CONCORD, N.H. — A financial literacy course offered by the right-wing media organization known as PragerU secured state approval Thursday for academic credit in New Hampshire.
The highly controversial decision means high schoolers who opt to complete the free, online video-based lessons can receive enough credit through the state’s Learn Everywhere program to satisfy a newly added financial literacy graduation requirement.
“New Hampshire understands the importance of financial literacy, and this is one more option that high school students and families can choose if they want, to take advantage of as part of the many educational choices available to them,” state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said.
After the State Board of Education’s decision, PragerU CEO Marissa Streit released a prerecorded video with Edelblut praising the program. Streit said the decision would help put an end to “gaslighting” by allowing parents to watch the financial literacy videos with their kids.
While some opponents raised concerns about the adequacy of PragerU’s “Cash Course” in particular, most objected more broadly to the conservative nonprofit’s clearly stated political mission, including its expressed desire to produce kid-oriented “edutainment” that combats so-called “woke agendas” in the classroom.
Unlike Florida and Oklahoma, where PragerU content was broadly approved for in-classroom use, New Hampshire approved a proposal focused narrowly on the financial literacy course. Nonetheless, it drew an outcry from Democratic leaders, teachers unions, progressive groups, and others concerned about how the stamp of approval may lend legitimacy to an organization that prioritizes ideological persuasion.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates Cinde Warmington and Joyce Craig released statements upbraiding the decision as an affront to high-quality public education.
Warmington, who serves on the state’s five-member Executive Council, said the approval disregards the potential harms of PragerU’s “extreme content” and “further blurs the lines between credible education and partisan ideology.” The move is part of a broader effort by Edelblut to “undermine public education,” she said.
Craig, who is mayor of Manchester, said PragerU was “founded by far-right extremists” and “indoctrinates students” with anti-LGBTQ hatred, “horrific views on slavery,” and conspiracy theories about climate change. “They have no place in New Hampshire’s public education system,” she said.
Democratic state Representative David Luneau of Hopkinton, a member of the House Education Committee, called PragerU “an offensive propaganda mill that doesn’t belong in our schools.” Before the vote, he expressed hope that the board would reject the application.
“And if we have to undo it, we will,” he said.
In an interview, Luneau said he would introduce legislation requiring minimum standards for the state’s Learn Everywhere program, including a robust review process, the involvement of licensed teachers, and an assessment of a program’s success.
New Hampshire House majority leader Jason Osborne, a Republican from Auburn, said in a statement that Democrats are intent on depriving families of choice in education.
“The same people who want children indoctrinated in radical gender ideology without parents’ approval or knowledge cannot abide parents and students having even an option to learn anything taught by a Republican,” Osborne said.
Drew Cline, who chairs the State Board of Education, said an organized political campaign has been working to discredit both PragerU and New Hampshire’s Learn Everywhere program by blurring the line between the financial literacy course and the other content in the PragerU library.
Cline said there has been a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about what this proposal entails. There’s no taxpayer funding involved, he noted. PragerU requested approval for its “Cash Course” content through the Learn Everywhere program, and the board granted that request based on its assessment of that content.
Cline called for the application to be slashed from a half-credit to a quarter-credit, based on the volume and depth of the course’s content. But his fellow board members decided to move forward with the original proposal, as Edelblut had recommended. Cline abstained from the final vote.
Board member Richard Sala of Hopkinton said it would be wrong for the board to approve only those proposals that align with their own ideological views. He said the board has historically approved applications for certain charter schools and other programs despite reservations about their ideological perspective. Besides, he said, the PragerU content represents a viewpoint a large number of Americans share.
“Material on the PragerU website is mainstream political thought in this country,” he said.
State Senator Becky Whitley, a Democrat from Contoocook, said she rejects the notion that New Hampshire schools are promoting a left-wing agenda that requires some sort of balance from the right.
“There’s no place for extremism on either side,” Whitley said. “We should present a well-balanced education for our children that welcomes various viewpoints but is not promoting some sort of political agenda or another.”
In celebrating New Hampshire’s decision, PragerU called on supporters to sign a petition so the nonprofit’s material would be allowed in schools across the country.