On December 14, 2015 the presiding judge of the Strafford Superior Court, Justice Brian T. Tucker, denied the injunction brought by the NH Department of Education and Attorney General against the Croydon School Board. The NH DOE and AG claimed that the four Croydon students would be irreparably harmed if allowed to remain at the Newport Montessori School as part of the town’s school choice program. In the court’s ruling, the judge said that the NH DOE previously allowed students to remain in their private schools and had advance knowledge that the board intended to continue their program in the 2015-2016 school year, but did not take immediate action at those times. The judge cites another case that said “[A]ny delay in moving for a preliminary injunction “generally destroys the presumption of irreparable harm.” See the photos below for a full copy of the ruling.
In 2014 the tiny town of Croydon implemented a cost-savings school choice program that enables families to pick alternatives to their “anchor” Newport district schools. Although the NH DOE gave tacit approval of their plans along the way, they now want to put an end to it. Currently four Croydon students are utilizing the program to attend a private school at a savings of approximately $16K to the town.
In September 2015 the Attorney General sent a ” cease and desist ” letter to the Croydon School Board demanding that they stop making tuition payments to the private school within 20 days. The Croydon School Board, with support from the residents and selectman, did not comply as they believe they are properly following state law.
In their March and September 2015 letters to Croydon the state claims that the school board is illegally sending public funds to private schools. However, this program is not unique in New Hampshire as other districts have similar tuition agreements with private schools — Pinkerton in Derry, Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, and Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood. There is also precedent of NH districts contracting with private schools across state lines. The Lyme school district has agreements with Thetford Academy and St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont, and Chatham has a tuition agreement with Fryeburg Academy in Maine.
The injunction hearing was held on Monday, November 30th and we live-blogged on Facebook. The post includes real-time comments as well as questions and remarks from followers after the hearing concluded.
Some of the most shocking statements of the hearing came from the state Attorney General when she repeatedly claimed that only public schools can provide an “adequate education.” This is consistent with assertions included previously in correspondence with the Croydon School Board and in papers filed with the court. She said that because private schools are not required to follow the state adopted curriculum and standards and do not participate in statewide assessments, the state cannot be certain students are receiving an adequate education. The AG’s statements imply that the highly controversial College and Career Readiness Standards (Common Core) and the associated assessment (including the new integrated program, PACE) are somehow guarantees of a solid education. Her allegations ignore that private schools are accountable to the parents who have the choice where to enroll their children. They are also dismissive of the rigorous and extensive approval process private schools must pass in order to operate in the state.
The AG also claimed that the four Croydon students that are currently enrolled in the Newport Montessori School are being “irreparably harmed” each day that they remain in their school of choice. Former NH Supreme Court Justice Charles Douglas, attorney for Croydon, was able to directly refute it with statements from the children’s parents and the Croydon School Board saying that they wish the children to remain at the Montessori school and that the students are thriving. If the injunction had been issued, it would have immediately stopped tuition payments to the private school and effectively forced the students back to the Newport public schools.
The final hearing of Croydon vs the NH DOE is tentatively scheduled for January 13, 2016. Once the date is confirmed we will create an event on our Facebook page and encourage supporters to attend. You can subscribe to our events page so you receive notification as soon as it is posted. We will also update this post with that information.
** Update 1/15/16 — Due to a schedule conflict with the original date, the hearing has been rescheduled for March 9, 2016 at 1:00pm at the Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport. Please come out to support school choice and parents — not the state — choosing what is best for their kids’ education.**
Please sign our petition that will send an email to the NH DOE and Attorney General. The email includes a message that supports the Croydon school choice program and asks them to end the injunction and further intrusions.
For more information about the Croydon school choice program and their legal battle, read the following articles:
Injunction Hearing for Croydon vs the NH DOE
Response to the NH DOE and Attorney General
It’s About Control, Not the Kids
The NH DOE Continues to Bully Croydon
The DOE Wants to End School Choice
Innovative School Choice Program in Croydon