School Choice for New Hampshire supports all educational options for families, including traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, religious schools, online learning, and home education. School choice is about empowering families to find the best educational fit for their children’s needs and goals.
We developed an interactive map to help families find educational options all over the state; chartered public schools are tagged GREEN, non-public schools are BLUE, and home education organizations are ORANGE. Click on the icon to be directed to their websites.
Access to public schools is assigned by zip codes or tuition agreements among districts. Find all of the NH School Administrative Units (SAUs) here. The state Department of Education has statewide, school, and district profiles that include student and staff information, test results, plus attendance and graduation rates. According to US News, New Hampshire is ranked #2 for the best states for PreK to grade 12 education. Niche has several rankings published about NH public schools including their 2020 Best School Districts in NH and 2020 Best Public Schools in NH. New Hampshire is a top performing state according to the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), widely called the “nation’s report card.” NAEP state profiles by grade, subject, and year are available here.
Town tuitioning is an educational option for towns or districts that do not offer all grades, Kindergarten through 12th grade. It empowers local school boards to tuition students to other schools for those grade levels that are not available in-district. Receiving schools may be public or secular private schools located in New Hampshire, or neighboring states such as Vermont and Maine. In June 2017, the “Croydon bill” was signed into law to clarify this practice, and it is consistent with NH’s 100+ year-long tradition of tuition agreements with public and private schools. Read more about this educational opportunity in this Granite Institute article.
What is town tuitioning?
New Hampshire has dozens of small towns and districts across the state and many do not provide full K-12 locally and instead enter into agreements with nearby communities to combine educational resources. Town tuitioning is for those communities that do not offer all grades and tuition students to other schools for those grades that the students need. Families are given a range of choices that their school board negotiates that may include nearby public schools and non-religious private schools. Public funds follow the child to the family’s choice of educational providers and go from the district to the “receiving school.” Districts can set maximum tuition amounts where families are responsible for the difference. Many private schools’ tuition is lower than the cost at public schools, so it can be a considerable savings to the district. Families are also responsible for transportation.
Can any town or family utilize this option?
No, it is available only for those communities that do not provide all grade levels in their districts and only if the school board has negotiated agreements.
What accountability mechanisms are in place for participating schools and students?
Schools that have 10 or more students in the town-tuitioning program must administer a nationally recognized standardized test annually. The aggregated results must score at or above the 40th percentile. Failure to do so three consecutive years will terminate the school’s participation in the program. Results must be reported to the state Department of Education.
What can families do to encourage town tuitioning in their communities?’
Families can encourage their districts to consider these options when AREA agreements and other cross-district agreements are reconsidered. Many towns currently offer options to other public schools and parents can encourage their school boards to expand to private schools.
Chartered Public Schools
What is a chartered public school?
A charter school is a public school. Many people mistakenly think they are private schools, and they may be in other states, but in New Hampshire, they are all part of the public-school system. They are also non-profit institutions. The name “charter” refers to their founding documents that state their mission, pedagogy, goals, students served, and other elements that set them apart from other local public-school options. The full list of NH’s chartered public schools is available on the state Department of Education’s website.
What types of charter schools are in NH?
New Hampshire has over two dozen chartered public schools across the state. All are non-profits and locally grown; there are no charter management organizations in New Hampshire. Our charter schools have a variety of approaches and learning focuses including, but not limited to the following:
- Integrated fine arts programs
- Multi-age and project-based learning
- Disadvantaged and at-risk student populations
- Online “virtual” learning
Do charter schools charge tuition?
No. Like other public schools, chartered public schools do not charge tuition.
Do local tax-dollars support charter school students?
It depends on how the chartered public school is authorized. Most are authorized at the state level, in which case they do not receive local taxpayer funding. There are a few locally authorized chartered public schools, and those receive funding from both the state and district. Local tax money allocated for education goes to the local district schools. All of NH’s chartered public schools receive state funding, approximately $3,700 of state adequacy per student (FY17) plus another $3,400 from the state and any differentiated aid.
Do charter schools have selective enrollment?
Like other public schools, chartered public schools have open enrollment policies that are only limited by availability. Lotteries are held if applications exceed available spots. The exception is for local-authorized charters which may offer preferential enrollment to children in-district. For the 2018-2019 school year, there are 3,932 students enrolled in NH’s chartered public schools, roughly 2.5% of NH’s public-school enrollment.
Are students limited to the charter schools in their communities?
No, families are not restricted to the chartered public schools near their homes. Enrollment is not restricted by zip codes.
Is transportation provided for charter school students?
Generally, no. It is available only for those students who are in the school district in which the charter school is located. Families are responsible for their children’s transportation and schools encourage car-pooling.
Can students with special needs attend charter schools?
Yes, students may apply to any NH chartered public school without discrimination and without compromising access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Charter schools work closely with local district schools to coordinate services for the students.
What accountability mechanisms are in place for chartered public schools?
There are several accountability requirements for all NH charter schools. First, chartered public schools are schools of choice, meaning enrollment is at the choosing of families. It means that if a family is dissatisfied with the school, they may choose to enroll their child somewhere else. This generally makes charter schools – and other “choice schools” – more responsive to the needs of their families. Secondly, there are two authorizers for all proposed charter schools: the state Board of Education and local districts. The state Department of Education is part of the review process as well. The authorizing entity must review the charter every five years for reauthorization to continue operation or denial. All chartered public schools must follow applicable federal and state laws, as well as follow Ed 318 rules that govern charter schools. Charter schools are also required to administer the statewide assessment annually, just like other NH public schools. There are also several reporting requirements, including annual independent financial audits, quarterly financial reports, regular board meeting minutes, annual progress reports, health inspections, and annual certification of insurance coverage.
Education Tax Credit Program
How does a child qualify for the ETC scholarship?
There are two criteria to determine eligibility for the Education Tax Credit scholarship program: 1) the child must be a “switcher,” meaning he/she must be changing enrollment from his or her local public school to an out-of-district public or private school, or to home education, or be an entering Kindergartner or 1st grade student; and 2) the family’s annual income must not exceed 300% of the federal poverty limit, which is $75,300 for a family of four as of 2019.
What is the average scholarship award?
The average award is $2,820 per student. It is a little higher for students with special needs.
How does a family afford private school tuition when the scholarship does not cover the entire amount?
Many scholarship families also qualify for endowment or other financial assistance programs offered through their school of choice. Some families also receive support from other sources included extended family members and their church communities.
How may the scholarships be used?
Families may apply the scholarship toward tuition at an out-of-district public school, a NH-based private school, online school, or approved homeschool expenses. The families select the educational environment that they believe is the best “fit” for their children.
Who pays for these scholarships?
The scholarships are funded by private donations from New Hampshire-based businesses and individuals. They are not state or local taxpayer funds.
Do local tax-dollars pay for the ETC scholarships?
No. The scholarships are entirely funded by private donations.
Does the money raised go to an out-of-state organization?
No. Every dollar raised stays in New Hampshire for NH children. 90% of the funds raised go to the scholarships, with a reserve for students who may need it in the current school year, and 10% covers the administrative costs of the NH program.
What are the accountability mechanisms for the ETC program?
There are several accountability mechanisms. The ETC program is directly supervised by the Department of Revenue, scholarship organizations provide annual public reports (ED-05), and undertake annual independent audits. They must complete satisfaction surveys of all scholarship families.
Are ETC programs constitutional?
Yes. There are 18 ETC programs across the country, including other states with Blaine Amendments that expressly prohibit state funds going to religious institutions. Several have faced constitutional challenges in their state supreme courts, and all but one was upheld. We expect the Supreme Court of the US to consider this issue in the near future to resolve it on a national basis. The key is that families – not the government or scholarship organizations – decide where the funds are directed.
Are there Scholarship Organizations in NH?
Yes, there are two. The largest is the Children’s Scholarship Fund NH and the other is the Giving and Going Alliance. Their applications open in January for the following school year. Contact them directly regarding the application or with any questions.
What is a non-public school?
In New Hampshire, non-public schools are private schools that may or may not be non-profits. They may be religious institutions. NH has several Montessori, Waldorf, special-education focused, and other private schools.
What is the average tuition of New Hampshire private schools?
Per a study done by EdChoice in June 2018, there is a wide range of tuition and fees for NH private schools; the median cost is $7,500 per student. Over 80% of private schools offer some kind of tuition assistance. In comparison, per the NH Department of Education, the average cost per public-school pupil is $15,865.26 for the 2017-2018 school year.
Do local tax-dollars support private school students?
Generally, no. Students enrolled by their families in private schools do not receive local funding. Many schools also offer financial support to families through endowments. The exceptions are districts may place students in private schools through Manifest Educational Hardship (RSA 193:3) or through town-tuitioning agreements (see above).
Do non-public schools have selective enrollment?
Private schools may have particular admission requirements. However, they must comply with federal and state non-discrimination laws, including Titles VI and IX of the Civil Rights Act. To do so would jeopardize their non-profit standing. There are also protections for students with special needs. Per the Americans with Disabilities Act, nonpublic schools must provide “auxiliary aids and services” to children with special needs if they are otherwise qualified for admission or if “minor adjustments” allows the student to participate in the private school’s program. The ADA already is applicable to private schools if they receive public funds. Religious schools are exempt from these ADA laws unless they receive federal dollars. Currently many private schools receive federal funds, particularly Title 1 money.
Are students limited to the non-public schools in their communities?
No, enrollment is not limited to particular geographic locations.
Is transportation provided for non-public school students?
It is determined by each school. Some schools offer transportation for an additional fee or encourage car-pooling.
Can students with special needs attend non-public schools?
It depends as the federal IDEA law and a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) does not apply to private schools; however, they are bound by Section 504 and cannot discriminate for reasons related to the disability. Also, children with special needs must receive “auxiliary aids and services” or “minor adjustments” if the student otherwise qualifies for admission. Whereas public schools provide an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), private schools may offer an Instructional Services Plan or Individual Services Plan, both referred to as ISPs. Also, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) receive limited federal funding to provide services to children in the local area schools where the student will receive “equitable services.”
What accountability mechanisms are in place for non-public schools?
All NH non-public schools must have approval by the Department of Education to operate in our state per RSA 21-N:9. Private schools must not only follow all applicable federal and state laws, they must comply with Ed 400, the NH rules for non-public schools. Non-public schools may also have accreditation from various organizations that have strict standards and requirements, including but not limited to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the Northern New England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Inc (NNEC), and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Private schools approved for program and attendance must be reviewed for approval again by the state Department of Education every five years. If the school is approved for attendance purposes, it is reviewed every three years.
Many private schools also administer standardized tests and track graduation rates, like our public schools. While they are not required to publish their results, many do.
Also, like other choice schools, enrollment at private schools is at the discretion of families. They determine if the school is a good “fit” for their children and satisfies their expectations. If not, they may enroll their children somewhere else. This makes schools of choice responsive to their communities.
What are the qualifications for parents to homeschool their children?
Families do not need to satisfy particular qualifications or approvals to home educate their children.
What are the reporting requirements?
There are three basic requirements: 1) filing a Letter of Intent one time per child within five days of beginning the home education program; 2) maintaining a portfolio of work including a reading log; and 3) conducting some kind of year-end assessment annually. The Letter of Intent and the acknowledgement letter from the Participating Agency must be kept for the duration of the home education program. The portfolio and annual assessment must be kept a minimum of two years. There are more details available at our sister organization, Granite State Home Educators.
Can families home educate children with special needs?
Yes, absolutely. Although families that home educate are declining access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), they may still access testing through the local district thanks to the federal Child Find law. Local districts may offer services, but that is on a district-to-district basis. Check local school board policies for additional information. More information is available on Granite State Home Educators’ website. Many families access services through private resources.
Is it expensive to homeschool?
Home education can be very affordable. It is up to the family to choose which resources they use and some can be quite inexpensive. In addition to books, magazines, videos, and special events, libraries usually have access to discounted museum tickets. Members of Granite State Home Educators’ Facebook group share resources regularly, including free programs and online sources. Homeschoolers may also access discounts for a variety of goods and services. GSHE also manages another Facebook group to help families buy and sell used materials. Also, other local support groups, including a Seacoast group, host used curriculum sales annually. Families may also qualify for the Education Tax Credit scholarship; see the information provided above.
What if the original homeschool materials are not working well for my child?
Homeschoolers are not locked into one particular curriculum or approach and are not required to use the same standards or materials their local district schools use. In fact, that is one of the best parts about home educating! Families may change the learning approach and materials as needed throughout the child’s home education program. It truly allows for a custom-fit education.
Must a home-educated child stay at the grade level they would be assigned to in the local schools?
No. Homeschooling allows for a fully customized learning approach. If a child is accelerated in an area, the family may allow the child to work at that level. Likewise, if the child needs additional support or time to solidify knowledge or skills in another subject, the family may do so. The child does not need to work at the same grade level for all subjects.
Do parents need to do all the teaching themselves?
No. Families may provide direct-instruction if they wish, but they are not limited to it. Families often utilize a wide range of learning opportunities, including co-ops, field trips, enrichment programs, online classes, and other educational sources.
How do I know my child is learning?
There are a variety of ways, both formal and informal, to determine if your child is doing well in your home education program. Just as any parent can see if their child is struggling or engaged, homeschoolers can see every day how their children are doing with their course of study. Some curricula have periodic quizzes or tests to incrementally determine how the student is doing with the material. Many families utilize outside resources, including co-ops and online programs, that provide regular feedback on the student’s progress. Finally, homeschooling families are required to complete some kind of year-end assessment annually. This can be an opportunity to see the child’s strengths and weaknesses that can indicate areas for adjustment in the year ahead.
Can students access classes and programs at their local public schools?
Yes. Homeschooled students can access classes at their local district schools through a law referred to as Equal Access. Local school boards may have their own policies, but generally allow access to one or two curricular programs per term, as well as participation in extra curriculars such as band, athletics, fine arts, field trips, and more.
How much time does it take each day to homeschool?
It depends on your family’s approach to learning. Some families are very structured while others do not follow a strict routine or daily schedule. Many utilize a mix of resources where a portion of their week includes co-ops or outside classes and other portions of their week are unstructured. The purpose is to have meaningful learning opportunities. Every family finds what works well for them, but many report that it requires significantly less time than the typical eight-hour school day.
Do homeschoolers need to follow the same schedule or calendar as their local public schools?
No. Homeschoolers do not have to follow the same daily schedule or have 180 school days or match the local school calendar. Families are able to learn when it suits their needs – any day of the week or time of day.
Do homeschoolers receive state-issued diplomas?
No. Homeschool families may self-certify the completion of a 12th-grade equivalent education. It is recognized by universities, the military, and federal student aid.
Local Homeschool Learning Groups and Co-Ops
BigFish Learning Community
Classical Conversations – multiple locations
The Classical Co-Op – Westford, MA
First Agape – Auburn NH
Gear Up Homeschoolers – Warner, NH
Hillsborough County Co-op
The Journey Teen Homeschool Group — Townsend, MA
Krytal Ballroom Teen Group – Hampton Falls, NH
Latitude Learning Resources – Manchester, NH
Lighthouse Homeschool Co-op – Loudon, NH
Monadnock Homeschool Co-op
New Horizons Homeschooling – Windham, NH
NH Coastal Co-Op – Exeter, NH
Pembroke Homeschool Writing Club
Rockingham County Co-Op
Voyagers – N. Chelmsford MA
WeAre Home Educators – Weare, NH
Homeschool Facebook Groups – statewide unless noted otherwise
Central NH Homeschoolers
Chocorua Area Homeschoolers
Concord Area Homeschoolers
Concord Elementary Homeschool Group
Concord NH Secular Homeschoolers
Fremont Area Homeschoolers
Greater Derry Homeschoolers
Greater Nashua Homeschoolers
Hampstead Homeschool Gym
Hillsborough, NH Homeschoolers
Homeschooling Families of Seacoast
Homeschooling in Chester NH
Lakes Region Homeschoolers
Manchester NH Homeschoolers
Monadnock Area Homeschooling Families
Monadnock Homeschool Theater Group
North Country Adventures in Homeschooling (north of Lancaster)
New Hampshire Homeschooling Rotating Recess
New Hampshire Homeschool Teen Meet-up
North Country Homeschoolers
Plymouth Area Homeschooling!!!
Relaxed Homeschoolers of New Hampshire
Seacoast Christian Home Educators (SCHEA NH/ME)
Sullivan County Area Homeschoolers, Sullivan County NH
White Mountain Home Educators
Catholics United for Home Education (CUHE-NH)
Catholics United for Home Education was incorporated in the State of New Hampshire in September 1989. It serves as a network for Catholic homeschoolers, providing support through an email list while connects groups throughout the state. It was established “to provide encouragement and support for [NH] Catholic parents who desire to educate their children at home…to protect the rights of parents to home educate their children and to provide information on Home Education.” They also have a Facebook group.
Classical Conversations is committed to helping you be a great educator all the way through high school! Our programs cover K-4-12th grade. The Foundations program will bring community, structure, and accountability to your homeschool. Science experiments, art, and music are just a few of the subjects we study together. Gain confidence as you and your 4th-6th grade students enjoy learning language structure, writing, and mental math games to sharpen their calculation speed and accuracy in our Essentials program. Develop your middle school and high school student’s ability to reason and defend their beliefs through facilitated discussions with their peers in the Challenge program. Being part of a community gives you access into a host of benefits including equipping sessions, testing, transcripts, college application help and more! They have multiple communities across New Hampshire with local coordinators who may be contacted for more information. They also have a Facebook page for New England. For more information, contact Area Representative Maria Chamberlain at email@example.com.
Granite State Home Educators (GSHE)
GSHE is an all-volunteer statewide grassroots organization that believes in empowered families, families’ rights to direct their children’s education, and in the power of community. Membership is free and open to all including prospective, current, and retired home educators. Members receive monthly newsletters that include announcements for classes and events, relevant legislative updates, and information to support their home education journeys. We have an exceptionally active and engaged community with over 1,700 members on our Facebook group where families share educational and fun events, ask questions, and come together as a community. We host special events throughout the year including a Not-Back-To-School Picnic and spring art show. We also host a marketplace on Facebook for families to buy, sell, and trade used homeschool materials. This is School Choice for NH’s sister organization.
Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC)
HEAC is an advisory board, created by NH statute, comprised of some homeschool organizations, state agencies, and education associations. Their purpose is to provide a bridge for better communication and understanding of homeschooling. They meet every other month through the school year in Concord. The public is welcome to attend.
New Hampshire Homeschool Coalition (NHHC)
Since 1989, the statewide New Hampshire Homeschooling Coalition has functioned as an important source of information for homeschoolers, with representatives from each area of the state. They support all reasons for homeschooling and are not tied to any particular method, religion or philosophy. The NHHC publishes a monthly newsletter, The New Hampshire Home Education Guidebook, and has an active website, a Facebook page, plus a Facebook group to join for conversation.
Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)
HSLDA was founded in 1983 by two attorneys and homeschooling dads, Mike Farris and Mike Smith. Through the years, HSLDA’s primary goal has remained the same—to bring together a large number of homeschooling families so that each can have a low-cost method of obtaining quality legal defense. Today, HSLDA gives tens of thousands of families the freedom to homeschool without having to face legal threats alone. They charge a membership fee for services.
National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD)
NHELD is a national organization that seeks to protect and defend the rights of families who wish to educate in freedom. They have three goals: empowerment of individuals, unity of purpose, and freedom to educate. They provide various services to members including informing them of federal legislation that may impact their ability to educate in freedom and empowering them with the resources to make informed decisions about the issues. They charge an annual membership fee.
If you know of another group that would like to be included on this list, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.