A controversial proposal to grant academic credit for a free online financial literacy course offered by the right-wing media organization known as PragerU is facing questions based on New Hampshire’s rules about corporate names that include the word “university.”
Although the conservative California-based nonprofit is upfront about the fact that it’s not actually an accredited school, PragerU’s full name is the Prager University Foundation. Its online video platform prioritizes persuasion and includes kid-oriented “edutainment” content expressly designed to counteract so-called “woke agendas” in the classroom.
Now the top elected Democrat in New Hampshire, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, is asking the state attorney general to investigate whether PragerU can operate lawfully in light of a state law that limits a corporation’s ability to call itself a “college” or “university.”
PragerU CEO Marissa Streit told the Globe late Thursday that her organization doesn’t view that law as an impediment to its plans because, as its website makes clear, the nonprofit doesn’t claim to be an accredited university.
“We should qualify for the exact same treatment that every other business vendor in New Hampshire has,” Streit said. “Not more, not less.”
A spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Justice said Friday that the attorney general’s office is aware of Warmington’s concern and is “in the process of determining what next steps might be appropriate.”
Neither education commissioner Frank Edelblut nor State Board of Education chair Drew Cline responded to requests for comment.
Warmington, who’s running for governor, opposes letting PragerU participate in the state’s optional Learn Everywhere program.
“The extreme views espoused by the unaccredited, right-wing PragerU organization have no place in our public schools,” she said, vowing to end Edelblut’s “disastrous voucher and PragerU programs.”
Warmington’s opponent in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, outgoing Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, has said she is “appalled” by the PragerU proposal as well.
Edelblut recommended the PragerU proposal ahead of last month’s State Board of Education meeting, but the board punted. Members discussed the possibility of awarding a quarter-credit, rather than a half-credit, for PragerU’s “Cash Course‚” and they asked a PragerU representative about presenting the financial literacy content on a standalone webpage to separate it from the rest of the PragerU Kids library, which includes lessons on gender, race, climate change, and slavery that many have found objectionable.
One video about US history depicts abolitionist Frederick Douglass telling a pair of time-traveling kids that slavery was part of a “compromise” that the nation’s founders made “to achieve something great.” Another depicts formerly enslaved Black educator and intellectual leader Booker T. Washington telling the kids, “Future generations are never responsible for the sins of the past.”
The featured presenters on PragerU’s main website include Ben Shapiro, Michael Knowles, Candace Owens, and Jordan B. Peterson, and recent videos on the site include “Why I Left the Left,” " How Multiculturalism Is Fracturing America,” and “Make Men Masculine Again.”
Streit said work on PragerU’s standalone website for the financial literacy course is still underway, and the nonprofit is open to whatever amount of academic credit that Edelblut and Cline recommend.
“We trust their judgment and hope that they’ll do what’s best for their students,” she said.
Education officials in Florida and Oklahoma have recently approved PragerU content for in-classroom use, sparking backlash.
The proposal under consideration in New Hampshire could come up again Thursday at the State Board of Education meeting. An agenda is expected early next week.
This story has been updated to include a statement from a spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Justice.
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