A History of Homeschooling in New Hampshire
The earliest parents to homeschool in New Hampshire requested permission to homeschool from local school boards under a provision that allowed children to be excused from compulsory attendance laws if they could prove that “the attendance of the child at the school to which such child has been assigned will result in a manifest educational hardship to the child.” An appeals process allowed parents or guardians to appeal to the state board of education. While many school boards worked with homeschoolers, these provisions resulted in a number of court cases in the late 1970s. In 1980 the Department of Education sought to resolve such problems by forming a Home Study Committee, which issued a document titled “Regulations and Procedures Pertaining to Home Education Programs in New Hampshire June 1980.” These rules stated that a parent could show that school attendance would cause “educational hardship” if they could show that homeschooling would be a benefit to the child.
When their school board denied their application to homeschool and the Board of Education denied their appeal, homeschool parents Denise Pierce and Christopher Rice took to the courts. The result was the New Hampshire Supreme Court decision Appeal of Pierce (1982). In this decision, the court upheld the rules and sent the case back to the school district for due process violations. For the remainder of the 1980s, homeschool programs continued to operate under the authority of local school districts.
During the late 1980s, the increased number of homeschool families and the unwillingness on the part of some homeschool parents to adhere to the rules set by the Home Study Committee (often citing religious exemptions) resulted in increasing misunderstandings and tension. The Department of Education responded by forming a new Home Education Rules Revision committee that proposed more comprehensive evaluation and teacher qualification requirements. Homeschool parents and homeschool organizations across the state argued adamantly against the provisions, saying that they were unworkable and that no homeschool parent would comply with them, and the legal battle that resulted in RSA193-A, the state’s current homeschool law, ensued. The bill, which was passed in 1990, was a compromise between the two sides, and was generally seen as being very friendly toward homeschooling. It required each homeschool to have a participatory agency (the commissioner of education, the local district superintendent, or a private school principal) and included comprehensive annual notification, annual evaluation, and assessment by the participatory agency, along with a remediation mechanism for underperforming homeschools.
In the decades after the passage of RSA193-A, the New Hampshire Department of Education from time to time pressed for increased oversight of homeschooling, proposing various modifications to the homeschool statute. The homeschool lobby successfully opposed such measures, arguing that the homeschool law was adequate and was working fine. However, in the last decade the homeschool lobby has switched from opposing changes to the homeschool law to dismantling and gutting it.
In 2006, the New Hampshire state legislature passed HB 406, which amended RSA193-A to remove much of the information from the annual notification requirement. Under the revised statute, homeschool parents no longer needed to include a list of subjects for each child, the name of either the correspondence school or curriculum provider, the an outline of the educational plan for each subject, and a list of all textbooks and other instructional materials, as had been required under the original. Instead, parents only needed to include the children’s names, addresses, and birth dates. In 2009, a bill was proposed that would have required homeschool parents to affirm in their notices of intent to homeschool that they would provide instruction in all required subjects. Another proposal that same year would have added questions regarding how well the homeschooling law was working to a proposed survey of district superintendents. The homeschool lobby opposed both measures and both were defeated.
In 2012, the New Hampshire state legislature passed HB 545, which amended the homeschool law to replace annual notification with a one-time notification, and HB 1571, which removed the requirement that homeschool parents submit their students’ annual evaluations to their participatory agency for assessment. Under previous law, if a child did not show “educational progress for age and ability at a level commensurate with his ability,” the participatory agency would notify the parent, who would then have a year to provide “remedial instruction.” If the child still did not show appropriate progress, the homeschool would be terminated absent a hearing finding reason for continuation, and the child would then be reported to the resident district superintendent. Under the revised statute, this entire process is removed and replaced only with the requirement that parents keep their children’s annual evaluations on file. The state legislature also added a provision to RSA193-A banning education officials from creating their own mechanisms for overseeing homeschooling.
Finally, it is worth noting that New Hampshire has a Home Education Advisory Council whose members are drawn from the house of representatives education committee, the senate education committee, the department of education and various related organizations, and home educator associations within New Hampshire. The council is chaired by one of the members nominated by the home educator associations and advises on legislation or policies affecting homeschool families.
For more state histories, see Histories of Homeschooling.
Click here for more on homeschooling in New Hampshire.