Summary of 11/17/2023 Home Education Advisory Council Meeting
Video of the meeting is on GSHE YouTube Channel. The video is also at the end of this article.
Additional information re HEAC is on the NH Department of Education website. The meeting materials and draft minutes are not available at this time.
Council Members for the 2023-24 Term
Two HEAC representatives are listed as representing the “home education community” but are unaffiliated with any homeschool organizations and three seats remain open.
Dianne Nolin Catholics United for Home Education
Althea Barton, Secretary, NH Homeschooling Coalition
April Villani, Chairman, Catholics United for Home Education
Rebekah Woodman, at-large home educator (unaffiliated)
Mike Koski, at-large home educator (unaffiliated)
Heather Barker, NH School Administrators Association
Jill Grant, NH Nonpublic School Advisory Council
Katelyn Kuttab, NH House of Representatives
Katy Peternel, NH House of Representatives
Ruth Ward, NH Senate
Tim Carney, NH Department of Education
Best Practices Review, mark 15:08
Tim will ask the department’s attorney if the adopted Best Practices policies should be reviewed.
April also asked about posting video recordings of public body meetings. The department will meet with the Attorney General’s office about this issue to determine the NH DOE’s role in hosting the remote meetings, posting and sharing video recordings, etc. They are waiting for that discussion and will get back to the council.
The council may determine that once draft minutes are posted, video recordings may be withheld or destroyed. It might depend on the minutes being approved, not just published. Tim will ask the department’s attorney for guidance. A couple elements of the proposed Best Practices policy go beyond the minimum requirement per RSA 91-A and are subject to the council’s approval, which has not been determined yet.
Ed 704.02 Rules Regarding High School Equivalency, mark 30:03
In spring 2022, GSHE brought the issue forward to HEAC that the current Ed 704.02 rules regarding the high school equivalency exam for 16 and 17 year-old home educated students is inconsistent with multiple state laws and is discriminatory against homeschooled students. The rules were last reviewed in 2013 and are due for an update. The department is still in the process of working on Ed 704 and does not have anything new to share at this time.
Legislation, mark 36:15
Although Rep Peternel was unable to attend, she emailed a statement to April about HB 628 regarding background checks which was read.
Althea said that confusion remains between 193-A home educated students and those who participate in the Education Freedom Account (EFA) that is found in a different statute, RSA 194-F. Several members of the council agreed.
Jill commented that the bill refers to providers to the EFA, so she doesn’t see that home educators are caught up in the bill.
Diane attended the work session in October and exec session in November and said that the House Education Committee has difficulty differentiating the two pathways, too. Mike agrees that the bill applies to anyone who provides any kind of instruction to a group that includes an EFA student, so it could apply to parents. As noted by Katy, the bill does not state who receives the background check, what kind of check is completed, who pays for it, who maintains the information, and other concerns.
Althea asked if there was a distinction made at any of the committee meetings between a parent teaching their own children at home from a co-op or group learning setting. The proposed amendment makes that separation, but it is not in the original bill. Both the original bill and amendment will move forward to the entire House of Representatives for a vote in early January. The amendment is available in the GSHE article about HB 628.
April referred to “unintended consequences” of this bill on 193-A home educated students and gave a scenario of how It could apply to a group going on a field trip together.
Senator Ward asked if the sponsor, Rep Tanner, believes parents need background checks.
GSHE started following this issue in fall 2022 when an identical bill, HB 1664, was considered by the committee. At that’s bill’s October 2022 work session, Rep Tanner stated that parents may be “bad actors” and believes nonpublic school education providers do not conduct sufficient background checks of volunteers and staff. GSHE’s article about the 2022 bill is available here.
Council members mentioned that there are a number of different organizations that require background checks of volunteers, such as scouts, 4-H, and others.
Mike asked if the bill would apply to an EFA parent or an instructor that they may hire and if it could apply to libraries or other organizations that offer children’s programming. It is unclear as written.
Tim mentioned that the Education Tax Credit (ETC) program is available to home-educating families. The ETC is mentioned in the bill, but is not funded by state or federal money. However, HB 628 as written would include recipients of the ETC.
Also, enrollment in Prenda is currently treated as 193-A home education, unless a student is participating through the EFA program. Prenda’s contract with the NH Department of Education will expire in fall 2024.
Additional information about HB 628 is available in the GSHE blog here along with links to the original bill, proposed amendment, and video recordings of all committee discussions.
2024 Legislative Service Requests (LSRs), mark 1:08:00
There are two proposed bills that involve parents’ rights that may relate to home education; recent bills like these pertained only to public education. We need to wait for the language to be published on the NH General Court website.
- 2024-2234 CACR relating to the rights of parents providing that parents shall have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their minor children
- 2024-2772 CACR relating to the rights of children and parents providing that parents and children have the right to control their health, education, and welfare
Member Reports, mark 1:12:11
Tim, on behalf of the NH Department of Education, shared that the updated Ed 315 is available on the website. Information was added to the department’s page on home education to include the Education Tax Credit (ETC) scholarship and clarity re the Education Freedom Account (EFA) that distinguishes it from 193-A home education. Althea suggested moving links to the law and rules to the top of the page to make them easier to find. She also suggested making it clear that the DOE’s forms are optional, not required. He is going to work on a home ed FAQ for the department website soon.
The council discussed the ongoing confusion about the EFA and home education, particularly regarding termination. Jill sought clarification about EFA students who use drop-in classes. Tim said that it is up to CSFNH to monitor EFA student compliance; the department does not directly manage the program or participants. Althea echoed that it is up to the DOE, HEAC, and the broader community to clarify the two education pathways. Jill asked additional questions about the requirements for EFA students, that are found in RSA 194-F and Ed 324. They are separate from home ed requirements and go through the Children’s Scholarship Fund NH (CSFNH), the scholarship org that manages the program. Mike requested that the DOE page on the EFA make a statement that clarifies that once a family enrolls in the EFA, they are no long 193-A home educating. Althea mentioned that the CSFNH continues to conflate the EFA with home education, and Tim acknowledged that it is beyond the department’s control to manage CSFNH’s information or website. Tim will talk to his director about the situation.
Tim said the department has enrollment totals as reported by Participating Agencies. There are four schools that didn’t report yet, so the data may be cleaned up soon. He needs to verify that the home education totals are new notifications, not cumulative. As defined in law, compulsory attendance is defined as six years old by September 30th of the current school year [per RSA 193:1]; he said the kindergarten numbers look a bit high so he will verify. Tim already requested that the title of the report be changed to “home education” instead of “homeschool” to match the correct legal terms. He also mentioned that Participating Agencies’ documentation responsibilities have changed over the years, but aren’t reflected on the report.
This started a conversation about filing notification prior to compulsory age. April said that some families may want to notify earlier and go beyond law. Tim reiterated that compulsory attendance begins only once the child is of “school age.” Any change would require legislative action.
A discussion about the federal Child Find law and public schools’ responsibilities may be a topic for another meeting.
GSHE has information about it on our Children with Special Needs page.
Notification Requirements, mark 1:52:45
Mike is concerned about 193-A homeschoolers who send notification to an entity, either a nonpublic school or the department, other than the SAU as is allowed in statute. He said it would be “a courtesy” to the district, if the student was enrolled there previously, for them to be informed.
Tim said that there are two components with notification: families must withdraw from the current school (if already of “school age”) and file a commencement notification of home ed with a Participating Agency of their choice.
The department is not allowed to share information with SAUs or other state agencies when asked if a family/student filed a home ed notification. As required by law, Participating Agencies are obligated to send acknowledgement letters to families within 14 days of receiving a commencement notification. Families may be asked to share acknowledgement letters to avoid it escalating to truancy investigations.
This is consistent with GSHE’s recommendations to document the entire notification process and follow up with Participating Agencies when acknowledgement letters are not received in a timely manner or have incorrect information. GSHE also recommends keeping all documentation in a safe place for the duration of the children’s home ed programs.
Districts have no responsibility, beyond the federal Child Find law, once a child is no longer enrolled. NH’s compulsory attendance law, RSA 193:1, states it is the parents’ responsibility.
Grievance Committee, mark 2:01: 54
HEAC’s responsibility to establish a grievance committee is in Ed rules 315.12. The committee’s purpose is to hear any grievances forwarded by the commissioner.
Historically, the committee served to navigate problems between home-educating families and Participating Agencies when annual assessments were submitted as evidence that children were passing the mandatory academic performance threshold. The law changed in 2012 to remove submission requirements of annual assessments. Read more about that statute change here.
Rebekah asked if there’s been any recent need for the grievance committee and April responded that “it’s been a very long time” since one was necessary. April appointed Diane (chair of the committee), Mike, and herself.
HEAC meets at the NH Department of Education’s office at 25 Hall Street in Concord. They meet on the third Friday of alternating months starting at 2:30pm, unless announced otherwise. The public may attend in-person or via Zoom. Zoom meeting information is available here. The remaining 2023-24 meeting dates are as follows.
- Friday, January 19, 2024
- Friday, February 16, 2024 (if needed)
- Friday, March 15, 2024
- Friday, April 19, 2024 (if needed)
- Friday, May 17, 2024
- Friday, June 21, 2024 (if needed
Links to meeting minutes and members’ contact information are available on the NH DOE’s HEAC page.
Read More About HEAC
By Michelle Levell