The New Hampshire Superior Court has dismissed a challenge brought by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) against the state’s voucher program. The teachers union argued that the use of public funds to finance private school education was unconstitutional.
Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Amy L. Ignatius issued the ruling on Wednesday, stating that the AFT had failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove the program violated the state’s Constitution.
Ignatius noted that the burden of proof was on the AFT, and they had not been able to meet it. She stated that the AFT had failed to show how the voucher program was unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was filed by the AFT in Merrimack County last year, seeking an injunction to halt the program. AFT President Deb Howes expressed disappointment over the ruling, stating that according to state law, lottery funds were meant to be used solely for public schools and the Education Trust Fund, not vouchers.
The Education Trust Fund was recently amended to include Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs), which facilitate the use of vouchers. Howes argued that the state should focus on the needs of the 160,000 public school students and not the 4,000 students who choose to use state-funded vouchers for private school education.
She also claimed that the use of vouchers puts a disproportionate burden on local property taxpayers to fund public education, which in turn, affects the quality of education provided in public schools.
According to a report by the New Hampshire Department of Education, over 4,200 students from economically disadvantaged homes were enrolled in EFAs as of October 2023. This number had increased by over 800 students from the end of the previous academic year, reflecting a 20 percent increase in enrollment.
Critics of school choice programs, such as teacher unions, argue that they divert public funds away from public schools and into other educational options, which could lead to a decline in public school facilities and teacher recruitment.
The AFT New Hampshire did not comment on the ruling. However, American Federation for Children Senior Fellow Corey DeAngelis hailed the decision, stating that it was a major blow to power-hungry teachers unions.
He criticized teachers unions for attempting to block parents from having the right to choose the best education for their children. DeAngelis emphasized that parents had the right to direct their children's upbringing, and school choice gave them the power to do so.
He stated that this victory in New Hampshire showed that parents would continue to have control over their children’s education, and the power of teachers unions would not stand in their way.
The AFT’s challenge to the voucher program has been thrown out, providing a strong statement in support of school choice and parents’ rights to direct their children’s education. With this ruling, it is clear that education freedom is here to stay in New Hampshire.