Fighting for Educational Freedom in the Granite State 

David Hodges
David Hodges  ·  February 1, 2023

When it comes to schooling, Amy Shaw is practical. So when her older daughter began manifesting signs of neurodiverse behavior, Amy removed her from private school and enrolled her at the neighborhood public school. 

But when that school also didn’t work out, Amy looked for other options. The best one was a nearby private school with good academics and the flexibility to accommodate her daughter’s needs. There was only one hitch: Tuition was out of reach for Amy and her husband. 

Enter New Hampshire’s Education Freedom Account Program. The program, which passed with IJ’s support, provides education savings accounts (ESAs) to parents with a household income that is at or below 300% of the federal poverty line. Parents can then use the ESAs to pay for expenses like tuition, tutoring, and books. 

For Amy and thousands like her, the program was a lifesaver. It enabled both her daughters to attend a school that fit their needs. Now both girls get individualized attention and the accommodations that they need to thrive. 

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks that families should have these educational options. In December, the president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit challenging the program. The claim? Because the program is funded from an education budget that also contains certain designated funds, the program might take funds from restricted sources. Leaving aside the fact that the program amounts to less than 1% of New Hampshire’s education budget, the New Hampshire Constitution permits the legislature to create educational options in addition to the traditional public school system. 

IJ jumped into action. Less than a week after the lawsuit was filed, we moved to intervene to defend the program and represent the Shaws and two other families. In IJ’s two previous educational choice cases in New Hampshire, IJ successfully defended the state’s Tax Credit Program and led the charge to remove the sectarian exclusion from New Hampshire’s “town tuitioning” program. With this latest lawsuit, IJ hopes to secure educational freedom once more in the “live free or die” state.

David Hodges is an IJ educational choice attorney. 

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