Students walk into the front doors at Hinsdale Middle High School, in Hinsdale, N.H., on the first day of school on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022. Credit: Kristopher Radder / AP

CONCORD, N.H. — The leader of one of New Hampshire’s teachers’ unions is suing to stop public dollars from being spent to fund private schools through the Education Freedom Account program.

The lawsuit in Merrimack County Superior Court this week seeks an injunction to stop the voucher-like program that began last year, contending it violates the New Hampshire Constitution.

Deb Howes, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Hampshire, said the program runs afoul of the constitution because money from New Hampshire’s education trust fund is specifically set aside for public education and cannot be used for private purposes.

“The state specifically earmarked this money for public education. Instead, the state is stealing from public school students in plain sight to pay for its private voucher program,” she said in a statement.

Senate President Jeb Bradley, a Republican from Wolfeboro, accused the union of trying to block a successful program that’s helping low-income students “get the best education possible.”

The number of participants roughly doubled this fall with 3,025 New Hampshire students qualifying for grants totaling nearly $14.7 million this school year, according to state officials.

The New Hampshire program is open to any private school, including religious schools.

Neighboring Maine and Vermont also have opened up their private tuition programs to religious schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Maine couldn’t exclude religious schools from its program that offers tuition aid for private education for students who live in towns without a public school. Earlier this month, the Vermont Agency of Education and several school districts settled lawsuits over similar policy.