The Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) began their 2022-23 year on September 16, 2022 with several important issues carried over from the previous academic year.
Amanda Weeden (acting Chairman, Granite State Home Educators) shared that there are two resignations from the council and Commissioner Edelblut is accepting nominations. She and Jennifer Pereira (Catholics United for Home Education) gave the annual report to the state Board of Education in early August. The report is available here.
Amanda then initiated an in-depth discussion about the purpose, effectiveness, and utility of HEAC as there hasn’t been a grievance complaint in numerous years and there is no measure of effectiveness in statute or rules. HEAC’s responsibilities are not specified in home ed law, but found in Ed 315.09.
Senator Ruth Ward commented that she notes HEAC and member organizations seem very effective at dealing with district and family challenges and she values the council discussions to better understand the needs of NH’s homeschool community.
Jen shared that grievance complaints used to be rather common when homeschooling was relatively new in the state, but the laws are now much clearer, friendlier, and groups are able to resolve many of these issues before they rise to the level of HEAC involvement.
Tim Carney (Department of Education) commented that it would be helpful for HEAC policies and procedures to be added to their page on the DOE’s website.
Representative Glenn Cordelli said that statutes rarely state the purpose, instead gives the duties and responsibilities. He further commented that the ongoing Prenda confusions may require a legislative action and now that HEAC will meet on Fridays, it will provide better opportunities for the council’s legislative members to attend and be engaged.
Jen shared that the council has not had a response from the DOE regarding Prenda, although that was brought up over a year ago and at several 2021-22 meetings.
Sarah Cheek (Acton Academy Seacoast) commented that it might be helpful to have an informal way of communicating with the DOE so feedback and additional information could be more available to HEAC.
Heather Barker (NH School Administrators Association) said that she feels that HEAC made important things happen, noting HB 1663 in particular, and that the council is effective and creates collaborative relationships. Amanda replied that HB 1663’s success was more due to “boots on the ground” than HEAC as the council does not take positions or actions on legislation.
April Villani (CUHE) noted that HEAC is strictly advisory and has no additional authority, so it is difficult to measure the council’s efforts and effectiveness. She added that the lack of grievance procedures could be interpreted as one measure of success.
Tim (DOE) shared several important updates.
- Ed 315 rule revisions are underway due to HB 1663 and must be kept strictly to the legal changes. Rules can be changed at any time, are open to discussion, and must follow legislative intent.
- HiSET rules, Ed 704.02, are being revised by Sarah Wheeler in Adult Education to remove the SAU/PA permission requirement. They are also considering whether or not to remove the current requirement to take a practice test priot to registering for the HiSET. The test was purchased by another company so there may be changes or delays to testing during the transition. The changes to the rules were requested by HEAC based on GSHE’s research.
- There are several vacant HEAC memberships. He contacted the public ed groups encouraging them to nominate people.
- EFA doesn’t have a staff admin position filled by the DOE yet. They hope to have applications in-house soon. It is likely they will add legislative and rule links on the DOE’s Education Pathways page.
- He is working to add a home education FAQ to the DOE website.
- The YES scholarship program application does not mention home educated or EFA students and that work is underway.
- Equal Access will have a Technical Advisory issued to remind districts of the changes to HB 1663 that require SAUs to have policies.
Sarah (Acton Academy) said their academic year is off to a strong start and they’re hoping to integrate more homeschool resources.
Amanda (speaking for Christian Home Educators of NH and Southern ME) said co-ops are starting up.
Althea Barton (NH Homeschooling Coalition) was not present, but asked Amanda to share information about a homeschool discussion they offered on Thursday, September 28 at the Fiske Free Library in Claremont.
Jen (CUHE) shared that their organization continues to see significant growth and held their biggest annual Mass and get-together. She also added that she is unable to serve as Chairman for the current HEAC season.
Michelle Levell (member of the public) shared GSHE’s report at Amanda’s request.
- GSHE was successful working with Keene State College to revise their admission policy to make it more equitable to homeschooled applicants.
- GSHE gave a presentation to NH College and University Council on September 15 to several admissions officers.
- GSHE hosted a virtual event with VLACS in late August that clarified several long-standing points of confusion and misunderstanding.
- part-time students can take 6 credits during the academic year, July 1 to June 30
- clarified the temporary homeschool status and termination when accepted full-time
- roughly 800 full-time students, roughly 12,00 part-time students
- GSHE is working with AWATO. They have a contract with the NH DOE to support teens with career assessments and connect them with hands-on job learning opportunities.
- GSHE is hosting a semi-formal dance for teens age 13+ on November 3 at Hampshire Hills in Milford, approx. cost $27pp
- GSHE did 10 outreach events over the summer and is giving another one in Nashua on October 5.
- Finally, GSHE is hosting their annual Not Back to School picnic on October 7, details TBA
Heather (NHSAA) told her organization about the changes from HB 1663 and the good communication and relationship as a result of HEAC. She suggested adding someone from the special education association to the council.
Glenn (NH House) said he was on a panel addressing prospective and current homeschoolers. Most of the inquiries pertained to the EFA program.
Ruth (NH Senate) said that SB 381 (2022) creates a special education advocate for families and that is getting underway.
Some was covered in the Chairman’s Report.
Prenda’s contract with the state was extended to September 2024 at a December meeting of the executive council. Their contract explicitly says the purpose is to address “learning loss.” Prenda either must have the freedoms of RSA 193-A or be a different education pathway; this was discussed often in previous HEAC meetings and included in the annual report given to the state BOE. The confusion is damaging to home education. Prenda is also available to EFA families and is a hybrid of sorts which further confuses the pathways. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has a new website that lists Prenda as the only microschool in NH, which is not accurate.
The confusion between home education and the Education Freedom Account (EFA) program continues. Tim at the DOE is working on a chart; GSHE has one online to help explain the different educational options and clarify between home education and the EFA. Homeschool organizations continue to field numerous questions about the EFA on a regular basis. VLACS is not tracking participation of EFA students so it is unclear if the state is funding the student as well as reimbursing VLACS for these students. There is a serious lack of response and customer support from the managing organization.
The council will postpone voting on officers until vacant positions are filled.
HEAC discussed whether or not to make video recordings of their meetings available to the public. RSA 91-A, the “right to know” statute, does not specify video recordings; minutes are the official record. April observed that generally home ed organizations advise not over-complying with statutes, so it may not be advisable to go beyond what is mandatory. Jen is concerned that discussion may be more guarded if they are part of the official record, but Heather said she finds HEAC to be an open and accessible group. Ruth finds that recordings are helpful to whoever is taking the minutes on behalf of the organization. Michelle added that a few years ago, HEAC did not have minutes posted in a timely manner and records were very difficult to obtain, which is why GSHE started attending and recording meetings to bring improved transparency and communication to NH families. Also, the statute defines "governmental records" and "information" to include electronic records, and that would extend to video recordings.
Jon Daley (from Hillsborough) said that the EFA is responsive in his experience although Class Wallet is a challenge.
HEAC meets at the NH DOE’s temporary office at Granite State College, 25 Hall Street, Room 101, 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 2022 meeting dates are as follows.
Friday, October 21, 2022 (placeholder)
Friday, November 18, 2022
Friday, December 16, 2022 (placeholder)
Links to meeting minutes and members’ contact information are available on the NH DOE’s HEAC page.
Read More About HEAC
By Michelle Levell