After months of debate and vocal Democratic opposition to the initiative, the N.H. State Board of Education (SBOE) voted unanimously Thursday to enact the first program in the Learn Everywhere initiative championed by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

The program, offered by the New Hampshire Academy of Science. will allow high school students to earn credit in life science (biology) and physical science (chemistry and physics).

“I am incredibly excited that we are able to bring this first of many programs to New Hampshire students and families,” said Edelblut. “All of our research shows that learning opportunities inside, and outside of the traditional school, that engage students result in deeper and richer learning. Beyond that, however, we know that these programs are particularly beneficial to otherwise disadvantaged students.”

Learn Everywhere, an innovative education program unique to New Hampshire, allows students to earn credit for learning outside of the classroom. The program, which has been under development since 2018, was first approved by the SBOE in August 2020 in a 4-3 vote.

Voting in favor Thursday were Sally Griffin, Ann Lane, Drew Cline and Phil Nazzaro. Opposed were Kate Cassady, Cindy Chagnon and Helen Honorow.

“Through Learn Everywhere, students can earn high school credits by demonstrating competencies learned outside the school building,” said SBOE Chairman Drew Cline said after Thursday’s vote. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer students this opportunity to earn science credits by completing the world-class program at the New Hampshire Academy of Science.”

Board member Helen Honorow repeatedly voiced her opposition to the Learn Everywhere initiative, claiming it promotes private education over public schools and arguing that it will exacerbate the income gap’s impact on education.

“The Commissioner, he talked about parents not being able to afford a whole private school, but they could buy a piece of private school. That’s something he talked to me about. And we [the Board of Education] heard that this will increase the equity gap.”

When the SBOE voted to enact the program, NEA-NH President Megan Tuttle called the vote “insulting to education professionals across New Hampshire.”

But on Thursday, every board member voted to enact the first of what is scheduled to be many independent, off-campus educational opportunities. It may reflect the high quality of the N.H. Academy of Science’s program, or the lack of opposition among Granite State parents towards giving students more educational choices.

Either way, it’s going to be more difficult for SBOE members or Learn Everywhere opponents in the legislature to block the next offering at the behest of teachers unions or public school administrators.