There are two important hearings on Education Freedom Account bills scheduled for the week of February 8, 2021. At the bottom, we have information about how to register for the hearings and email the House Education Committee.
According to EdChoice, an Education Savings Account, or in NH’s case, an Education Freedom Account, is a mechanism that allows public funds to be deposited into accounts with restricted, but multiple uses for approved educational purposes. Six states currently have some kind of ESA and they vary by funding sources and amounts, approved uses, and eligible students. The ESA in Nevada is not operational due to conflicts over the funding mechanism.
New Hampshire has two types of Educational Freedom Account bills: a universal version that uses state funds is filed in the House as HB 20 with a matching bill expected in the Senate, and a local EFA is filed in the House as HB 607.
Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at 1:30pm with House Education Committee
The local EFA bill is HB 607 establishing local education savings accounts for students and is open to children aged 5 to 20 years old including homeschoolers. A warrant article vote in each town determines if a community and its resident families may participate in this program. Funds may be used for a variety of educational purposes including but not limited to tuition at private schools, textbooks and curriculum, tutors, transportation, educational services, computer hardware, and college placement tests. The funding is 85% of the local district's previous year's regular education budget plus 90% of the state adequacy funding. It does not include federal grants or state funding and would be recalculated annually. This bill does not currently include any academic or other reporting requirements for participants.
Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 9:00am with House Education Committee
The House Education Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 20, the universal Education Freedom Accounts bill, on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, but there were so many people registered to testify that the hearing was recessed and will resume on Thursday, February 11th starting at 9am. We live blogged it on Facebook here and the public hearing is available in this House Education Committee video. The continuation of HB 20’s public hearing will be live streamed on the NH House YouTube channel and we will live blog it again on our Facebook page.
As introduced, HB 20 poses a risk to homeschoolers. It fails to create a new, fourth way to satisfy the education attendance requirements and confuses parent-directed EFA uses with homeschooling. This will make homeschoolers a target for more regulation. Also, HB 20 only allows families to exit the EFA program to go to their local public schools, not private schools or homeschooling. We are working with EFA supporters in the legislature to find resolution to these issues.
This is GSHE’s testimony submitted to the House Education Committee for the public hearing.
We also produced the following brief video as a way to explain and clarify the problematic aspects of the EFA bill as it impacts homeschoolers, along with a solution to address these concerns.
The House Education Committee may hold an executive session on these bills to discuss and vote on them at any time once the hearings are closed. If you intend to submit a position or provide oral or written testimony on either bill, time is critical.
All public hearings are hybrid for legislators and remote for the public. The NH House and Senate have a new process to register your opinion and to testify on bills. You can find the instructions in our How to Testify in 2021 post. If you wish to submit written remarks, specify that you want it included in the bill’s permanent record. The committee’s group email is HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.
GSHE does not have a position on HB 607 or HB 20 because we believe families should make a decision for themselves whether or not they support, oppose, or are neutral on the bills. We provide this additional background and analysis so families can make a fully-informed decision whether these programs may be a good fit for them or not. We will continue to monitor the progress of the EFA bills as they move through the legislature.
Granite State Home Educators has a Facebook group, GSHE Action, specifically to discuss issues, legislation, and news related to homeschool freedom. It is intended to be a group for GSHE members who share our beliefs in empowered families, parents’ rights to direct their children’s education, and the power of community.
By Michelle Levell
Granite State Home Educators is a 501c4 all-volunteer NH-based support group for the homeschool community.