By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – With the State Board of Education expected to vote Thursday on using controversial PragerU’s financial curriculum for its Learn Everywhere program, the Attorney General said he has reviewed concerns raised by Cinde Warmington about its name and branding and has determined “no further action is warranted.”
Warmington, an Executive Councilor and Concord Democrat running for Governor, asked Attorney General John Formella last week to investigate whether PragerU or Prager University as it is incorporated, would be engaged in deceptive practices that it is an accredited university by its name.
“The Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the concerns raised about ‘PragerU’ relating to the requirements of RSA 292:8-g and has determined that no further action is warranted at this time,” according to a statement from Formella’s office Monday evening.
Warmington said the response “is disappointing” and charged his office with failing to protect the public from “its radical” viewpoints which she pointed to previously as being anti LGBTQ+ and racist among other concerns.
In reading the conclusions of the Attorney General’s office, Warmington said, “I’m disappointed with the Attorney General’s failure to protect the public from Prager University’s clearly misleading name.
“Its radical content has no place in our public school curriculum and I continue to urge the State Board of Education to reject it,” Warmington wrote.
Warmington argued that it misled the public and the law here is intended to protect consumers against such false representations.
In his response, Formella’s office wrote “Prager University Foundation d/b/a “Prager U” is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit that appears to have no physical presence in New Hampshire. It provides free video content via its website that it self-describes as “edutainment” (“an intersection of education and entertainment.”)
The statement said that it is the Attorney General’s office’s understanding that the State Board of Education is currently considering whether to make one of Prager U’s free online video programs an approved method of receiving credit for the state’s mandated high school-level financial literacy requirement.
State law, RSA 292:8-g states, in relevant part: “[N]o person, school, association or corporation shall use in any way the term ‘junior college’ or ‘college’ or ‘university’ in connection with an institution, or use any other name, title or descriptive matter tending to designate that it is an institution of higher learning unless it has been incorporated under the provisions of this chapter.”
Formella’s office said that after reviewing the statute, the office “does not read RSA 292:8-g to require nondomestic entities that merely have a presence in New Hampshire through the existence of a website to incorporate under the provisions of RSA 292:8.
“In any event, the statute has clearly not been applied in such a manner to similarly situated entities in the past and thus it would not be in the interest of justice to take action against PragerU for failing to incorporate under the provisions of Chapter 292:8 given its present activities,” it read.
Formella’s office added that, “This conclusion is further supported by the (office’s) review of the factual circumstances of PragerU’s activities in New Hampshire, which do not invoke the consumer protection rationale on which the statute is based. Specifically, PragerU makes it very clear that it does not hold itself out to be an institute of higher learning. On the PragerU website’s landing page, the first use of the word “university” is in the following sentence:
“PragerU is not an accredited university, nor do we claim to be. We don’t offer degrees, but we do provide education, entertaining, pro-American videos for every age.”
The office said the only other use of the word “university” on the PragerU website landing page is the “© 2023 Prager University” on the bottom of the page.
Formella’s office stated that the office did not find any indication that PragerU charges for its services, “much less that it suggests that consumers could pay for courses and ultimately receive a degree. To the extent that RSA 292:8 was designed to protect consumers from such predatory activity by a ‘fake’ university, such concerns are not present here where (i) the entity itself has clearly disclaimed being an accredited university and (ii) this entity’s ability to offer any K-12 educational service of any kind in New Hampshire is directly regulated by the SBOE.”
Created in 2009 by talk show host Dennis Prager, the $28 million annual revenue producing non-profit advocacy group and media organization creates content promoting conservative positions on economic, sociological and political ideas.
The State Board of Education tabled a proposal Aug. 10 to accept PragerU’s financial literacy curriculum in New Hampshire.
Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut told Warmington last Wednesday that the organization did not present itself as a “University” in its application for being a part of the state’s Learn Everywhere program, as an alternative to students’ school district accreditation for graduation requirements.
PragerU’s content has been approved for use in three other states but has been criticized by protesters here for having conservative views on everything from slavery to climate change.