The Merrimack County Superior Court this week dismissed a lawsuit brought by Deb Howes, president of the American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire (AFT-NH), challenging the constitutionality of New Hampshire’s Education Freedom Account (EFA) program, the state’s largest school choice program. 

Howes challenged the EFA program on three grounds: (1) The EFA program violates Part II, Article 6-b of the N.H. Constitution by allocating lottery money to EFAs, (2) the use of Education Trust Fund dollars for EFAs violates RSA 198:39 regarding distribution of funds from the Education Trust Fund, and (3) the EFA program represents an unlawful delegation of governmental duty to a private entity (Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire). 

Presiding Justice Amy L. Ignatius granted the New Hampshire Department of Education’s motion to dismiss on all three grounds. 

On the claim that lottery money is spent on EFAs, Justice Ignatius concluded that Howes had not and could not demonstrate a violation.

Part II, Article 6-b of the New Hampshire Constitution reserves lottery revenue “exclusively for the school districts of the state.” Lottery revenues are deposited into the Education Trust Fund. But so are revenues from eight other sources. In the 2022 fiscal year, lottery revenues comprised only $125 million of the $1.145 billion in the Education Trust Fund. Howes was unable to show that any lottery revenues were included in the $9 million transferred to the EFA program. Lottery money comprised only 0.01% of the Education Trust Fund, and EFA spending could easily have come from the other 99.99% of the fund.

On the claim that the Legislature violated RSA 198:39, governing distributions from the Education Trust Fund, Ignatius ruled the claim moot since legislators had added a provision expressly allowing distributions to scholarship organizations that manage the EFA program. 

On the claim that the EFA program constitutes an unlawful delegation of legislative authority to provide an adequate education, the court was unpersuaded. Howes had claimed that the EFA program was created to remove children from the public school system for the purpose of eliminating the state’s obligation to provide children an adequate education, and that it prohibited students from obtaining an adequate education. Ignatius dismissed the claims, countering that neither was logical. Parents who choose an EFA lose nothing, Ignatius pointed out. If parents choose an EFA, the state is not obligated to provide their children with a public school education while they participate in the EFA program, she noted. But that is the family’s choice. If they choose later to enroll their children in a public school, their participation in the EFA program does not block this option. Therefore, participation in the EFA program in no way prohibits families from accessing a public school education.  

In response to the court’s dismissal of her claims, Howes said, in part:

The Legislature should be focusing far more time and resources on the needs of the 160,000 Granite State public school students who deserve a robust curriculum and fully staffed schools, not on the 4,000 students whose families choose to take state-funded vouchers. Vouchers have exacerbated an already disparate burden placed on local property taxpayers to fund the basic right to a quality public education. Every Granite State public school should be a safe and welcoming place where students have the academic challenge and support they need to thrive.

This statement flies in the face of reality on several fronts. 

First, the Legislature does focus “far more time and resources” on the 160,000 students enrolled in district public schools versus the roughly 4,000 students with EFAs. In the 2021–22 academic year, total spending (state, local, and federal) on New Hampshire public schools exceeded $3.5 billion. Total expenditures per pupil exceeded $23,000. 

The EFA program is tiny in comparison. The court pointed out that, from the $1.145 billion Education Trust Fund, a mere $9 million was transferred to the EFA program in the 2022 fiscal year. The state’s estimated cost in the 2024 fiscal year is just $22 million, a tiny fraction of the more than $3.5 billion spent on public schools. EFA expenditures per pupil average just $5,255 versus more than $23,000 for public schools.

Average district public school spending in New Hampshire is 14.4% above the national average, while teacher pay is 5.3% below the national average. Moreover, district public school enrollment fell by 14% from 2001–2019 (a loss of 29,946 students), while inflation-adjusted spending at district public schools ballooned by 40% ($937 million). 

Far from being strapped for cash and staff, New Hampshire’s district public schools have never experienced higher funding despite continued drops in enrollment. Between the 2019–20 and 2023–24 school years, New Hampshire’s public schools experienced a 6.3% decline in enrollment (a loss of more than 11,000 students). New Hampshire experienced the nation’s largest percentage increase in district public school staffing relative to student enrollment from 1994–2022. 

Additionally, as more families choose to access educational alternatives outside of their assigned district public schools, per-pupil funding for those who remain in the public schools only increases since local funding (which accounts for 60% of public education funding in New Hampshire) remains untouched by the EFA program. 

From 2001–2019, inflation-adjusted public education spending per student increased by 66.8% in New Hampshire. By 2019, per-pupil public education spending in the state was 25.7% above the national average. 

The state’s Education Trust Fund ended the 2023 fiscal year with a $148 million surplus. The long-term decline in the state’s school-age population has left the fund with such a big surplus that legislators have considered changing the funding formula so that such a large pool of money does not sit unused. 

So, it’s untrue that the EFA program is draining money from district public schools. The state has a huge surplus of funds available for spending on public education even after increasing public school spending by nearly $1 billion, adjusted for inflation, in the first two decades of this century. And legislators in the most recent state budget further increased public education spending by $169 million during the two-year budget cycle and by a projected $1 billion over the next decade. 

Again, it’s untrue that state spending on district public schools is declining at all, much less that it is declining because of EFAs. So, in addition to the legal arguments in this case being unfounded, the financial claims were as well. 


As New Hampshire’s Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs) gain popularity, confusion about how the money is spent continues to cloud public discussion. 

Contrary to some of the rhetoric used to describe the program, EFA funds are not exclusively reserved for covering tuition costs at private schools. A breakdown of authorized EFA spending in the last fiscal year shows that less than two-thirds of the money was spent on nonpublic school tuition, and some even went to pay for courses at district public schools. 

From September 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, the Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire, the state-approved administrator of the EFA program, authorized upwards of $10 million in spending submitted for approval by parents. 

About 63% of those funds (nearly $6.6 million) covered tuition and fees at nonpublic schools. Of the 116 private schools that received EFA funds, 63 (or 54%) could be classified as “religious” schools—schools with a religious component to their operations or curriculum. The other 53 (or 46%) included secular nonpublic schools as well as alternative education providers and unconventional models, such as learning pods, microschools, homeschool co-ops, etc. 

If tuition and fees at private schools accounted for only 63% of EFA spending in the last fiscal year, then where did the other 37% go? 

Parents are allowed to spend EFA money on authorized educational uses, such as textbooks, instructional materials, tutoring, and some limited infrastructure such as computers and Internet services. 

In the last fiscal year, parents spent 17% of EFA funds on textbooks, supplies, and other instructional materials, 8.4% on tuition and fees for summer education and specialized education programs, 5.2% on computer hardware, Internet connectivity, and other technological services, 2.6% on tutoring services, and 1.3% on tuition and fees for private/nonpublic online learning programs. 

Parents spread the remaining 2.5% among educational services and therapies, educational software, fees for standardized assessments and other exams, school uniforms, tuition and fees at career and technical schools, tuition and fees at institutions of higher education, and individual classes, curricular activities, and programs at district public and charter schools. 

In fact, New Hampshire families directed $27,328.88 to 12 district public schools to help pay for individual courses and programs offered at those schools to supplement their children’s education. 

Tuition at nonpublic schools certainly accounts for a sizable portion of EFA funding, but focusing solely on tuition at these schools misses the broad variety of choices parents are making. 

Whether it’s paying for a tutoring service like Mathnasium of Nashua, music therapy services at Manchester Community Music School, tuition at Saplings, A Forest & Nature Preschool, LLC, textbooks and supplies at Amazon and Staples, a class at Souhegan High School, or AP tests through the College Board, the EFA program opens up a host of educational options for families. 

It also misses the important point that some families are choosing to purchase services from district public schools. 

The portion of EFA spending at district public schools is small right now for two likely reasons: (1) Families using the program now are primarily seeking alternatives to the public school system, and (2) district public schools aren’t accustomed to marketing themselves to parents and providing a-la-carte services (in other words, competing for those dollars).

As EFAs grow, district public schools will need to adapt by offering services that attract parents who’ve been empowered to decide where to spend their state adequate education grants. When they do, their share of EFA spending will rise.

The competitive forces created by a growing EFA program can be expected to produce a net benefit for all students, those who use EFAs and those who don’t. Dozens of studies have already shown that the introduction of school choice programs produces positive results for students who remain in traditional public schools. There’s no reason to expect different results in New Hampshire. 

According to the Department of Education, 4,211 New Hampshire students are currently participating in the state’s largest school choice program this academic year. That’s a 39% increase (1,186 students) from last year’s starting enrollment, and a 158% increase (2,576 students) from the EFA program’s first year in 2021.

As EFA enrollment grows, its competitive forces will strengthen, leading to further adjustments among all educational providers in the state and a larger variety of opportunities for New Hampshire students.  


Editor’s note: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, educational entrepreneurship has boomed nationwide. New Hampshire has experienced significant growth in the number of entrepreneurs and innovators willing to take on the daunting challenge of building a new educational ecosystem. This year, we’ll be highlighting some of the people and organizations that have begun expanding the education marketplace in the Granite State, as well as the obstacles they face in creating nontraditional learning environments. 

Our third installment highlights Micah Studios, a low-cost learning center for kids 6–18 years old in Newport, New Hampshire, focusing on low-income families.

Newport, New Hampshire, is a relatively poor, working-class town of 6,299 in Sullivan County. Between 2017 and 2021, the median household income in Newport was $65,435 (in 2021 dollars), while the statewide average was $83,449. Meanwhile, the poverty rate in the town is 19.4%, compared to the state’s poverty rate of 7.2%.

What’s more, the town’s district public schools have been underperforming by all measures. Only 24% and 22% of students in the Newport school district are proficient in English language arts and science, respectively. Worse, just 12% of students in SAU 43 are proficient in mathematics. Compared to the performance of schools/districts throughout the state, these figures put Newport in the bottom 25%.

Given this reality, there’s a dire need for alternative education in this community. Two education entrepreneurs in Newport—Stacey Hammerlind and Jessica Rothbart—are taking steps to fill this educational void and meet the needs of local low-income families.

“There was definitely a gap and a niche that needed to be filled,” Hammerlind said.

As residents of Newport with experience in the public school setting, both Hammerlind and Rothbart are aware of the unique challenges facing many in their community.

“It’s a unique population here,” Hammerlind said. “And again, the stressors—these families have no other options. So, I think that’s what really motivated us.”

A mother of six and a substitute teacher in Newport, Rothbart experimented with typical homeschooling and traditional school settings for her kids, but the remote learning that came with the COVID-19 pandemic was the last straw for her.

“Something’s got to change,” she said. “There’s got to be options. The homeschooling community is big in the area, but it doesn’t fit for what my kids want out of things. So, they want the structure of school kind of, but they want the freedom to do it their way.”

At the same time, while working in the local public schools, Hammerlind noticed that the system wasn’t responding to the many unhappy, dejected, and underperforming students she saw daily.

“Yesterday, I was working with a boy—17,” she recalled. “We were practicing the two-times tables. He did not know his two-times tables. I asked him what words he could spell. He spelled ‘the’ and ‘they,’ but he spelled ‘they’ ‘t-h-a-y.’ At [17] years old. His sister—she’s 10. She didn’t know her shapes.”

Rothbart couldn’t account for how a 17-year-old student could be so far behind.

“How did he get to that point?”

Homeschooling would normally be the next-best option for these students struggling in traditional schools, but Hammerlind and Rothbart said many of the working-class parents they know can’t devote the necessary time to it and need a place for their kids to go during the day.

“We just wanted an alternative for those kids because we see a lot of those kids and there’s nothing,” Hammerlind said.

So, they created Micah Studios as a refuge for these students.

Creating and operating this alternative requires start-up capital and tuition payments. While Hammerlind and Rothbart have been dipping into their own savings to get Micah Studios up and running, they knew tuition would present a problem for the local low-income families they intended to serve. But after learning about Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs)—New Hampshire’s largest school choice program—they knew they could do it.

“It would not have happened without the EFAs because the families we want to reach…can barely pay the rent,” Hammerlind said. “They don’t have money for an alternative school program without the EFAs.”

Micah Studios is funded entirely by EFA payments, meaning the three families enrolled do not pay anything out of pocket. All expenses are covered by the EFA grants.

“This could not happen if they had to pay a dime,” Hammerlind said.

The EFA payments alone are enough for Micah Studios to operate on a full-time basis: Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., nine months of the year. That allows the 12 learners currently enrolled to access a truly low-cost alternative educational setting.

The funding keeps Micah Studios afloat financially, allowing Hammerlind and Rothbart to rent space, purchase supplies, and take their learners on field trips.

With the funding taken care of, the logistics of actually setting up Micah Studios proved much easier for Hammerlind and Rothbart than they imagined.

When asked what regulatory bumps in the road they hit along the way, their answer was somewhat surprising.

“Bizarrely, none,” Hammerlind said. “And I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. We talked to the economic development person in town, and she’s like, ‘Oh no, you’re all set, you don’t need to do anything.’”

And that’s because Micah Studios is strictly a learning center. “We’re not a daycare and we’re not a school, so we don’t meet any of those regulations,” Hammerlind explained.

In other words, they don’t need to jump through any hoops with the town of Newport.

Similarly with the state, Hammerlind and Rothbart haven’t had any issues. “The state hasn’t asked us for anything either, no,” Hammerlind said. “I don’t think the state has any regulations for learning centers.” Rothbart added, “We are an official nonprofit.”

The kids at Micah Studios are all recognized as homeschoolers by the town and state. Under state law, as long as the students are properly observed as home-educated and/or in the EFA program, the learning center where they’re being educated falls outside the regulations required of nonpublic schools. So, it is that simple.

Hammerlind and Rothbart are currently renting space in a local church, as well as accessing the town library when necessary. The two entrepreneurs are not teachers, but guides, and the kids are learners, not students.

Micah Studios’ model is based on several important themes common among educational startups: Mixed-age classes, individualized learning, and student autonomy.

Micah Studios sees obvious benefits to a class of seven-year-olds, 17-year-olds, and every age in between.

“It’s amazing to see the different ages working together,” Hammerlind said. “And that’s the way society runs…that’s the way people are wired. We’re supposed to live in a community, and learn from your elders, and learn through play.”

Although traditional school settings keep kids of the same age group together, that doesn’t mean every student is at the same level academically. At Micah Studios, it’s understood that not every learner is at the same level, and the mixed-age setting allows for each learner to progress at their own pace regardless of age.

Rather than viewing the class as one unit of similarly aged students progressing at the same pace, the small, mixed-age environment allows Micah Studios to “focus on the whole child,” as Rothbart said, in what is an individualized approach to education.

And Hammerlind and Rothbart have tailored individualized educations for their learners.

“Each learner has a binder with their own specific work in it,” Rothbart noted. “So, they all have their own curriculums. Some of them are sharing the same curriculum, but they all are individualized to their learning.”

Rothbart took the time to understand where each of Micah Studios’ 12 learners was academically and tailor each curriculum to each individual learner, focusing on their interests and how they learn best. She’s relied on locally accessible curricula from Barnes & Noble and Borders, as well as online curricula such as Horizon and Beast Academy.

“One of my kids has requested Beast Academy because it’s a graphic-novel version of mathematics,” she said. “She’s like, ‘I can read a graphic novel chapter and then I can do my lesson. Maybe it will work better for me,’ because she’s such a visual learner.”

This individualized education works in tandem with the student autonomy at the heart of Micah Studios. Whether it’s their core learning, the meals they make for lunch, or their year-long projects, the learners direct their education based on their needs or interests.

“I look around and literally half the kids were at the chairs working with clipboards doing their work, and then the others were playing monopoly, and I’m looking and I’m like…‘I don’t have to do anything, this feels weird,’” Rothbart said. “Coming from somebody who subbed in the school district, I’m like on top of them constantly, ‘Do your work, do your work, do your work.’”

At Micah Studios, by contrast, the kids are at the helm of their learning.

Traditional schooling—teacher oversight and direction with a set curriculum—works for some kids, but not all. Hammerlind and Rothbart push back against those who would argue their nontraditional, student-driven approach is dysfunctional and unaccountable.

“People want to learn; kids are driven to learn,” Hammerlind countered. “They want to learn; they’re so excited about it. And these are kids that were not able to be successful in public school, so the structure of the public school pretty much failed them.”

“It’s not all about their academics either,” Rothbart added, “They’re a whole person. So, if they’re not okay in that situation with that structure, structure doesn’t work for everybody.”

“These were kids that probably a lot of them were bullied, or they have really bad anxiety, and they can’t thrive in the traditional setting,” Hammerlind explained. “So, public school may be wonderful for some people…but it’s not for everybody, and kids deserve choices and families deserve choices.”

To the best of their knowledge, Hammerlind and Rothbart are the only ones offering this kind of alternative for low-income families in the region. Before, the Newport school district faced no competition for the town’s low-income population in the education market. Enrolling their kids in the local government schools was the only available option financially for these Newport families. SAU 43 effectively had a monopoly on education in Newport.

Now, with Micah Studios entering the marketplace, these families have the choice to take both their kids and their state per-pupil adequate education grants out of their district public schools without having to leave their town. And Hammerlind and Rothbart are confident they’ve created a replicable model for others to follow.

This competition incentivizes improvement. This fall, the Newport school district has to compete for these families and their state per-pupil tax dollars. And the same principle applies to Micah Studios. If families are dissatisfied, they can go back to their assigned district school.

“This needed to happen,” Hammerlind said. “These kids needed this…. I mean, it’s such an honor that somebody else trusts you with their kids. It is the ultimate honor. ‘I want my kids to come be with you for the day because I know that they will be happy and they will be learning.’ So, yes, I guess we are educational entrepreneurs. Because, as far as we can tell, we’re the only ones focusing on this population in this area.”

Only a few weeks into their new venture, both education entrepreneurs have much to look forward to. “I think my excitement for the year is to learn with them,” Rothbart said.

“I’m excited to see the kids happy and wanting to learn,” Hammerlind added. “These are kids that were not happy, just not happy kids, miserable kids, and to see them laughing…that is the biggest thing I think.”

Micah Studios in Newport can be found online at

Editor’s note: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, educational entrepreneurship has boomed nationwide. New Hampshire has experienced significant growth in the number of entrepreneurs and innovators willing to take on the daunting challenge of building a new educational ecosystem. This year, we’ll be highlighting some of the people and organizations that have begun expanding the education marketplace in the Granite State, as well as the obstacles they face in creating nontraditional learning environments.

Our second installment highlights Acton Academy Bedford, a new microschool for homeschooling families looking for an alternative educational environment that focuses on learner agency and the Hero’s Journey.

Can you imagine quitting your job, leaving your career as a finance manager at BAE Systems behind, to start a small, nontraditional learning center on your property?

Well, that’s exactly what Will Forrester did. He and his wife, Caroline, are the founders of Acton Academy Bedford, the newest Acton Academy microschool in New Hampshire.

“Our daughter Claire started kindergarten this year. Before she started school, I was apprehensive, we both were, about her starting at public school,” Will said. “Both of us went through the motions of school, a K-12 experience, didn’t get much out of it, and we really didn’t want the same for her.”

Caroline knew they needed to make a change after the first parent-teacher conference. “One of the things that her teacher said was, ‘One thing that we’re working on is coloring things the right color, like how a horse can’t be purple.’ I was like, ‘What? That’s something that you’re calling out as part of the curriculum for kindergarteners?’” 

She wondered, “What other purpose is there other than just beating the creativity out of them?”

Searching for alternatives, the Forresters discovered Acton Academy. Advertised as “one-room schoolhouses for the 21st century,” this network consists of start-up microschools across the country focused on “turning learning upside down” through “adaptive game based programs for core skills,” “Socratic discussions to strengthen critical thinking,” “hands on real world projects,” and “life changing apprenticeships.”

The problem for the Forresters was that the closest Acton Academy to their Bedford home was an hour away. So, Will, with a military background, felt another calling to serve a cause greater than himself.

“For me, I was in the military—in the Marine Corps, served overseas—[and] something that I saw firsthand: This is something where I’m serving something greater than myself, and my life has real meaning, I’m contributing, and I started to get that feeling again when I started learning about Acton Academy.” 

Their decision was made: Will and Caroline would start their own Acton Academy right on their property in Bedford. 

In December 2022, the Forresters applied through Acton Academy—a process they noted was “very selective”—and were soon approved. They went through the orientation with Acton co-founder Jeff Sandefer and spent the next six to nine months renovating the empty space above their garage to serve as their studio. 

It made the most sense for Will and Caroline to start their Acton Academy on their residential property to help contain costs. Their property also brought the added benefit of having already been zoned for institutional use and not just residential, avoiding a headache that many other aspiring entrepreneurs must face. 

However, they didn’t avoid all governmental roadblocks.

Acton Academy Bedford is registered with New Hampshire as a homeschool co-op/learning center, and the students enrolled are all recognized as homeschoolers. 

This presented an obstacle for the Massachusetts families in the Forresters’ cohort. To homeschool your child in the Bay State, families must receive advance approval from the child’s school district—a requirement that does not exist in New Hampshire. 

“To pull their kids out of public schools to homeschool, they need to be approved,” Will said. “So, Westford and Burlington, they want all this information on what we’re going to be covering and the hours; it’s very detailed what they’re asking for. We did give them everything. We haven’t heard back yet on if they approved it or not, so maybe there are more hurdles that we have to jump through to get these Massachusetts families on board.”

What’s more, when the Forresters registered as an LLC in New Hampshire, the state kept rejecting their application but wouldn’t tell them why. Only by using their newfound network of Actons did they eventually figure out that the state required very specific language about their operation: Theirs would be a non-degree issuing learning center.

“That would’ve taken me probably a lot of time to figure out, like I was calling the office, no one’s telling me anything,” Will recalled. “And we had to pay every time we applied,” Caroline added.

Being part of the Acton network has benefits, the Forresters found. They have access to guidance and resources from the organization and can learn from, collaborate, and share ideas with education entrepreneurs around the country. Plus, the network gives each individual microschool the freedom to develop in their own way. 

“The cool thing is every location has the freedom to take it in whatever direction they want,” Caroline said. “Ours is going to be very outdoor focused because of our location.”

Besides their 700–800 square-foot indoor space, the Forresters will take advantage of their nearly three-acre property to encourage free play and outdoor learning. 

“We think being outside, free play, is something very important,” Will said. “Moving around, not being chained to a desk all day…. Being just under three acres and having goats and chickens and stuff, it’s a great environment for the young learners.”

And these young learners come from all over the state and region. In addition to Massachusetts, the six students/families at Acton Academy Bedford are as close by as neighboring Merrimack and Nashua and as far away as Rochester.

So, what brings this diverse group of families to a start-up in Bedford? “It’s the mission, and the Hero’s Journey, and trusting the child, the agency for these young learners—that’s what’s important to them,” Will observed. “They’re not getting it anywhere else.”

Moreover, “They all believe that the school system isn’t serving their kids the way it should be, and they want an alternative.”

And with the Acton name comes a reliable, trustworthy brand. To ensure trust among families, Will and Caroline had to pass background checks to be approved by Acton Academy and promise they would enroll their own child in their start-up microschool.

“When you do apply to open an Acton, one of the requirements is you have to be sending your own kids. You can’t open it if your own kids aren’t enrolled,” Caroline noted. “It’s the fact these parents all went through the exact same thing that we went through, and they’re doing it for their own kid, so I think that helps increase trust a lot.”

Talking with Will and Caroline, the word ‘agency’ kept coming up. “[The families] want agency for their young learners,” Will said. In other words, Acton Academy Bedford seeks to put their students in the driver’s seat of their own learning. 

Structuring their microschool around the Montessori and Socratic models helps facilitate this agency. “A big thing about the Montessori is that it’s self-correcting,” Will said. “We don’t want to create this hierarchy system like you see in traditional school where the teacher has all the knowledge.” 

He continued, “We don’t want the kids to think there’s one right answer in the back of the book. Everything is open for debate, discussion. So, the guides are very Socratic in the sense that they don’t answer any questions. That goes for all age groups. So, we want the young learners to be competent [and] feel like they can solve things on their own.”

Not a teacher, Will is Acton Academy Bedford’s full-time guide, setting the contours of the learning environment—namely, don’t hurt each other and always tell the truth—while the kids are free to take charge of their learning. 

“These young learners are coming up with their own rules for the classroom because we find that when they create the rules that they’re more likely to enforce them and hold each other accountable,” he said.

Central to the Forresters’ microschool and others in the Acton network is the focus on what they call the “Hero’s Journey.” Caroline said the emphasis is on using the power of storytelling, particularly the adventure rather than the ending, to encourage young learners to envision themselves in their own story of growth and self-discovery.

“Everything that we do at Acton is framed in putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, or how can they envision themselves as the hero?” she mentioned.

The Hero’s Journey, self-pacing, sparking and maintaining a love of learning, building conflict resolution skills—these are all ways in which the Forresters hope to invest students in their own education.

“We want to create that growth mindset where they’re going to fail, and that’s okay, that’s part of growing, and if you’re not failing, you’re not learning, and you’re not challenging yourself,” Will added.

In traditional public and private schools, first graders to eighth graders typically share classes with peers of the same age. Rarely, if ever, do students find themselves in a classroom with others of different ages.

But, like other microschools, Acton Academy Bedford introduces a mixed-age classroom environment, where the five-year-old students have an opportunity to share a class with and learn from seven to ten-year-olds, and vice versa.

“Because nowhere else in the real world is it like that,” Will noted. “You need to learn how to deal with people [of] different ages. You’re going to probably learn something from them, they’ll probably learn something from you. We have a seven-and-a-half-year-old that’s going to have an opportunity to be a leader in a class. What other institution provides that?”

He saw clear disadvantages with the alternative. “The fact that we split everybody up by age, even though they may have different interests or capabilities—you may have someone in first grade that’s operating at a fourth-grade level when it comes to math but you’re going to put them with a bunch of first graders just because [they’re] the same age? It makes no sense.”

Will and Caroline know there will be challenges to operating their own microschool, as well as frustrations among students adjusting to this new educational model. But as entrepreneurs, the Forresters are prepared and have the necessary flexibility to adjust to the needs of their students and the demands of running a small business. 

In fact, they’ve already begun adapting to the financial needs of their customers. In addition to accepting Education Freedom Account (EFA) funds, the Forresters also offer volunteer and sibling discounts to help make their services more affordable.

Acton Academy Bedford is open for its first year and operates Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., for 11 months. One month off may seem demanding, but the Forresters counter that, “When you love school, you want to be there.”

Hearkening back to his time in the Marines, Will closed with his motivation as a new education entrepreneur. “It’s not for me—I say it’s for my daughter—but it’s for the community, it’s for the greater good, and that’s the same feeling I got in the Marine Corps, so that’s really what gets me so fired up and excited.”

Acton Academy Bedford can be found online at

New Hampshire’s district public schools had the nation’s largest percentage increase in staffing relative to enrollment from 1994–2022, a new study has found. 

The study by economist Ben Scafidi, director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University, found that district K-12 public school staffing in New Hampshire increased by 55% from the 1994 to 2022 fiscal years even as student enrollment fell by 11.2%.

“The staffing surge in New Hampshire public schools was the largest in the nation between 1994 and 2022,” Scafidi said.

New Hampshire’s gap between staffing growth and enrollment—66.2 percentage points—was by far the largest margin among all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Seven states had larger percentage increases in staffing, but they all had large increases in enrollment as well, which produced smaller gaps between enrollment and staffing than New Hampshire’s. 

For comparison, Florida’s increase in public school staffing was only 7.1 percentage points greater than its bump in student enrollment. Massachusetts’ gap was 44.1 points, Maine’s was 44.7, and Vermont’s was 26.6. The national gap was 28.1 points.

Nationwide during those years, district public school enrollment increased by 7.5% and staffing surged by 35.6%—nearly five times above what was necessary to accommodate the rise in student enrollment. That staffing surge was larger than in public higher education and all other state and local government services.

For public higher education nationally, the gap between enrollment growth (25.5%) and staffing growth (35.8%) was just 10.3 percentage points. During this same period, all state and local government staff excluding public education grew by 11.6% as the U.S. population grew by a much larger 32.3%. 

“Many advocates and leaders of public schools routinely claim that public schools are not a priority in America,” Scafidi said. “The data show that to be the opposite of the truth. For decades, K-12 public schools have been the employment priority for state and local governments across the United States.” 

New Hampshire found itself among 22 states (plus the District of Columbia) that experienced declining enrollment during this time. Among those states, 19 saw both declining enrollment and increased staffing. 

In other words, New Hampshire was in the minority of states that hired more personnel to serve fewer students.

In the Granite State, district K-12 public schools were clearly the employment priority of the state and local governments from 1994–2022. Public higher education staffing in New Hampshire grew by 23.3%, though enrollment grew by just 1.1% in those years. That 22.2-point gap is much larger than the national gap of 10.3 points. But it’s roughly a third of New Hampshire’s 66.2-point gap between enrollment and staffing in K-12 public schools. 

All other state and local government staff increased by only 13.1% as the Granite State population grew by 27.2% during those years. 

These figures reinforce the findings in the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy’s school funding study, also written by Scafidi, which we published this spring. In that study, Scafidi found that inflation-adjusted spending on K-12 public education in New Hampshire skyrocketed 40% from 2001–2019. 

With a decades-long surge in public school spending and hiring, why are we seeing reports that some school districts are having difficulty recruiting teachers going into the 2023–24 school year?

Simply put, New Hampshire’s district public schools have tended to devote their increased resources to hiring more staff, which leaves them with less money to spend on teacher pay. As we pointed out in a previous analysis, while average district public school spending in New Hampshire is 14.4% above the national average, teacher salaries fall 5.3% below the national average. 

From 2001–2019, teacher salaries grew by only 12% in New Hampshire. At the same time, current spending on a per-pupil basis (spending that excludes debt service and capital expenditures) surged by 74%, showing that the focus was hiring, not increasing teacher pay, even as enrollment fell.

What’s more, very little of New Hampshire’s staffing surge was dedicated to hiring more teachers. Our study published this spring showed that the number of K-12 public school teachers in the state grew by only 2% from 2001–2019. The number of instructional coordinators (considered district administrators by the U.S. Department of Education) and other district administrators, on the other hand, ballooned by 61% and 57%, respectively. Student support staff and paraprofessionals/aides each increased by 41% and 40%, respectively—again, as enrollment in the state fell.

Scafidi’s new study shows that the district K-12 public school staffing surge occurred nationwide over the last three decades, but it was particularly large in some states and greatest in New Hampshire. New Hampshire policymakers often boast that the state leads numerous national rankings. Unfortunately, this is not a ranking that such a famously frugal state should want to lead.  

Editor’s note: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, educational entrepreneurship has boomed nationwide. New Hampshire has experienced significant growth in the number of entrepreneurs and innovators willing to take on the daunting challenge of building a new educational ecosystem. This year, we’ll be highlighting some of the people and organizations that have begun expanding the education marketplace in the Granite State, as well as the obstacles they face in creating nontraditional learning environments.

Our first installment highlights The Harkness House, a middle school in Nashua for families seeking a nontraditional experience that offers small classrooms and student autonomy. 

With an emphasis on smaller class sizes and putting students in charge of their own learning, The Harkness House in Nashua focuses on providing a top-flight education to middle schoolers. Nathan (Nate) Fellman and his founding educators, Stacey Baker and Jean Demers, built it all themselves.

A former eighth-grade language arts teacher and middle-school assistant principal in the Bedford School District, Fellman’s story as an education entrepreneur began with one main catalyst: COVID-19.

Amid all the negative educational consequences brought by the pandemic, Fellman found one silver lining. “We did see during the pandemic one positive thing, and that was…smaller class sizes,” he said. 

In August 2021, Bedford started split sessions at the middle school, dropping class sizes in half to around 13 students each in response to the pandemic. The results were eye-opening for Fellman. 

“When we had those small classes and everything was turned on its head and you really got to know kids…and you really got to understand what they were interested in, you saw kids come alive who would’ve flown under the radar, and really participate.” 

Fellman knew he couldn’t go back to teaching “the same old way.” So he left public education, determined to create an alternative learning environment for families seeking something different.  

Brainstorming what would eventually become The Harkness House, Fellman knew one thing for certain: “The biggest thing for me was a commitment to small class sizes.” 

This commitment to small classes drew homeschool parents like Carrie Hyde to The Harkness House. 

“For our three children, I think they really want to connect with other students their age, and that’s our biggest draw towards [The Harkness House], too, is that they’re only sixth through ninth grade,” Hyde said. “It gives our kids an opportunity to make connections with other students their age.”

Fellman also had a model in mind. The name “Harkness” comes from Philip Exeter Academy’s Harkness model: “Twelve students and one teacher sit around an oval table and discuss the subject at hand.”

This model of instruction—kids engaging in dialogue with each other and the teacher, rather than being lectured—was key to Fellman’s idea.

“This is how adults solve problems,” Fellman said. “They come to a room, they sit around a table, they look each other in the eyes, and they collaborate in this way.”

To make this idea a reality, Fellman had to jump through the necessary regulatory hoops. Although he personally found that the state approval process was not particularly daunting, he gathered that he was the exception.

“We hosted an educational entrepreneurs meeting here with a lot of people trying to start things up, and they were just overwhelmed and daunted because it’s a big application. There are a lot of laws,” he said. “And that I could see being very daunting.”

The minimum requirements for the approval of nonpublic schools are set by statute in the N.H. Code of Administrative Rules. The state Education Department offers guidance and application forms online

The most significant cost for Fellman was securing a space, renovating it, and getting it up to code. But because his 8,000-square-foot space had previously housed a school, he didn’t run into the usual zoning nightmare that many aspiring entrepreneurs face. Obtaining approval to operate a school where none existed before can be a serious obstacle. 

“In talking to people in the field and doing what we’re trying to do, there are a lot of zoning issues,” he observed. 

From local ordinances that prohibit people from offering educational services on their property to regulations that were written before the advent of alternative educational methods, a web of rules complicates the task of education innovation.

After securing final approval in August 2022, The Harkness House found its target audience. An education provider focused on making middle-school-aged kids engaged, autonomous, and owners of their learning resonated with one group in particular: the home-education community. 

“We went in there and they were engaged with Nate, the kids each had questions, and the way that he doesn’t talk down to them, he talks directly with them, he wants their input, and that they genuinely want to know what they want to learn,” Hyde observed.

In October 2022, The Harkness House launched by developing courses for home-education families. The school offers a la carte classes, as well as two-day and four-day programs for homeschool students. 

Starting with just one student, the school grew to 16 by the end of the academic year. 

“Every single one of our kids that started with us increased their participation with us,” Fellman said. In fact, eight kids who began as homeschool students are returning to The Harkness House in the upcoming school year on a full-time basis. This will be the school’s first full-time cohort. 

Among them will be Stella Kritikou’s three daughters. Enrolled in public schools prior to the pandemic, Kritikou knows she’s found the best fit for her kids. “Now that they’ve been there for almost a year, it’s actually great for them because having that small class has helped them be able to work with other peers in small settings,” she said.

Fellman’s goal for this fall is to enroll 16 full-time kids and 24 home-education students.

Full-time tuition is $14,900, while two-day and four-day programs are $3,100 and just over $5,000, respectively. “Around 50% of our kids are accessing EFA [Education Freedom Account] or ETC [Education Tax Credit] programs through the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which are so helpful for those families,” Fellman noted. 

Fellman hopes to further reduce his cost of tuition and make The Harkness House self-sustaining “by, in some fashion, using the service of education…to develop a product that then can be sold to a broader market.” His goal is to eventually film some of his classes and sell the tapes to home-education families (with consent, of course).

Long-term, Fellman’s goal is to fill his space with the 100 students it can hold. Class sizes would be capped at 12 kids each, and they would continue developing the curriculum in partnership with parents and students like they’ve always done.

“We’ll be involved a lot. We’ll be asking questions. We want to know what they’re learning,” Hyde said. “And they’re really good because before they go ahead and watch a movie or before they teach them something, they let us know what they’re doing, so they keep us on the same page. We’re not falling between the cracks.”

Keeping kids from falling through the cracks is a primary goal for Fellman. And that involves engaging students directly in their learning.

“Instead of that 100% top-down, [we’re] really saying, ‘What’s the 20% that every kid needs to know, be able to do?’ and giving the kids a voice at the table for that 80% on how we’re going to get there and what they want to engage in beyond that,” Fellman said. 

With that in mind, The Harkness House focuses on language arts, math, social studies, and science, while accepting maximum input from the students to develop their electives. 

“Nate’s very open, like as soon as he sits with the kids he asks them, ‘What do you guys want to do? Is this something you’re interested in?’” Kritikou noted. “He leaves it to them, and that’s great because usually these kids don’t get that kind of opportunity in public school.”

From courses like mythology and exploring media bias to the logic of coding, electives are based on student interest. “It allows us to be much more streamlined and do some things, and the core things, really, really well,” Fellman observed.

In this way, the school puts students in charge of their learning. Whether it’s allowing the students the freedom to choose which texts they read for language arts, taking a “virtual road trip” to learn about miles per gallon, gas prices, and budgeting, or turning one of the classrooms into a greenhouse to teach gardening, The Harkness House tackles the core subjects through this hands-on approach, bringing out the best in their students. 

“I think what [Fellman] does is he sees what the kids like, he knows what they have to learn, and he incorporates that into what it is they like, so they learn without realizing they’re actually learning,” Kritikou’s mother, Sofia Kretikos, added.

Student autonomy like this is made possible because of the small, individualized classes that define a school like The Harkness House, making it easier for educators to meet the different educational needs of each child.

“Why I recommend the school to everyone is they really give the opportunity for the children to learn in their own way,” Kritikou said. “It’s not something that’s forced on them; they get to choose,” adding that “some kids don’t learn with just reading a book.”

Through innovation and ingenuity, Nate Fellman and The Harkness House aim to make education more responsive to families and students by offering a nontraditional, highly adaptable, and individualized option. Harkness parents say it’s working. 

“Watching my 10-year-old granddaughter say, ‘I love to go to school’—she doesn’t want to miss a day—that to me was exciting because I’ve never seen a child that excited to get to school,” Kretikos observed, “and it’s all the way that he’s teaching.”

For evidence of customer satisfaction, Fellman offered an assessment from one of his students: “I feel like I’m learning, but I don’t feel like it’s school.”

The Harkness House, located in Nashua, can be found online at

School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in education entrepreneurship across the United States. Large declines in student performance (see here and here) both during and following the pandemic, along with increasingly bitter disputes over school content and policies, are sending still more parents in search of alternatives. 

In New Hampshire, public school enrollment has fallen by more than 10,000 students since 2019. That’s in addition to a decline of 29,946 students from 2001–2019. During that same 2001–2019 period, spending on district public schools in New Hampshire rose by $1.5 billion, or $937 million when adjusted for inflation. 

As public school leaders in New Hampshire and elsewhere work on improving outcomes and making educational systems more responsive to families, some parents continue to seek alternatives for either the short-term or long-term. 

Whether to make up for learning losses, or to find a better fit for their children, many families are searching for something different than traditional schooling. 

In New Hampshire, as around the country, education entrepreneurs are meeting this demand in what is now a growing educational marketplace by creating nontraditional learning environments for students. 

Education entrepreneurship embraces a bottom-up, decentralized approach to schooling. The Live Free or Die state is home to a wide and growing range of educational alternatives offered by scrappy startups, frustrated parents, former public school teachers, and even national businesses.

In addition to private schools, which have to be approved by the state, a mix of new, private-sector alternatives are popping up in New Hampshire. They fall into the following broad categories: microschools, learning pods, homeschool co-ops/learning centers, and hybrid homeschools.

Here is how each of these alternatives differs from the others and from traditional educational offerings.


A microschool is the “catch-all” term for learning alternatives offered on a small scale and in a more traditional school style. It describes a full-time or part-time learning environment characterized by small classrooms that enable an individualized approach to education.

Think of a modern version of a one-room schoolhouse, with an emphasis on student-led and project-based learning.

Often seen as a middle ground between homeschooling and traditional schooling, microschools typically include more than two participating families who are not homeschooling. They usually hold 10 to 50 students, but they can be larger or smaller. They are typically led by hired instructors and are often set in commercial spaces or community centers.

If organized as a small private school, a microschool would be subject to state approval and regulation. In 2021, in response to pandemic-created demand, the state Education Department published a primer on how to start a nonpublic school, which lays out the laws and regulations that govern nonpublic schools in the state. 

Not all educational alternatives, though, are organized as schools. 

Learning pods

Learning pods usually consist of a smaller group of students (typically 10 or fewer) gathering together with some form of adult oversight to learn and socialize. 

Pods are often created by families in a neighborhood or in a location that draws families from throughout a community. They are inherently flexible for the students and parents, gathering in convenient locations—often a participating family’s home—on certain days of the week for agreed-upon amounts of time. They can be led by parents or paid educators. 

Like microschools, they often include more than two participating families who are not homeschooling, but they are less closely aligned with a traditional classroom environment than microschools. 

A learning pod might be classified and regulated as a private “school,” depending on how it is organized and how instruction is offered, though these new entities do not easily fit the standard description of a school. Some learning pods involve homeschooled or pre-school-age children.

Homeschool co-ops/learning centers

Homeschool co-ops and learning centers represent a more decentralized type of educational offering. They are typically formed by groups of families meeting together to achieve common educational goals, but they aren’t necessarily organized as “schools.” 

Typically consisting of more than two participating families who have chosen to homeschool, homeschool co-ops and learning centers often function as homeschool resource centers. They allow homeschooled students to meet on a regular basis and participate in classes and activities led by either the parents themselves, in the case of co-ops, or instructors and activity leaders that the group hires, in the case of learning centers.

Homeschool co-ops and learning centers can be set in a variety of environments, such as participating families’ homes, commercial or community centers, or even outdoors. These include tutoring centers, such as Mathnasium and Sylvan learning centers, and unschools, which allow for almost complete self-directed learning by the students.

Hybrid homeschools

Hybrid homeschools share many of the same qualities as homeschool co-ops and learning centers. Like the latter, they usually have paid instructors.

The main differences are that there’s often a curriculum in place, many are faith-based, and they usually have a yearly program with about two days a week in “class” and the rest of the week spent at home.


These are the primary options education entrepreneurs have been offering as alternatives to traditional schooling since the COVID-19 pandemic. They share many of the same features, and sometimes their offerings overlap. People often use the terms “learning pods” and “microschools” interchangeably, for example, since they can be very similar in style and structure, though they aren’t always. 

Most education providers are self-identified, as rigid legal definitions don’t exist to classify them. Even within one “category,” the educational options in the marketplace vary considerably in their teaching philosophies, structures, and schedules.

Though these are the general categories of new educational offerings spreading quickly in the marketplace right now, it would be a mistake to assume that others won’t come along. Parents and entrepreneurs are constantly searching for new ways to meet children’s needs. There’s no reason to think they won’t invent even more creative options.

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. 

Since their adoption in 2021, Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs) have offered new educational opportunities for Granite State families.

An EFA is a government-approved savings account that can be used to access a wide range of educational opportunities outside a family’s designated public school district. If eligible, parents can direct their state funded per-pupil adequate education grant, an amount that averaged $4,857 as of 2022, toward their chosen alternative, provided those alternatives meet the state-set qualifications.

Instead of going directly to a student’s government-assigned public school, the student’s adequate education grant money is deposited into an account from which families can draw to pay for a variety of education-related expenses, including tuition, textbooks, technology, special education services, and more.

To qualify, a student must be a New Hampshire resident eligible to enroll in a public elementary or secondary school. Additionally, the student’s family household income at the time of application for an EFA must be 300% of the federal poverty level or less, as established annually in the Federal Register by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

School choice supporters had high hopes of expanding EFA eligibility this session. Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, and Utah all passed laws this year to make all K-12 students eligible for an education choice option. Arizona and West Virginia already had universal choice programs.

Several variations of EFA expansion bills were introduced in the Legislature this year, but after May 18, only one option remains.

House Bill 464, which passed the House, would have expanded EFA access by adding a list of eligibility criteria with no family income cap. Those criteria include being homeless, in foster care, in a family of migratory workers, in a military family, learning English as a second language, being persistently bullied or disabled, living within the geographic boundaries of a low-performing or persistently dangerous school, being eligible for free or reduced price meals, or having a documented educational hardship.

The Senate Education Committee voted 5-0 to recommend that the Senate kill HB 464, which it did on May 18. That leaves House Bill 367 as the last option for making EFAs available to more students.

As introduced, HB 367 would have expanded eligibility for an EFA to households making no more than 500% of the federal poverty level.

However, by a vote of 187-184 the House cut the income cap down to 350% of the federal poverty level. This version of HB 367 received a 3-2 “ought to pass” recommendation from the Senate Education Committee, and the Senate passed the bill on a 14-10 vote on May 18. It goes to the Senate Finance Committee next.

Expanding EFA eligibility to 350% of the federal poverty level would increase the 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.

Below are the maximum eligible income levels under both versions of this proposed expansion versus the current eligibility standard.

The bump from 300% to 350% of the federal poverty level represents a 16.6% increase in the EFA income cap. That’s a small bump, especially considering the huge gains made in other states this year. But it’s the only option that remains for New Hampshire in 2023.

Teachers unions and school officials regularly advocate for higher public school spending on the argument that teacher pay is too low. In fact, teacher pay in New Hampshire is relatively low compared to other states. But that’s not a product of low funding levels.

Average public school district spending in the Granite State is is 14.4% above the national average, while our teacher pay is 5.3% below the national average.

What explains that discrepancy? School districts have used huge increases in funding this century primarily to hire new personnel, particularly administrators and support staff, rather than raise teacher pay, even as enrollment sharply declined. 

Our new public school spending study found that real (inflation-adjusted) spending on public school districts rose by $937 million, or 40%, from 2001-2019. Student enrollment fell by 14%, or 29,946 students, during this same time.

On a per-pupil basis, current spending, which excludes debt service and capital expenditures, grew by 74% from 2001-2019, but teacher pay rose by only 12%.

In 2021 (the most recent data available allowing for national comparison), teacher salaries in New Hampshire averaged $59,182 per year, while the national average was 5.3 percent higher at $62,304 per year.

The cost of living in New Hampshire is estimated to be 9.9 percent higher than the national average, which makes the lower teacher salaries in New Hampshire even more noteworthy.

Teacher pay is significantly higher in Massachusetts, even after adjusting for cost of living. Since they do not have as much staffing, Massachusetts public schools are able to pay their teachers higher salaries.  

The raw difference is $82,042 in the Bay State vs. $59,182 in New Hampshire.  Taking into account the cost of living, Massachusetts teachers are paid $7,606 more on average than New Hampshire teachers, a difference of almost 13 percent.



Massachusetts public schools spend their monies very differently than New Hampshire public schools do.  New Hampshire public schools have more staffing.  New Hampshire public schools have 18.2 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff per 100 students vs. 13.9 per 100 students in Massachusetts public schools.  For a school of 500 students, New Hampshire would have about 21.5 more FTE staff than a school of the same size in the Bay State.

Comparing New Hampshire to the national average, a 500-student school in the Granite State would have 26 more FTE staff, 14 more special needs students, 38 fewer English language learner students and 50 fewer students in poverty than the average school nationwide.

The low teacher pay in New Hampshire relative to the national average is not a result of low spending. Taxpayers have spent $937 million more on public school districts since 2001 above the level needed to keep up with inflation. Spending per-pupil in New Hampshire public school districts was $2,383 (14.4 percent) above the national average in 2019.

Rather, districts have chosen to focus on hiring, even as enrollment has fallen. As a result, average public school district employment levels are well above the national average while teacher compensation is below the national average.

If this discrepancy persists, it will become increasingly challenging for New Hampshire districts to recruit high-quality teachers even as declining enrollments reduce the demand for new teaching positions.