Concerns Regarding the Confusion Around the EFA Program from an Independent Homeschooling Mother

Periodically, our members wish to share their thoughts and concerns through our platform. This editorial is written by Sarah who is an independent, traditional homeschooling mom of three.

GSHE has a page that explains NH's four educational options that are available to "school aged" children and their families.

The NH Department of Education has information about educational pathways on their website. This is the page on home education and this is the page on the Education Freedom Account (EFA).

I would like to share part of a conversation I had with two families from my church. These parents were part of the independent home ed program until they enrolled in the Education Freedom Account (EFA) program; however, neither of them expressed any understanding of this based on what they said:
Parent 1: We love the EFA program! Now we don't need to worry about finances when it comes to field trips. If we wanna go, we can just go!
Parent 2: Yes, and it's a huge help with curriculum costs. We can use the funds for laptops, and other homeschool supplies.
Me: Don't you need to make a certain amount to qualify for that program?
Parent 2: Yes, but they actually raised the income level.
Parent 1: Yeah, it's higher now, so more homeschool families can use it. It makes homeschooling so much more accessible to people.
Note how these parents use the word "homeschool" and "homeschooling" as if they think they are still considered homeschool families by the state of NH. It's almost as if they think the EFA is some sort of "grant" or "fund" specifically for homeschoolers, rather than an entirely different and alternate educational pathway, isn't it?
That's because that is what they think. In fact, I spoke with one of the parents from the conversation above, a mom of three children, and tried to explain to her that since her children are part of the EFA program, they are no longer considered homeschoolers per NH law (RSA 194-F:2 IX). In fact, based on the law, they are actually required to submit a notification of termination of a home education program pursuant to RSA 193-A:5. Even after I clearly presented the legal requirements, the mother I spoke to still decided she thought she had, quote, "done what I need to", after having never admitted to whether or not she actually complied with the law and terminated her previously established home education program upon commencing with the EFA program.
EFA participants are not terminating their home ed programs, and are confusing and conflating the two educational pathways.
So why the confusion?
Up until recently (within the past couple weeks), the DOE website was promoting confusion about this very serious oversight by listing the EFA program as an option to fund homeschooling under the "Home Education" section of the "Education Pathways" tab on the DOE website. Why would the EFA program be listed at all under the Home Education tab on the DOE website when per NH law RSA 194-F it is a completely separate education pathway from what NH defines as independent homeschooling per RSA 193-A?
After bringing this serious oversight to Commissioner Edelblut’s attention, a change was instituted on the DOE website under the “Home Education” tab that has a line separating the EFA program info from the section describing ways to fund homeschooling. In addition, at the bottom of the same webpage there is a message in bold print that reads:
“Students who have previously notified as Home Educating under RSA 193-A must terminate their Home Education program in accordance with NHED rule Ed 315.06 and RSA 193-A:5(III) prior to enrolling in the EFA program pursuant to the requirements of RSA 194-F:2, IX.  Additionally, unlike students notified as Home Educating under RSA 193-A, EFA students do not have the same right to access their resident public school curricular and cocurricular programs as guaranteed by RSA 193:1-c.”
This message is also found at the bottom of the “Education Freedom Accounts” tab under the “Education Pathways” tab.
Unfortunately, the latest installment of the EFA parent handbook fails to make it clear beyond any doubt, that an EFA program ENDS an independent home education program. The handbook should have a clear message matching the one above at the top of the page under the section listed as “Homeschoolers” (page 11).
Is that overstating it? Is it too much? Do parents and guardians need something so clear and in their face to properly follow the law? Clearly it's necessary, because as can be noted, most parents starting the EFA program who were previously enrolled in the home ed program, are failing to submit the letter terminating their home education program pursuant with the law. And as can be seen, most parents aren't doing this because the resources available up until the recent DOE website update appeared to purposefully obscure the legal necessity of doing so.
It would be most beneficial to all parties involved, if our education officials make the distinctions abundantly clear concerning the EFA program and the independent home ed program. It's also imperative that the committee and law makers in NH government stop ensnaring independent, 193-A families in these problems and confusions. It's already clear to independent 193-A families what OUR requirements are. The constituents that are confused are the EFA program participants and they are the ones that, if anybody, need more regulation.
Are we going to see a bill that proposes EFA program participants have mandatory statewide testing? The participants are receiving millions of dollars worth of the state funds allocated towards education. It makes complete sense in the interests of the state and the families using the money, that the participants be assessed to see if they are utilizing the funds appropriately. However, participants of the independent home ed program are not receiving the EFA program funds, at least not legally.
My suggestion to the DOE and House Ed committee is that those who aren't terminating their independent home education program upon commencing an EFA program should be extremely easy to find. Those families are using state funds, and so they would have had to be approved. Their information is on file. If there is concern about EFA participants not terminating their home education program, then the state should target the EFA participants.
For example, perhaps the state could send a letter to all participants of the EFA program explaining and/or clarifying that if they were enrolled in the home ed program (RSA 193-A) prior to enrolling in the EFA program, then they are legally required to send a letter terminating their independent home education program, and failure to do so will result in their funds being redacted and them no longer being able to participate in the EFA program. Problem solved.
Independent home ed families are going to keep fighting for our freedoms, we will fight to have independent, 193-A families left out of this EFA program confusion and issue. If families want to utilize the EFA program, that is their choice. However, as we are going to explore in the following article, when a family signs up for the EFA program they are signing away what the New Hampshire slogan declares residents of New Hampshire value the most, their freedom.