Free State Project Early Mover Jody Underwood

Jody Underwood, Ph.D moved to New Hampshire for the Free State Project in 2007. She is a founder and owner of Bardo Project and is one of the faces of Bardo Farm, a 210-acre off-the-grid farm in Croydon, NH that hosts a varying number of people who wish to live off the land, learning and using back-to-basics skills. Naturally raised meats, emu oil, and other products from Bardo Farm are available for sale at Community Market Day events. Ask about their great deals on CSA (community-supported agriculture) subscriptions!

School Choice in New Hampshire

Underwood focuses on K-12 education, professionally and as the chair of the Croydon school board, which recently instituted school choice. The school board included non-religious private schools as part of the choice, which was originally supported by the State Department of Education, though they’re now challenging it for reasons that are still unknown:

In 2014 the tiny town of Croydon implemented a cost-savings school choice program that enables families to pick alternatives to their ‘anchor’ Newport district schools. Although the NH DOE gave tacit approval of their plans along the way, they now want to put an end to it. Currently four Croydon students are utilizing the program to attend a private school at a savings of approximately $16K to the town.

In September 2015 the Attorney General sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter to the Croydon School Board demanding that they stop making tuition payments to the private school within 20 days. The Croydon School Board, with support from the residents and selectman, did not comply as they believe they are properly following state law.” —New Hampshire Union-Leader

Underwood’s goal is to figure out ways to revolutionize education. She will soon be testifying on Bill HB 1637, which aims to clarify NH school choice law in a way that will force the Department of Education and Attorney General to recall their overreaching legal injunctions and let the Croydon school board get back to the business of matching kids with educational settings that best suit them as individuals.

Bill HB 1637 will also allow other school districts to step up and do the same, without the fear of being sued by the State. The approach pioneered by Croydon would allow school districts to focus on educating children, while providing parents much more input as to how that should be done. It also saves local taxpayers money both in the short run—by sending kids to private schools that charge less than public schools—and in the long run, since allowing competition will help rein in the bloated costs of public education. This would also provide incentives for innovative educators that are able to cater to students who are not being served by the current monopoly that public schools unfortunately enjoy.