Two University of New Hampshire education department professors believe they’ve found the villain behind the state’s proposed Education Freedom Accounts: QAnon.
Professors Joe Onosko and Elaine Marhefka, writing in a Concord Monitor op-ed, claim HB 20 — which would send some state funding directly to parents, allowing them to choose the best education option for their child — should be opposed because too many parents are “dupes” who fall sway to “crazy” ideas.
“The rise of QAnon has revealed how easily Americans can be duped into believing crazy ideologies thanks to the raging firestorm of misinformation on social media,” they write. “School privatization programs like HB 20 remove community input in the education of future citizens and indirectly promote unfounded and dangerous parental beliefs and ideologies using public tax dollars.”
They also claim, without offering evidence, that passing the Education Freedom Account legislation will lead to a “questionable influx of parents from out of state,” bringing their QAnon conspiracies with them.
“HB 20 will bring to our state cultists and other fringe-view groups on the right and far left because, unlike their state of origin, New Hampshire will give these parents thousands of dollars for each child whom they’d educate at home anyway.
“Why? Because they don’t dare use public or private schools where their kids will be exposed to mainstream culture that challenges the nonsense they’re pedaling,” the UNH faculty members write.
Attacks on the intelligence or motives of New Hampshire parents have become common from EFA opponents. In November 2019, NHJournal reported on then-House Education Committee member Rep. Tamara Meyer Le posting the message “F*** private and religious schools” on her Facebook page. Several of her fellow House Democrats ‘liked’ her comment.
Last year, then-state Sen. Jeanne Dietsch (D-Peterborough) said parents without college educations aren’t competent enough to make educational choices for their children. She followed that up by claiming some parents only choose home-schooling because they are child abusers.
“It’s a very small percentage. It’s parents who don’t want other people knowing what’s going on at their homes — the drugs, whatever is happening there. It’s a minuscule percentage, but it exists. It’s a reality,” Dietsch said.
“I am not worried about your children,” she assured the parents on the ‘listening session’ call she held following her previous comments. “I’m worried about the other children. As legislators, we must worry about all children. I think one reason the commissioner [Frank Edelblut] might want a statewide management system is that we have a very tiny percentage of homeschoolers who are parents who are using that system to neglect children.”
Two weeks ago, Dietsch told an ’emergency school funding’ meeting in January that parents may use EFAs to fund a school of terrorism.
Proponents of the Education Freedom measure were astonished at the views of the UNH professors. One advocate even said the authors of the Concord Monitor op-ed have gone “full Dietsch.”
Others rejected the critique as unfounded and demeaning to families.
“The very real New Hampshire families that have reached out to us at Children’s Scholarship Fund with interest in an Education Freedom Account are single moms or dads that need to work in person to survive, like LNAs, delivery drivers, and grocery store employees,” said Kate Baker of the Children’s Scholarship Fund. “For children that need a different type of schooling or who have been impacted by the pandemic, Education Freedom Accounts offer hope. This hope, from thousands of real New Hampshire parents, that they may find and afford an education that is the right fit for their child, especially during a pandemic, is not a conspiracy.”
Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice at Reason Foundation, told NHJournal, “The ‘haves’ already have school choice. School choice is an equalizer. The UNH authors claim funding students directly reduces accountability. But the opposite is true. Private schools are directly accountable to families. That’s the strongest form of accountability that exists. Red tape isn’t the same thing as accountability.
“Funding students directly leads to more equity by allowing more families to access alternatives,” he said.
On the claims of parents using these programs to indoctrinate their children, DeAngelis asked if anyone has informed the authors of the indoctrination already happening in ‘government schools.’
“The difference is you’re forced to pay for the political indoctrination – left or right – you vehemently disagree within the district school system. And the least advantaged essentially have no choice but to subject their children to those views for years while the most advantaged have exit options. Funding students directly leads to more equity by allowing more families to access alternatives,” DeAngelis said.
“And the preponderance of the rigorous evidence indicates that school choice leads to better democratic outcomes including civic engagement, voluntarism, and tolerance of others. Private schools promote the public good. They have real incentives to create proper citizens because they know their customers can take their money elsewhere.”