The New Hampshire Superior Court ruled the state’s school choice program is constitutional on Wednesday, dismissing a legal challenge brought by the head of the state teachers’ union.
The Legislature approved the creation of a school choice program, in the form of Education Freedom Accounts, in 2021, funded through the state’s Education Trust Fund. Families can use the EFAs to pay for private school tuition, online learning programs, private tutoring, textbooks, computer hardware and software, college tuition and other qualified expenses.
Deborah Howes, president of the New Hampshire American Federation of Teachers, filed suit last year challenging the program as a private citizen. The suit argues it is unconstitutional to use money from the Education Trust Fund and the state’s Lottery Commission to pay for private education.
However, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Amy L. Ignatius disagreed with Howes’ challenges and threw out her lawsuit.
In her ruling, she said the amount of lottery funds allocated to the EFAs is insignificant, therefore deeming the program constitutional. Lottery money accounts for approximately 10% of the total funding.
“Due to the proportion that lottery money takes up of the Education Trust Fund and the respectively minor allocation to the EFA program, the Court’s required constitutional presumption is reasonable,” she wrote.
Ignatius also invalidated Howes’ claim that such allocation is illegal, thanks to an updated statute from the state Legislature.
Additionally, she found in favor of the state’s Department of Education, saying it had not neglected its duty to provide public education by funding the program. She reasoned the state isn’t responsible for students who aren’t enrolled in public schools, and the program doesn’t preclude any student from attending such schools.
“The Court finds that the State did not delegate its duty to provide an adequate education because it has no duty to students not enrolled in public school and RSA 194-F does not prevent students from attending public schools.”
Howes lamented the decision in a statement and criticized the Legislature for its support of the program.
By contrast, education freedom advocate Corey DeAngelis characterized the ruling as a major victory for parents and school choice.
“Power-hungry teachers unions were just dealt a major L in New Hampshire,” he told Fox News Digital. “Education freedom is here to stay, and there’s nothing Randi Weingarten and her union stooges can do about it.
“Teachers unions should hang their heads in shame after this attempt to trap kids in their failing government schools. Parents deserve the right to direct the upbringing of their own children, and school choice gives them real power. Kids don’t belong to the government. With this win in New Hampshire, parents will continue to be in charge.”