2019 Highlights Part 1
Education is not one-size-fits-all and children have one chance at a K-12 education that fits their needs. That is why we are committed to empowering families with educational opportunities. Sometimes that means we create and share resources to equip parents; sometimes we monitor and report on legislation that may expand or restrict educational options. Every year we build more grassroots support across the state on educational issues that impact NH children. Caring families, community leaders, and engaged citizens are making the difference for our children and their futures.
At the beginning of each new school year, we reflect on the past twelve months and share our highlights. This article features our broader school-choice community activity and Part 2 will cover recent legislative issues. In September we will publish our annual Report Card on legislators’ roll-call votes; our 2018, 2017, and 2016 Report Cards are at these links.
It’s been a great year for us in many ways. In summer 2018 we filed as a 501c4 non-profit and received approval in early 2019. This is beneficial to our efforts as we now can officially receive donations to support our work and it gives us access to facilities to host more events for families. As a small all-volunteer non-profit, every bit raised goes right back into our work to empower families.
Our first major fundraiser featured author and national school-choice expert, Kerry McDonald. She is an outspoken blogger for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and Intellectual Takeout, and policy advisor to the Heartland Institute. She generously launched her new book, “Unschooling: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom” with us in Manchester on May 14th. Kerry spoke to a full house about the origins of unschooling, how to embrace child-directed learning, and inspired us about pursuing less-conventional educational paths. It was a huge success and we hope Kerry will come back and visit again!
Over the past few months we committed significant resources to upgrade and update the resources available on our website. By far, the biggest achievement is the new FAQ and interactive map that displays all the chartered public and nonpublic schools as well as homeschool co-ops and resource organizations across the state! Like similar maps, it is easy to navigate, scroll across the state, and zoom to find providers in any community. Educational providers are assigned color-coded tags for easy identification and each is labeled to identify what grade or age levels are served by the organization. Readers may also click on tags to go to the education provider’s website or Facebook page. Along with a greatly expanded FAQ on the various educational options available in New Hampshire, this is a powerful resource for families to find and learn about opportunities.
In September 2017 we began holding Intro to Homeschooling seminars and continued with many more across the state; we hosted 14 so far with two more later this month in Northfield and Manchester. They are extraordinary outreach events to support families considering or new to home education and to connect them into the NH homeschool community. We want to host more, so please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to help arrange for one in your community.
Last October we also held our first advocate training workshop. It was a hands-on seminar to help parents learn how to tell their stories and become powerful voices for their children and educational opportunities. We hope to hold another this fall – watch for announcements soon!
In November 2016 we launched our sister organization, Granite State Home Educators (GSHE), with a few friends. Since then our Facebook group has grown to over 1,700 members and almost 900 followers on our Facebook page. GSHE is a dynamic resource for New Hampshire’s homeschool community. In spring 2018 we launched Granite State Home Educators Marketplace, a Facebook group to help connect buyers and sellers of homeschool resources and materials, and it now has over 700 members. GSHE also continues to host two successful annual events: a Not-Back-To-School Picnic in September that had over 200 people in attendance and a homeschool art show in April. We are planning more events for the 2019-2020 school year to help bring families together.
We have been actively following the Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) the last few years, and now our sister organization, Granite State Home Educators, has one of our team leaders serving as Chairman, Kitty Michelotti. During her brief time in office, Kitty is already making significant progress to improve HEAC’s communication, transparency, and outreach to families and partner organizations. As directed by Commissioner Frank Edelblut, she is also spearheading their effort to rewrite Ed 315 rules that govern home education. Read more about HEAC’s recent work here, here, and here. HEAC will resume their bi-monthly meetings on September 26th at 3:30pm at the Department of Education offices in Concord. They have several important items on the agenda for the coming school year, including addressing long-standing difficulties with Equal Access. We are collecting information about families’ experiences; please consider taking this brief survey to help us understand what works and doesn’t work with Equal Access across the state.
The Children’s Scholarship Fund NH continues to grow and empower more families every year. They are poised to have another record-breaking year, raising over $1 million dollars to put educational opportunities within reach for low-income students across the state. They make a tremendous difference in the lives of their scholars.
There are also more school-choice opportunities in our public-school system. The state Board of Education approved two additional chartered public schools this year, bringing the total to 30; Spark Academy of Advanced Technologies in Manchester opens this month and Heartwood Public Charter School is scheduled to open for the 2020-2021 school year.
Finally, the innovative Learn Everywhere program for public high-schools, created by 2018 legislation, is now going through the state Department of Education and state Board of Education for rules and approvals. It is a slow process, but gaining momentum as public schools seek to offer more educational opportunities beyond traditional classrooms and school hours. Read more about it here, here, here, and here. Note that Learn Everywhere faces a repeal effort in Senate Bill 140. Governor Sununu vetoed the bill, but the legislature’s veto override days are September 18 and 19. This is when the House and Senate has the chance to overturn the Governor’s vetoes from this session. More details will be in Part 2 of the 2019 Highlights that will be published in the coming weeks.
New Hampshire is a vibrant community of educational options! While we are thrilled to see all these opportunities and resources, our work is not done. Many families are not aware of all the choices available to them. NH has a culture of freedom and innovation; education opportunities are part of our proud tradition. Unfortunately, many families are still trapped in zip-code assigned schools that do not fit their children’s needs. School Choice for NH is committed to doing more to reach out to families, community leaders, and other caring residents to empower them with information and resources and to facilitate putting educational opportunities within reach. We have more to accomplish in the coming year and we look forward to working with you to make it happen.
There are ways you can make a difference for educational opportunities! If you have one minute, one hour, or one day, we have suggestions for you to get involved and impact the lives of New Hampshire children.
If you want our updates sent directly to your email, please subscribe to our website and you won’t miss any of the latest news and information. Also, our Facebook page now reaches a few thousand people every week. We have more big plans to further engage families and school choice supporters – stay tuned for more great things ahead!