The New Hampshire Education Tax Credit Program, enacted in 2012 and launched in 2013, gives tax credits to businesses that donate to scholarship-granting non-profits. Families who meet the income limits can receive scholarships they may use towards private schooling, tutoring, online learning, classes at colleges or universities, and/or homeschooling expenses. Learn more about this tax-credit scholarship program, including average scholarship value, rules, and regulations, on this page.
America’s only tax-credit scholarship program in which homeschool students also are eligible
178 participating students (2016)
32 percent of families with children income-eligible statewide
2 scholarship organization awarding scholarships (2016)
35 participating schools (2016)
Average scholarship value: $1,950 (2016)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 14 percent
New Hampshire offers tax credits to businesses for donations to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. Available tax credits were capped at $3.4 million in the first year and were capped at $5.1 million beginning in the second year. That cap will increase by 25 percent per year if usage is above 80 percent.
The average value of all scholarships given by a scholarship organization cannot exceed $2,655, except for students with special needs, whose scholarships cannot be less than $4,646. That amount is adjusted each year to reflect the changes in the Consumer Price Index.
Students must be between ages 5 and 20 and come from households where family income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line ($72,900 for a family of four in 2016–17). In the first two years of the program, scholarship organizations are required to award 70 percent of scholarship funds to students who previously attended a public school or who already received a scholarship. Additionally, 40 percent of scholarships awarded must be given to students who qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program.
New Hampshire’s tax-credit scholarship program is reasonable on school regulations. To participate, private schools only must be approved under state law. On funding and eligibility, however, the program has considerable room to grow. Although the average value of scholarships given to all other students is adjusted at the end of each year to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index, the current overall cap of $2,655 would be more beneficial to families if raised closer to the level of funds otherwise appropriated for a child’s education in a public school. As for eligibility, the program is limited by income and by the statewide cap on tax credits, making scholarships available to less than 1 percent of students statewide. Importantly, that cap is allowed to grow automatically, a key component to ensure students are not shut out from receiving scholarships.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a decision upholding the state’s tax-credit scholarship program on August 28, 2014. This case positioned individuals represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) against the state’s new tax-credit scholarship program. In the decision, the court dismissed the lawsuit due to lack of standing by the defendants; the court reasoned they were unable to show harm caused by the program. The justices unanimously overturned a previous lower court ruling, which disallowed scholarships to schools that were religiously affiliated. The program will be allowed to continue unabated. Duncan v. State of New Hampshire.
Also in New Hampshire, the Town of Croydon’s School Board has been sued by the state department of education. The Croydon school board has been offering town tuitioning to students who reside in its town. Like many towns in New Hampshire, Croydon does not have a middle school or high school, and its elementary grades are limited. Under New Hampshire law, public schools may send children to a neighboring town’s school, or a school that meets the unique needs of its students. Most of Croydon’s students—at this time, 37 children in grades 5 through 12—attend public school at the neighboring town of Newport. However, five children requested to attend a nearby Montessori school, and the Croydon school board determined that this would, indeed, meet the needs of these children. The state department of education alleges that Croydon is barred from sending children to any private school (although admits that children with special needs may be sent to a private school under state law). On December 14, 2015, the Court denied the state’s request for preliminary injunction against Croydon. Following a hearing on the merits, the court ruled that Croydon did not have the authority to town tuition students to a private school. An appeal is pending. Department of Education v. Croydon School Board, et.al., Sullivan Superior Court, Case No. 220-2015-cv-146.
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