State Ed. Board Tables Controversial Prager Financial Literacy Course

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Courtesy photo

Frank Edelblut, commissioner NH Department of Education


CONCORD — The State Board of Education Thursday tabled an application by PragerU Kids to offer an on-line course on financial literacy until additional information is provided.

Board Chair Drew Cline said he was not comfortable approving the application until he could see the “whole package” including a company proposal to establish a stand-alone website for the course for New Hampshire students.

One of the many criticisms raised at the board’s meeting about the controversial, conservative non-profit organization is students taking.

   the financial literacy course would have easy access to other Prager videos that some organizations classify as misleading on climate change, slavery and racism, immigration, history of fascism and its anti-LGBTQ bent.

The organization’s opponents told the board approving the financial literacy contract pushed by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut would open the door to other material that did not belong in New Hampshire schools.

The non-profit organization is not an academic institution, does not confer degrees and is not accredited, and has had some of its videos removed from YouTube and Google because of their “hateful content.”

On its website, PragerU Kids says it teaches “American Values” while “Woke agendas are infiltrating classrooms, culture and social media.”
Several speakers at Thursday’s meeting said the organization’s website could lead students taking financial literacy to other videos with messages that would not be appropriate.

Emmett Soldati of Somersworth, said he is proud of the state’s tradition of local government, and shares the belief that PragerU is not right for New Hampshire.

While approving the application would appear to be tacit approval of PragerU, he said, it is more than that because throughout the financial literacy videos and its other videos is its brand and logo.

He said that branding would have to be removed from the financial literacy videos if the board did not want to have the association of other concerns with the organization.

Brandon Ewing of PragerU said the company is planning a stand-alone website for the state’s financial literacy course so students would not have access to other material on its website, which he acknowledged would be hard to navigate for students looking for the literacy course.

That would allow students with their parents to work through the 15 videos and worksheets to the final assessment without having to use the Prager website or with a log in to gather student information, he said.

“We’re a media company and we love the Learn Everywhere Program, and the state’s school choice program,” Ewing said.

He said the program is designed to hit all the standards the state is expected to develop for the financial literacy requirement for high school graduation, noting it allows students to demonstrate competencies in a satisfactory way for the state.

But he said he could not commit to removing the organization’s brand from the videos as several people requested.

Edelblut said programs the department uses now are branded and asking Prager to remove its branding is not something he considers appropriate. He said the program from Prager is more robust than the program the board approved for a quarter credit, and this would be for a half credit.

But some speakers believed the program was not up to the state standards for graduation requirements.

Kearsarge Regional School District Assistant Superintendent Michael Bessette said using PragerU instead of a locally developed curriculum, is like going to McDonalds and claiming you are going to a four-star restaurant.

He had concerns particularly around competencies as did several members of the board saying five-minute videos with 36 multiple choice questions do not replace a full semester of hands-on teaching.

This is a quick hit replacing quality, Bessette said. “It may be convenient, but you are replacing something of high quality with something of low quality. You are doing a disservice to my children and all children.”
Bessette and other speakers took issue with a report on the application that said department officials had reached out to educators and the extended learning opportunity network to review the videos but did not have anyone respond.

Bessette said he was not aware of any outreach and others said the request went out on July 3 with a July 7 deadline, during a vacation week when many teachers were with their families.

Deb Howes, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the statement an insult, noting teachers work hard all school year and during vacation time they do like to spend time with their families.

The non-profit PragerU Kids program would help fulfill a state requirement students learn financial literacy to graduate and would be available under the Department of Education’s Learn Everywhere Program.

The program was founded by conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager and uses conservative pundits and activists along with Republican National Committee members to tout its conservative philosophy in its videos it offers free to schools. So far Prager is working with Florida, Texas and Montana on programs, Ewing said.

Several board members pressed some of those opposing the application if the financial literacy videos were biased or contained good content.

Mark Maclean, director of the School Administrators Association said he did watch the videos and they were well produced and the content was good but questioned if it would be enough as a stand alone course to satisfy the minimum standards for financial literacy.

He said you have to understand what a competency-based approach is. There has to be more than one way to determine what a student knows and answering 40 multiple choice questions is not that.

Maclean said some instructional support needs to go along with the video and more robust learning experiences for the students.

He said he watched the video without considering the propaganda the brand uses, but as a piece of information.

“It is engaging, and I like the five-minute (concept), but my concern is the platform this is coming from.”
Louise Spencer of Concord, said she is concerned about the financial literacy video as it had face after face of young people looking with horror when the issue of taxes is raised.

“Oh no terrible you have to pay taxes,” she quoted from the video saying “they figure out taxes are inherently bad and that is indoctrination,” said Spencer. She said she believes taxes are what you contribute to live in a community.

“PragerU is a media company,” Spencer said. “They understand the media is the message.”

A conversation with different viewpoints is best for education, she said, noting the students need a wider range of opportunities.

Rep. David Luneau, D-Hopkinton, accused the board of trying to slip the controversial application through with little notice, when people are not paying attention and with little to no transparency.

Cline asked Luneau if he had concerns about the literacy program and Luneau said he had concerns about Prager.

The producer of this material has a well known reputation for producing extremist propaganda, Luneau said.

“People received a four-day notice to approve material submitted by an organization considered by many people to be a racist propaganda mill,” Luneau said.

During the board’s discussion Phillip Nazzaro of Newmarket said he had concerns about the assessment and how to determine if a student has an understanding of the subject matter.

How do you determine mastery through a non-conversational interaction or teacher marking a student, he asked, saying the board should probably see the whole test.

Mastering competencies you have to get beyond simple recall and get to concepts. Nazzaro said. This is a life skill and how do you ensure just going through the assessment is an accurate picture?

Board member Ryan Terrell of Nashua asked Edelblut if there is a gap between the Prager proposal and what the board already approved for a quarter credit.

Edelblut said the Prager course was equally if not more robust and meets all the criteria as the other course.

He said there was some discussion of reducing the credit because they did not want students thinking it was all they needed to know.

“It is important to separate our individual political philosophies from partisanship,” Edelblut said.

Cline urged members to agree to table the application until the next meeting until Prager supplies all the worksheets, the assessment questions and a prototype of what the stand-alone website will look like and what it will contain.

The board’s next meeting is Thursday Sept. 14.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

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