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Does school choice include “non-school schools”?

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This piece in the Portsmouth Herald is interesting.  You probably haven’t ever seen anything like the Dover’s new BigFish Learning Community.  For a tuition of $9,000 per year, a homeschooler can attend BigFish four days a week.  But it’s a “learning community,” not a school.  The BigFish website said at its founding that “It really is ok to leave school” and promises that there will be no grades or tests.

BigFish is part of the national Liberated Learners Network and the BigFish leadership is active in the New Hampshire school choice movement.  In fact, BigFish and the proposed voucher bill, SB 193 seem made for eachother.

The current draft of SB 193 offers a full sized voucher for homeschooling, tutoring or educational services (p3 of the draft bill).  So a Dover student who qualifies for a free or reduced lunch could bring a $5,181 voucher to BigFish and, since she would be registered as a homeschooler, there would be minimal educational accountability.

If groups like BigFish actually can enter the voucher program though this loophole, and their numbers grow, it will be difficult to assure that state funds are actually implementing the constitutionally mandated commitment to provide an adequate education.

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