Educational choice makes small but important gains in 2023


Legislators have approved two relatively small but significant improvements to New Hampshire’s existing school choice options. 

The 2024–25 state budget increases per-pupil funding for public charter schools, and a separate bill expands eligibility for the Education Freedom Account (EFA) program. Both changes will offer Granite State students more educational options starting this fall.

Charter schools

Because charter schools don’t receive direct subsidies from local property taxpayers, as district public schools do, they receive an additional state grant per pupil on top of the per-pupil adequate education grant. 

The new state budget increases the base adequacy grant for charter school students from $3,561 to $4,100 and the supplemental charter school grant from $3,411 to $4,900, bringing the total per-pupil amount to $9,000—a 29% increase from the 2022–23 budget. The result is about $121.5 million in charter school funding.

New Hampshire charter schools are public schools operated by a nonprofit organization under a state-approved charter. A new national study shows that they can be extremely effective.

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes released a landmark study this month finding that “the typical charter school student in our national sample had reading and math gains that outpaced their peers in the traditional public schools (TPS) they otherwise would have attended.” Black, Hispanic, low-income, and English-language-learner students attending charter schools also posted larger academic gains than did their counterparts who attended traditional public schools.

Charter schools have become a popular option for New Hampshire families seeking an alternative to traditional public schools. Enrollment in charter schools for the 22–23 school year was a record 5,530 in New Hampshire, a 12% increase from 21–22 enrollment and a nearly 164% increase from 13–14 enrollment. 

Charter schools typically supplement their state education grants through private fundraising. The increased state aid will reduce the reliance on outside donations and put the state’s dozens of charter schools on somewhat better financial footing.

Education Freedom Accounts

House Bill 367 expands eligibility for an Education Freedom Account (EFA) from households making no more than 300% of the federal poverty level to households with income at or below 350% of the federal poverty level. That’s a 16.7% increase in income eligibility. 

This expansion increases the EFA eligibility level for a two-person household by $9,860, for a three-person household by $12,430, and for a four-person household by $15,000, providing many additional families with the ability to pursue alternative educational options best-suited to their children’s needs.

For context, a family of four making no more than $105,000 will be eligible to apply for an EFA under the new cap. 

EFAs are government-approved savings accounts that can be used by families to access a wide range of educational opportunities outside of their government-assigned public school district. The funds can be used for tuition at private and public schools, or for other state-approved education expenses, including supplies and tutoring services. 

The student’s per-pupil adequacy dollars ($4,857 on average as of 2022) are put into an Education Freedom Account from which families can draw for approved expenses.

Like charter schools, EFAs have also become increasingly popular since their adoption in the state, with current enrollment around 3,300. About half of those enrolled are students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Among those benefiting from expanded eligibility are single parents. Under the original income cap at 300% of the federal poverty level, a single parent making $60,000 a year would not have been eligible for an EFA. Now a single parent making less than $69,020 is eligible under the new income cap.

Expanded EFA eligibility and increased charter school funding offer a smaller advance of market forces into the provision of public educational services than supporters had hoped for this year. But the small gains will make a big difference to those families who now have access to an alternative education for their children.