The funding uses the state adequate education grant amount plus any applicable differentiated aid, a total estimated at roughly $4,500 per student. There are several approved educational uses including but not limited to tuition at private schools, transportation, special education services, curriculum, tutoring, technical education fees, and computer hardware.
HB 20 does not have a scheduled public hearing yet, but is assigned to the House Education Committee. This bill can be followed on the docket.
The senate version of the universal EFA bill is not public yet or assigned a bill number; it is LSR 2021-0923.
Because the universal EFA does not extend to homeschoolers, GSHE will not actively follow or take a position on it. Other organizations are following the universal Education Freedom Account bills: Children’s Scholarship Fund NH, Respect NH, Cornerstone, Americans for Prosperity NH, and others; you can keep tabs through these groups. The coalition has a website, Education Freedom NH, for information about this issue.
The local EFA bill is HB 607 establishing local education savings accounts for students and is open to children aged 5 to 20 years old and does extend to homeschoolers. A warrant article vote in each town determines if a community and its resident families may participate in this program. Funds may be used for a variety of educational purposes including but not limited to tuition at private schools, textbooks and curriculum, tutors, transportation, educational services, computer hardware, and college placement tests. The funding is different for this bill; it is 85% of the local district’s budget minus special education spending, divided by the previous year’s average daily membership. It does not include federal grants or state funding and would be recalculated annually. This bill does not have any academic or other reporting requirements for participants.
Because the local EFA bill, HB 607, includes home educated students, GSHE will track and provide ongoing updates on this bill. Currently, it does not have a scheduled public hearing, but is assigned to the House Education Committee. This bill can be followed on the docket.
By Michelle Levell