CONCORD, N.H. – On Thursday, the New Hampshire Board of Education approved an optional .5 credit financial literacy program that school districts can use toward graduation requirements with content supplied by the right-wing PragerU organization.
A decision on adding the content from the company, which was limited to financial literacy videos and connected worksheets, was tabled by the board during its August meeting after numerous members of the public advised the board not to incorporate content from the group within New Hampshire school curricula.
The content will be added to the New Hampshire Department of Education’s “Learn Everywhere” program, which is described as creating “an ecosystem of additional learning opportunities for our students, wherever and whenever they occur.”
PragerU has drawn controversy from critics, citing content that has been described as misleading viewers about topics regarding race, gender and other topics.
While the California-based company, founded by conservative talk show host Dennis Prager says it is not an accredited university, critics have also expressed concern that it might be perceived as a university, although New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella indicated the company did not violate state law regarding classification of a college or university.
Prior to the meeting, opponents of Prager U gathered outside to voice their disapproval for the proposal. These concerns ranged from fears that the company’s material is not comprehensive enough to meet standards for academic rigor and propagandistic, with New Hampshire Council of Churches Director Reverend Heidi Carrington Heath expressed concern that their content could violate constitutional guidelines.
“Prager is a thinly faith-based curriculum. The bedrock of our democracy is a separation of church and state that begins with ensuring that our classrooms are equitable places of learning and belonging for all students,” she said. “In New Hampshire, true freedom requires that our classrooms are open and accessible to all and that cannot be so when our curricula privileges one religious viewpoint or perspective over another.”
During public comment, opposers outnumbered supporters of the proposal, 30-13. Five sitting school board members also spoke against the proposal.
Opponents of the proposal echoed concerns that this program could open the door for other ideologically-based content they saw as misleading, although concerns varied ranging from the content replacing more robust financial literacy programs, disagreements with Formella’s assessment that this proposal would not violate state law, that this represents part of an effort to privatize public education and that representatives of PragerU attempted to harass opponents prior to the meeting among other worries.
Five school board members were among those who spoke in opposition, with Lebanon School Board Member Tia Winter stating she spoke on behalf of her board in opposition to the proposal.
Supporters of the proposal expressed the need for financial literacy programs and that the content was only a starting point for broader discussion on the topic of financial literacy, also expressing concern that there is already left-wing content within schools comparable to the right-wing content that concerns opponents of the proposal. Supporters spoke regarding their viewpoint that giving families choices in how their children are taught should be a consideration, noting that this proposal would be optional for students if approved.
In response to some of the public comment, Sala said that content on the PragerU website was mainstream political thought, that the content within the proposal was neutral, nothing about the program violates local control of local school districts, and that New Hampshire schools frequently allow left-wing content within schools and all viewpoints should be explored within the guidance of students’ parents.
“I trust parents more to make good calls for their kids than the government to,” he said.
Board Member Ryan Terrell said that in the three years he had been on the board, he has heard content applications from left-wing organizations without any concern. While he appreciated people sharing their views, he felt that it was hypocritical and inappropriate for conservative viewpoints to be reflexively attacked because they are conservative.
“What we saw today was not live and let live, what we saw today was not opposition to a program, what we saw today is groups of people being mobilized by political muscle, he said.
Board Member Phil Nazzaro felt that public comment regarding this approval leading to other PragerU content being approved that that would be good to receive applications for content from organizations with content diametrically opposed to Prager’s political views. Board Chairman Drew Cline noted that the content would not cost New Hampshire taxpayers anything and expressed frustration with what he saw as mischaracterizations of the Learn Everywhere program.
Board Member Ann Lane expressed concern about the collection of e-mail data and possible privacy concerns on PragerU’s website, with Terrell indicated the website did not have a requirement to submit an e-mail and that was only for assessment. Board Members Jim Fricchione and Richard Sala felt it was unfair to single out PragerU versus any other companies that work with New Hampshire Schools that manage student data.
Lane also indicated that most school districts in New Hampshire with financial literacy courses are wealthier and poorer districts could use financial literacy programs.
Cline felt a .25 credit program toward high school graduation would have been more appropriate, as did Lane, but that motion failed.
“I appreciate the board acting on this today, they had some questions initially when we brought it forward, I think many of those questions were responded to by Prager University,” said New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. “I think it’s appropriate that we move forward and offer this opportunity to our students.”
“We’re excited about the New Hampshire Learn Everywhere initiative and we’re honored to be able to serve the community with our financial literacy content line as a starting point for an even greater partnership,” said PragerU CEO Marissa Streit.
UPDATE: The decision drew a wide array of reactions from New Hampshire political leaders. Here are a few of those reactions.
New Hampshire House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn)
Democrats will stop at nothing to ensure we strip families of every educational option available to them outside of the standard public school. The same people who want children indoctrinated in radical gender ideology without parents’ approval or knowledge cannot abide parents and students having even an option to learn anything taught by a Republican.
Families should have options on where to send their children to school, and be given options for classes in order to fulfill requirements, allowing students to meet their full potential on their terms. The New Hampshire Board of Education’s approval of the PragerU financial literacy courses are another tool in the tool box for Granite State students and families. I look forward to additional legislation being filed this coming term that will expand education choice to more families across New Hampshire.
Executive Council Cinde Warmington (D-Concord)
I am deeply disappointed by the State Board of Education’s decision to approve PragerU’s application to operate within our state’s education system. This approval disregards the potential harm that PragerU’s extreme content will inflict upon our schools and the education of our children. The Board’s decision also sets a troubling precedent by endorsing an organization with a misleading name that suggests it is a legitimate educational institution. This approval only further blurs the lines between credible education and partisan ideology, and it is part of a broader effort by Commissioner Edelblut to undermine public education. As governor, I will make sure public tax dollars go to public schools, and I’ll strengthen our public schools so that all New Hampshire children have the opportunity to succeed and thrive.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley
The State Board of Education giving the green light to integrate PragerU’s content into our children’s curriculum is an outrageous betrayal of New Hampshire’s students. This is nothing short of a direct assault on the very foundations of our education system, spearheaded by Sununu appointee Commissioner Frank Edelblut, a man who evidently prioritizes his political ambitions over the welfare and educational growth of our children.
“Let us be absolutely clear: this decision paves the way for biased, inflammatory, and factually incorrect content to poison the minds of our impressionable youth, setting a disastrous precedent for the future of education in our state. This is not a partisan issue; this is a clear and present danger to the integrity of the education system of New Hampshire.
“We are grateful to the dozens of concerned parents, educators, activists, and others that spoke against this proposal today and the hundreds of Granite Staters that wrote their opposition to the board — their voices drowned out the proponents of this dangerous program 10 to 1.
Manchester Mayor/Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Joyce Craig
I am appalled by today’s Board of Education decision to allow PragerU to operate in New Hampshire. I will fight for every child in our state to receive a quality education and I will never allow an extreme right-wing organization to influence their learning.
PragerU was founded by far-right extremists and indoctrinates students with hatred towards LGBTQ+ students, horrific views on slavery, and anti-climate change conspiracies. They have no place in New Hampshire’s public education system.
As Governor, I will deliver an agenda and an administration that supports our public educators and New Hampshire’s students. Let me be clear, whether it is PragerU or any other dangerous organization, I will stop anyone who threatens to indoctrinate our students with their extreme beliefs.
State Senator Sue Prentiss (D-Lebanon)
Yesterday’s vote by the New Hampshire Board of Education ignored the voices of Granite Staters who have expressed their concerns about the basis for PragerU’s programs, including what’s offered for financial literacy. As an elected official, I have watched the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education and his supporters continue to be unwilling to accept input from Granite Staters that does not align with their one-sided beliefs. Our duty is to safeguard our education system, including public education, with a fair, balanced, and fact-based approach to teaching. To allow this to continue in New Hampshire is unconscionable. We must all come together to fight against the politicization and the dismantling of our public education system. It is disappointing that the Board of Education chose to not follow that path yesterday, and instead sided with PragerU.
State Senator Donovan Fenton (D-Keene)
The PragerU organization has a clear motivation to bring politics into our classrooms, and it is profoundly disappointing that the State Board of Education greenlit their materials yesterday. Further, their goal to manipulate materials and curriculum into “edutainment,” at the expense of historical accuracy, through falsehoods, downplaying atrocities such as slavery, or further marginalizing our LGBTQ+ community members, is despicable and has no place in New Hampshire’s education system. As a parent, I am troubled by yesterday’s decision to align our state with such a harmful organization, and I plan to closely monitor the next steps taken by the New Hampshire Board of Education
Here are links to the 15 videos included as part of PragerU’s literacy instruction, as provided by the New Hampshire Department of Education.
- Employment and Income: Pay Stubs and Taxes
- Money Management: Budgeting, Currency and Checking and Savings Accounts
- Credit, Debit and Debt Management: Credit, Debt, Borrowing, Student Loans, and Credit and Debit Cards
- Planning, Saving and Investing: Investing, Savings, Financial Institutions, Interest and Insurance