“The parents who have applied for scholarships are desperate to find the best educational opportunities for their children. The state has no business taking religious schools off the table as a legitimate educational option.  NEO will not rest until parents can freely choose any school of their choice.”  said Kate Baker, NEO’s Executive Director in a release by the Institute for Justice. http://www.ij.org/new-hampshire-school-choice-release-6-17-13
The release further states, "Monday, June 17, 2013, a Strafford County Superior Court Judge partially suspended New Hampshire’s privately funded Education Scholarship Program by declaring that no scholarships may be used to attend religious schools.  The court’s ruling said that allowing parents to choose a religious school for their child violates the New Hampshire Constitution’s “Blaine Amendment,” a provision that was adopted to prevent the state from funding Catholic schools during a time in the state’s history when the public schools were explicitly Protestant in nature.  Under today’s ruling, families receiving scholarships may still use the financial aid to attend nonreligious private schools, to pay for homeschooling expenses, or to attend neighboring public schools that charge tuition for out-of-district children.
“The court’s ruling inflicts again the blatant discrimination that motivated New Hampshire’s bigoted Blaine Amendment in the first place,” declared Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Richard D. Komer. “We will immediately seek a stay of the court’s decision so that parents receiving scholarships can choose the educational options that best suit their child’s unique educational needs, regardless of whether that is a religious or secular school.”

CONCORD, NH – The Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO) released today the following statement in response to the Strafford County Superior Court decision affecting the nonprofit organization’s scholarship program. 

“NEO works to expand educational options for students who receive need-based scholarships sourced from private contributions.  To date, our organization has more than 1,000 scholarship applicants – bright, young, talented students many, in settings that are failing to meet their individual learning needs.  These student applicants and their families are counting on us to empower them to overcome barriers to choice in education.  We at NEO will not rest until we have delivered on our promise to help all parents surmount these obstacles.

“Today’s ruling is regrettable since it imposes a limitation on the options available to parents.  With all due respect to the court, the judge attempts to take away many parents’ right to direct the educational futures of their children.  We are optimistic that justice will prevail in our appeal to the NH Supreme Court because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that tax credits are private contributions. Therefore, the false constitutional argument being bandied about stands on fragile footing.

“All options should be available to parents seeking to be the ultimate decision-makers on what arrangements suit their children’s precise learning needs.  Today’s ruling, then, changes little through the troublesome practice of exclusion.  For many parents, the ruling perpetuates a core challenge.  It shifts the current system from a ‘one size fits all’ framework to a ‘choice for some as we see it’ arrangement.  This ignores what options-hungry parents tell us they want, and it fails to meet the definition of authentic choice.

“NEO scholarships are building bridges for children from a school where they are struggling to a school where they can succeed.  We’re giving hardworking families the power to choose schools that are right for their child.  Parents know what’s best for their children in all facets of growing into adulthood.  Certainly education should fall within parental jurisdiction before others presume to weigh in.

“The battle for education choice in New Hampshire is a long game. Once more, we will not rest until we keep our promise to our applicants, and authentic choice in education is preserved in New Hampshire.”

To arrange interviews on this subject, journalists may call Kate Baker, NEO's Executive Director, at 603-785-0174

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