New Hampshire School Choice Program Opens to Religious Schools
A new law allows cash-strapped districts to send students to private religious schools.
The Granite State just got a bit more free for religious parents. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law last week that will expand a state school choice program to include religious schools.
New Hampshire—like Vermont and Maine—allows school districts without the funds to run their own schools to pay for students to attend other public or private schools in the area. But until last week, school districts could not pay for students to attend "sectarian" religious schools.
This new measure amends the state's tuitioning program by striking out the requirement that participating schools be nonsectarian.
"If there is no public school for the child's grade in the resident district, the school board may contract with another public school in another school district or with any private school that has been approved as a school tuition program by the school board," the law will now state. "The district may either assign all children to schools that have been approved as a school tuition program, or allow each child's parent to choose a school from among schools that have been approved as a school tuition program."
The legislative action follows the 2020 Supreme Court Case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Chief Justice John Roberts opined for the majority in that case that "a State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious."
By passing the new measure to include religious schools in its tuitioning program, New Hampshire is bringing the state in line with the Supreme Court's opinion.
Tuitioning programs like New Hampshire's have a long history in New England. Vermont's program traces its origins back to an 1869 legislative act and now serves around 3,500 students. By contrast, New Hampshire's program—restarted in its current form in 2017— only served 17 students in 2019.
Nonetheless, programs like these help pave the way for more options in education. In opening its program up to religious schools, New Hampshire is taking a stand for parental choice.