Despite Opposition, State Board of Education Approves PragerU Literacy Course

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Retired educator Nancy Brennan of Weare voices her opposition to the state Board of Education about PragerU Kids' application to provide an on-line financial literacy course. Screenshot


CONCORD — After three hours of public testimony, the vast majority in opposition to approving a PragerU financial literacy course, the state Board of Education approved the application 5 to 0 with chairman Andrew Cline abstaining.

Last month, the board had tabled the application promoted by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, until additional information could be provided by PragerU Kids. 

Thursday, the state board faced a packed meeting room of teachers, school board members, parents, state elected officials and advocates on both sides of the issue.

After three hours of testimony, with the vast majority of speakers opposed to the PragerU application as was the case with several several hundred written comments, several board members raised concerns that opponents sought to censor opposing views noting the Prager political philosophy is supported by about half the country.

Board member Richard Sala said he disagreed with the person who said if the proposal had a woke agenda, the board would not be entertaining the application.

There are progressive charter school programs the board approved, he said he deeply disagrees with but trusts parents more than he trusts the government.

Sala argued Prager’s beliefs are mainstream political thought in this country that half or more than half of the people believe.

He said that means more local parents can make the decision that Prager is the more appropriate website than some others.

“What we saw today was not live and let live,” said board member Ryan Terrell of Nashua, “but a political organization flexing its political muscle.”

He said he had not seen such an outcry like this in the time he has been on the state board.

“I love the fact that parents and people are paying attention, but then there is the misinformation and hypocrisy,” Terrell said. “You open the door and then close the door on dialogue.”

Board member Phil Nazzro of Newmarket said he was concerned about setting a precedent of having an ideological litmus test for who could provide education in the state.

He said the way to build critical thinking is with a broad array of ideas presented, instead they had a lot of red herrings.

Several speakers described Prager’s application to provide a free on-line financial literacy course as the camel’s nose under the tent, with many saying it would lead to greater engagement in the controversial organization’s propaganda with the stated goal of changing students’ minds.

“You cannot separate the creation from the creator,” said Realtor Brenda Perkins, who said she is a 40-year resident of the state. “It is like lighting a match to a slow burning fuse.”

Allowing the program would open the door to uncredited opinions to our schools, she said and would be a Trojan horse to the future use of Prager’s other material.

One person questioned if a similar course done by the American Civil Liberties Union or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference would even be before the board.

“If this had a woke agenda, you would not even consider it,” noted the Rev. John Davis from Meriden. “But this agenda is OK to do to students, I hope that is not acceptable.”

But supporters of approving the application said the course was unbiased, and presented a choice for parents and not a mandate for all high school students who are required to master financial literacy as a graduation credit.

Supporters said the attempt to silence Prager’s other content amounts to censorship and does not give students the ability to hear all sides of issues.

Nancy Biederman of New Boston said the PragerU course is not the only course high school students would need to receive graduation credit.

“This is a choice, not mandated,” Biederman said. “This is all about political sides and I do not understand why you don’t want them to hear the other side.”
She said it would be nice to have students with open eyes.

The non-profit organization, PragerU Kids, 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.”
The organization’s application would provide videos on various financial topics from interest and compound interest to paying taxes, and provide worksheets, with a 45 multiple choice test at the end.

The course would be under the Department of Education’s Learn Everywhere Program, which according to its annual report discussed at Thursday’s meeting, had 32 students participate, including nine in the other on-line financial literacy court FitMoney.

PragerU said last month it would create a stand-alone website for the literacy class so New Hampshire students would not need to access their website and its more controversial videos that have been called misleading, biased and that marginalize certain groups and issues.

Brandon Ewing of PragerU said he believes the company has made the changes the board sought at its last meeting, and urged them to give the course a half a graduation credit, although board chair Drew Cline unsuccessfully argued for only a quarter credit.

A number of speakers at Thursday’s meeting were concerned students may still go to the PragerU website and watch the videos.

Louise Spencer of Concord and founder of the Kent Street Coalition, said she accessed some of the videos and soon after received an email urging people to take a survey about transgender individuals after statements about the transformation process and calling the group a mob.

Spencer also noted people from the PragerU organization were aggressively filming people who were outside the building opposing the application.

“That very aggressive recording of those of us shows you today what I believe is unethical behavior from a vendor,” Spencer said. “Is this appropriate behavior for a vendor.”

She called the on-line course “a foot in the door for the indoctrination of our youth.”

Nancy Brennan, a retired educator from Weare was critical of the course saying it offered far less information than what she taught her eighth graders about budgeting and not as expansive as the course offered on the state-approved, on-line learning program VLACS.

She noted other Prager videos teach that fossil fuels are good, that wind and solar are bad, that slavery wasn’t so bad, and that colonization helped some people.

“Why would the State of New Hampshire partner with a right-wing organization that downplays racism, climate change, and more,” Brennan asked. “Is this really a course we want to look at or down the road join Oklahoma and Florida and bring this malarkey into New Hampshire schools? I hope not.”

But others praised the program, saying it was robust enough to give students a basic understanding of financial issues they will face in life and more than what many students have had before.

Jay Lucas of Portsmouth, an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate, praised the on-line offering, calling it “a rock solid course, that is technical, vigorous and also entertaining.”

He viewed the videos closely for any political bias but found none and said they were every objective.

“I like the idea of choice. We are in the live free or die state here in New Hampshire,” Lucas said. “This will give students a choice, some will embrace it, and some will not and that is fine.”

Jody Underwood, the former chairman of the Croydon School Board, supported the PragerU application, as did her husband Ian who two years ago made the motion to cut the school budget in half at a poorly attended school meeting causing an uproar in the community.

She said she viewed the PragerU course as apolitical but noted some kids are open to conservative ideas because of their parents’ beliefs.

Jody Underwood said it does not matter whether the course has a good test or not as long as the students understand the material no matter how they get there.

Education needs to prepare people for what they will see in the real world, she said. To close off these ideas to people is a disservice.

But Corinne Dodge of Derry had another concern.

Noting as a mother, grandmother, and retired teacher, she is afraid corporations are taking over and “I’m sick and tired of watching public education being gutted.”

She asked the board to work “to protect our public schools because we need them. I’m afraid corporate America is going to take over.”

Garry Rayno may be reached at

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