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Who is the Network for Educational Opportunity, the only “scholarship organization” qualified under New Hampshire’s voucher tax credit program?

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The voucher tax credit law creates a new kind of organization, a non-profit “scholarship organization,” that can solicit donations from businesses and distribute the funds to private, religious and home schools in the form of tuition for qualified students.  To date, one scholarship organization has been approved, the Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO).

NEO started life as The Alliance for the Separation of School and State (ASSS), founded in Fresno, CA in 2000.  Since 2010, the organization has filed its tax returns as the Network for Educational Opportunity, giving its address as the office of its treasurer in Clovis, CA, a suburb of Fresno.

Its tax returns show that, in budget terms, the organization’s peak year was 2001, when it had total contributions of $293,000.  By it 2011/12 fiscal year, contributions had diminished to  $35,000.  Alan Schaeffer, who lives in Connecticut and is listed as having worked full time for ASSS/NEO since 2006, was paid $17,500 of that.

In 2011, Mr. Schaeffer opened an office for NEO in a shared space at 8 North Main Street, Suite 8, in Concord and began working with then Senator Jim Forsythe to develop the New Hampshire education tax credit program.  He worked with the study legislative committee that developed the bill (here are the committee materials) and told me he had provided the basic framework for the legislation.  Mr. Schaeffer said he planned to open up a scholarship organization when the bill passed.  He was featured in a press conference sponsored by Smart Girl Politics (here, introduced by Kate Baker) to publicize the bill.  Smart Girl Politics is a conservative action group where Ms. Baker is listed as the Youth Outreach Coordinator.

When the tax credit passed, NEO established itself as a scholarship organization and added to its staff, including Kate Baker as executive director and Kathleen Lauer-Rago (member of the NH House from 2011-12) as “Lakes Region Director.”

On their web sites, NEO and ASSS outline their conviction that public education should be dismantled:

Our Proclamation: “I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education.”
…public schools are controlled by the government and subject to all the ills of government bureaucracy and power.
….Government schools never sought the permission of parents to educate children. Instead, they used force to secure their audience. As is only natural, the arrogance of the state and its contempt for parents has grown with the years.  So also has its power over society.
….Our society has become a slave to the state by virtue of government-controlled schools. Children suffer, parents feel helpless, and scores of good educators feel trapped in a system that never should have existed in the first place.
….Please join us in exploring the problem of state-controlled schooling and the exciting solutions available this very day!
….Why shouldn’t the government be involved in education?  The Short answer: Government schooling stands in direct opposition to the liberty this country was founded on. It fosters unquestioning obedience, acceptance of authority, herd mentality, and dependency…
….The system is sick at its core.  Its foundation is corrupt – the idea that a government should control what, when and how its citizens learn, that it should have the power to force its agenda on the people it is supposed to serve, that as long as it says it’s doing it for our own good, we must submit, is 100% contrary to the principles of liberty, justice and equality.
….We believe parents are the natural and rightful representatives and governors of their children’s preparation for life. They possess a sovereignty that is both a right and a responsibility and outweighs any claim a government may make to the lives of children.
….We believe that liberty is the source of innovation and excellence.
…But the courts have made it clear that if parents choose public schools for their children, they have no say in what is taught or who teaches it; parents become irrelevant to the education process.
Many of the schools attending NEO’s information sessions are religious schools and the organization appears to put particular emphasis on starting Christian schools.  Formation of religious schools is common in other voucher programs and NEO provides a list of organizations that would help New Hampshire groups take advantage of the new law.  They include:
  • Bob Jones University Press (BJU integrates Bible teachings with every lesson on every subject.)
  • Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools
  • School of Tomorrow (“How to start a Biblically-Based Educational Ministry”), 
  • The Morning Star Academy: K-12 On-line Christian Private School Affiliate Program, 
  • Grace Works Ministries  (“How to Start a Christian School”)

2 Comments

  1. […] Defenders of public education are taking action. A group called Advancing New Hampshire Public Education is a valuable resource of information and research about this stealth attack on public education. Some of those behind this project want nothing less than to dismantle public education. […]

  2. […] Hampshire’s scholarship organization program is a California group called the Network for Educational Opportunity. They introduced the voucher program entitled The Alliance for the Separation of School and […]

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