Many families followed the progress of the Education Freedom Account bills as they worked their way through the NH legislature earlier this year. Two near-identical versions were introduced in the NH House and Senate; ultimately the Senate’s version was incorporated into one of the budget bills, passed, and signed by Governor Sununu.
This article is a brief synopsis of the new EFA program that will go into effect in time for the 2021-22 school year.
- The EFA is a new, fourth way to satisfy education attendance requirements. Now the educational options for children who are “school aged” (six years old as of September 30th of the current school year) are 1) public education, which may be the local district schools or chartered public schools; 2) private education; 3) home education; or 4) enrollment in the Education Freedom Account program.
- Families who earn no more than 300% of the federal poverty limit may enroll children in the EFA program.
- It will allow the state adequacy funds, an average of $4,500, to follow the child to approved educational uses.
- The EFA may be used for a variety of purposes including private school tuition or other approved educational uses by approved educational providers.
- The EFA requires students to take some kind of annual assessment and submit results to the managing organization.
- Should the family wish to withdraw from the EFA program, the child may only exit to a public school.
- The EFA program will be managed by the Children’s Scholarship Fund NH; families should contact them if interested in enrolling or with questions. Educational providers should also contact them if they wish to be approved for the program.
It is very important to distinguish this new program as separate and distinct from traditional homeschooling. Home education follows the requirements in RSA 193-A and Ed 315 rules. Families do not receive taxpayer funds to support their children’s education and are free to access any resource and provider they wish, including classes and co-curriculars offered at their local public schools. Homeschoolers keep annual assessment results private and should they wish to end their home ed program, the child may utilize any of NH’s other educational options.
We hope this brief explanation is helpful to families considering this new option.
UPDATE 6/28/2023: Governor Sununu signed HB 367 into law today to raise the income eligibility threshold of the EFA program to 350% of the federal poverty limit. It will go into effect in 60 days.
UPDATE 8/31/2021: People have asked about the exit language in the EFA law, RSA 194-F. It is found in two parts that specifically reference students may exit the program to enter public education.
- Upon notice to the scholarship organization, an EFA student may choose to stop receiving EFA funding and enroll full-time in a public school.
(a) Enrolling as a full-time student in the resident district public school shall result in the immediate suspension of payment of additional funds into the student’s EFA. However, an EFA that has been open for at least one full school year shall remain open and active for the parent to make qualifying expenditures to educate the student from funds remaining in the EFA. When no funds remain in the student’s EFA, the scholarship organization may close the EFA.
RSA 194-F:4 Authority and Responsibilities of the Scholarship Organization. The scholarship organization shall have the following additional duties, obligations, and authority:
- The scholarship organization shall continue making deposits into a student’s EFA until:
(a) The scholarship organization determines that the EFA student is no longer an eligible student.
(b) The scholarship organization determines that there was substantial misuse of the funds in the EFA.
(c) The parent or EFA student withdraws from the EFA program.
(d) The EFA student enrolls full-time in the resident district public school.
(e) The EFA student graduates from high school.
UPDATE 12/19/2021: Many people are unaware that participation in the Education Free Account is a separate and distinct way to satisfy New Hampshire's education attendance law, RSA 193:1. Enrollment in the EFA, even for at-home learning, is not the same as home education as defined in RSA 193-A, and the new law expressly indicates that an existing home education program must be terminated.
IX. A home education program pursuant to RSA 193-A:5 is terminated upon the commencement of a student's participation in an EFA program. A parent shall provide notification pursuant to RSA 193-A:5 when a student starts participating in an EFA program.
(i) The pupil is enrolled in the education freedom account program pursuant to RSA 194-F and is therefore exempt from this requirement.
By Michelle Levell