FOR MORE than two centuries, New Hampshire has stood out among the states as the embodiment of liberty and individual freedom. But when it comes to education, New Hampshire has been losing ground, in part due to its slow embrace of reforms, especially educational choice.
New Hampshire remains above the national average on the National Assessment Educational Progress – known as the Nation’s Report Card – but student achievement in the Granite State has stalled and is slipping.
While New Hampshire ranked third among the states in 2013 in grade four math assessments, the state is now ninth, based on the latest results on the 2017 report card. Additionally, 2017 grade four reading scores saw a dip of three percentage points from 2015.
This is a clear warning sign, and why it is critical to have bold leadership that embraces the power of innovative education policy.
Thankfully, Gov. Chris Sununu’s re-election last week solidified New Hampshire’s education comeback. During his first term in office, Sununu has moved quickly to ensure that families have the freedom to seek the best educational options for their children and has boldly embraced innovation and opportunity to boost student achievement.
Last year, Gov. Sununu signed a law guaranteeing full-day kindergarten for all students. This is a wise investment that will help students of all economic backgrounds take that critical first step toward success in school and in life.
Earlier this year, Sununu signed legislation that made computer science and digital literacy one of the core subjects in New Hampshire schools. This will not only help families and students, it will also help the state’s businesses who need qualified employees prepared to succeed in the modern workforce.
But to be truly free, families deserve the power to choose the best educational fit for their child’s unique abilities. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to education. Unfortunately, the power to choose other school options has belonged almost exclusively with those who have the means to pay for private schools or move to an area with a different assigned school.
For hundreds of low-income New Hampshire families, Education Tax Credit scholarships have been a life-changer. Through this program, businesses earn tax credits by donating to non-profit groups which provide families with the funds to choose another school that fits their needs.
But thousands of children are on the waiting list. And we can’t afford to wait. That’s why Gov. Sununu and many other lawmakers are pushing for a revolutionary solution: Education Freedom Savings Accounts, which will make families the ultimate decision-makers. Instead of funding government which in turn tells families what school they should attend and what classes they should take, the Freedom Account funds families directly.
For most students, their current K-12 school does a great job. But if that isn’t the case, the Freedom Account lets students find a better fit in another public or private school. The funds can also be used for online classes or tutoring. And for parents of students with disabilities, the funds can be used for approved therapies.
Unfortunately, naysayers, chiefly the teachers unions and their allies, have purposefully misled people into thinking this is an attack on public schools. That is far from the truth. In fact, when families have more options, research in other states has shown that public schools improve and students learn more. Gov. Sununu’s re-election sent the powerful message that New Hampshire voters are ready to embrace this innovative concept.
Gov. Sununu has been a valiant warrior for Granite State students, and they are fortunate he will have another term to fight for their best interests. Creating Education Freedom Savings Accounts in 2019 will help the families, students and businesses of New Hampshire remain proudly independent and strong.