Governor Sununu announces $1.5 million in federal funding to K-12 private, religious, & home school scholarships

On Tuesday, July 28, Governor Chris Sununu announced that he will earmark $1.5 million in federal CARES Act funding to organizations that distribute scholarships for private, religious, and home school programs. The Governor stated that money would fund an anticipated 800 scholarships, equating to roughly $1,875 per student, compared to the average of $213 per student that public neighborhood and charter schools received in funding. 

The announcement comes a week after school district leaders told a legislative panel that the roughly $213 per student that they received in CARES Act funding likely wouldn’t be enough to support the extra staff, PPE, building and HVAC system upgrades, technology and student transportation costs that would be necessary to reopen safely. The funding that the scholarship organizations will receive is more than every district and charter school allocation, with the exception of Manchester and Nashua. Eleven districts and charter schools were allocated no federal funding, according to the NH Department of Education’s allocation spreadsheet

Scholarship organizations report $1.7 million in unexpended donations in 2018-2019 

In 2018-2019, the state’s two scholarship organizations ended the period with $1.7 million in unexpended donations, which is more than the $1.5 million in federal funding that the Governor is allocating to the program. 

The Children’s Scholarship Fund and the Giving and Going Alliance raised about $2.7 million and awarded $895,385 in scholarships, according to their financial documents. After administrative costs, the organizations reported that during the 18-month period, the total amount of money not used for scholarships was $1,703,057. 

By comparison, in 2014, 2015, and 2016, the organizations expended all donations on scholarships or in administrative expenses to distribute scholarships. (Note: in 2014 and 2015, the Children’s Scholarship Fund operated as the Network for Educational Opportunity.) In 2017, the difference was $15,803.

Federal funding to support public school reopening

The state’s public school districts and charter schools have been allocated an average of $213 per student of CARES Act funding, according to an analysis by Reaching Higher NH. Announced in May, the federal aid was intended to help districts cover the costs of transitioning to remote learning in the spring. These costs included supporting the expansion of neighborhood and charter schools’ remote learning capacity, such as devices, applications, and training for students, families and educators. 

The Governor has encouraged districts to also use these CARES Act funds in the upcoming school year to offset the costs associated with the state’s recommendations for resuming in-person learning or hybrid models.

School leaders have told lawmakers that the amount is inadequate, and some districts are leaning on volunteers and donations to help schools reopen safely. Winchester families are organizing a $200,000 fundraiser to continue to have buses that serve high school students, and Manchester officials have estimated that it would cost several million dollars to reopen safely, considering the additional costs of busing, personal protective gear, updates to buildings’ HVAC systems, and sanitation.

When asked about additional funds, state officials have pointed to federal proposals that would provide a second round of financial relief to states. However, these negotiations have stalled in Congress, with federal officials saying that they are “nowhere close to a deal.”

To read more about the Education Tax Credit program, including how it is funded, check out Reaching Higher NH’s policy brief

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