Rebuffing Warmington, New Hampshire AG finds no legal issues with PragerU
PragerU is a right-leaning media nonprofit that produces videos providing lessons on history, politics, and social issues with a conservative perspective. (Screenshot)
New Hampshire’s attorney general dismissed legal concerns Monday over the possible state approval of a financial literacy educational program from PragerU, a conservative media company.
In a response to a legal objection raised by Democratic Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington over the potential inclusion of PragerU’s financial literacy class in New Hampshire’s Learn Everywhere program, the Attorney General’s Office said that “no further action is warranted at this time.”
Warmington had said the “U” in PragerU’s name, which is short for “Prager University Foundation” violated a New Hampshire statute that states that only accredited educational institutions can claim to be universities. But the Attorney General’s Office argued that because PragerU operates a website in New Hampshire, is not physically located in the state, and states on its website that it is not an accredited university, the argument doesn’t apply.
The announcement sought to clear up legal uncertainty around the program ahead of a vote Thursday by the State Board of Education over whether to approve the PragerU financial literacy class for use by public school students toward graduation credits.
PragerU is a company that has created right-leaning ideological content aimed at both adults and children, including videos questioning the science of climate change and providing alternative perspectives on whether the Civil War was fought over slavery. The company has a standalone financial literacy course called Cash Course that consists of 15 five-minute videos on topics ranging from how to file taxes to how to fill out W2 tax forms.
Launched in 2021, New Hampshire’s Learn Everywhere program allows public school students to participate in educational programs hosted by companies and organizations that are approved by the State Board of Education. If students complete those programs, public school districts are required to accept that completion as a credit toward their graduation.
The Legislature passed a law in 2022 requiring that financial literacy be taught as part of public school curricula; that law takes effect in the 2023-24 school year. This month, the State Board of Education is weighing whether to approve PragerU’s Cash Course as a means for public school students to receive credits toward that financial literacy.
Proponents of the inclusion argue that the Cash Course is not political and is completely separate from the company’s ideological content; opponents say it could lead students to the company’s other content and could create a precedent for approvals of more ideological programs.
Warmington’s objections centered on RSA 292:8-g, which holds that “no 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.”
Warmington, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, raised the concerns at the Sept. 6 Executive Council meeting, asking the Attorney General’s Office to investigate whether that law rendered PragerU ineligible to operate within Learn Everywhere.
But the Attorney General’s Office said that the statute did not apply to PragerU.
“After reviewing the statute, the (Attorney General’s 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,” the office wrote in a response released Monday afternoon.
The office added that the state statute was based on a “consumer protection rationale,” and that they did not think that PragerU was violating standards around consumer protection.
“Specifically, Prager U makes very clear that it does not hold itself out to be an institute of higher learning,” the Attorney General’s Office added. “On the Prager U 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 educational, entertaining, pro-American videos for every age.’”
In a statement reacting to the attorney general’s announcement, Warmington continued to voice concerns. “I’m disappointed with the Attorney General’s failure to protect the public from Prager University’s clearly misleading name. PragerU’s radical content has no place in our public school curriculum and I continue to urge the State Board of Education to reject it.”
The State Board of Education will take up the vote at its Thursday meeting at 10 a.m. at the Granite State College building at 25 Hall St. in Concord.
The vote had been scheduled during the board’s last meeting in August, but the item was tabled after a wave of opposition from educators and members of the public at the meeting. Board Chairman Drew Cline directed PragerU to answer questions about how it would more clearly separate the Cash Course program from the rest of PragerU’s content.
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