There are more bills to monitor and important updates to share.
GSHE urges all home-education supporters to get involved and take an active role to protect and preserve parents’ rights to direct their children’s education.
The NH General Court offers two ways to follow legislation.
HB 628 requiring certain non-public schools or education service providers that accept public funds to perform background checks on all employees and volunteers.
This was the “witch hunt” background check bill that described homeschoolers as “bad actors” who might use this educational option to hide child abuse. Even though sponsors said it was intended to apply to education providers who use taxpayer funds, the language was overly broad and entangled independent home education families, too. This bill required over 15 months of hard work to defeat, finally coming to an end at the House session on January 3, 2024. Thank you to all who attended the public hearing, contacted committee members, and emailed their state representatives. Thank you to everyone who helped defend homeschoolers entangled in this messy legislation. Read the full story here.
HB 1012 exempting from criminal penalty certain parenting decisions intended to encourage a child’s independence and freedom
This bill inserts new language in the Endangering Welfare of Child or Incompetent statute in RSA 639:3 as follows:
“VII. No parent or legal guardian of a child who makes a parenting decision shall be guilty of an offense under this section if: (a) There is no actual injury or harm, or any actual injury or harm is the result of an unavoidable or unforeseen accident; (b) The parenting decision made is not explicitly in violation of any other law; (c) There is a reasoned approach to such decision-making that takes into consideration benefit versus risk; and (d) The decision made is in keeping with the parent or guardian's family values.”
This bill had a public hearing with the House Criminal Justice Committee on January 18. The video is available here beginning at mark 1:09:45.
The prime sponsor said the bill is an extension of parents’ rights and “free range child” movements to raise their children as they determine as long as it does not knowingly endanger a child or is not a violation of another law. Supporters believe the existing statute is overly broad and vague.
A friendly amendment is expected.
HB 1402 establishing a procedure for a high school proficiency exam waiver of mandatory school attendance
This bill enables students to satisfy NH’s education attendance compliance requirements before the age of 18 per RSA 193:1, by taking a high school proficiency exam that is chosen or developed by the Department of Education.
The existing language that allows home educated students to self-certify the satisfactory completion of high school remains unchanged by the bill.
There are concerns that while this bill allows students to complete the equivalent of high school early, it also is a slippery slope to mandating a matriculation exam. Teens already have the option to take a High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) or GED exam. NH also has Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) and Learn Everywhere options for earning educational credits toward graduation from organizations outside of the local district. Additional concerns were raised about issuing a certificate or diploma from the district without meeting their graduation requirements.
This bill had a public hearing on January 16; the video is available here beginning at mark 1:11:55. The House Education Committee held an executive session on January 31; the video is available here starting at mark 5:08:00. The prime sponsor introduced an amendment that received a 10 to 10 vote. The committee then unanimously passed an interim study motion which is essentially another way of terminating the bill. HB 1402 will go to the full House with that recommendation.
This bill regarding youth employment had a public hearing on January 25 with the House Labor Committee. It is not strictly a home education bill, but impacts all teens who wish to work during typical “school hours.” It would allow teens to work when they are not required to have class, so it gives more flexibility to students who are not enrolled in local public schools.
Unfortunately, there were troubles at the public hearing because a Department of Labor attorney gave erroneous testimony re home education requirements re "school hours" and following local districts' curriculum, authority, etc.
GSHE’s concern is less about this individual bill, but about the significant misinformation given to the committee, employers, and NH families about home ed as it relates to youth employment.
GSHE emailed a contact in the DOE about it, asking if the department gives guidance of any kind to other state agencies. He forwarded the email to Commissioner Edelblut, who in turn, forwarded it to Commissioner Ken Merrifield, the head of the Department of Labor. He said the department will review the attorney’s testimony and provide any correction in writing to the House Labor Committee.
This is a good example of why it is important to be vigilant and engaged. This kind of misinformation goes far beyond one public hearing, one bill, or one legislative committee. It impacts thousands of employers and youth.
The public hearing video is at this link beginning around mark 4:14:00. The DOL attorney's testimony begins around 4:22:00. The bill does not have an exec session scheduled at this time.
This is the most important bill GSHE will track this session as it is a threat to home education freedom and autonomy.
HB 1610 requires all school-aged children to participate in the statewide assessment tests regardless of where they are enrolled. Although the bill’s title refers to the Education Freedom Account (EFA) program, the bill’s text says “all learning environments” and replaces “may” with “shall contact their local school districts [if they wish] to participate in the statewide assessment” for both nonpublic and home educated students.
It would conflict, and likely negate, the annual assessment flexibility in home-education statute, RSA 193-A:6.
Ironically, HB 1610 keeps statutory language that allows public-school parents to opt their children out of participation in the statewide assessment, but that would not be available to nonpublic nor home education students.
This bill’s public hearing is expected soon so use this time to prepare testimony. If you’re a subscriber to our monthly newsletter, you will receive a special legislative alert once the hearing is scheduled. GSHE prepared several advocacy tools that make it easy to get involved and be effective; refer to links at the end of this page.
It is important for home education families and supporters to attend the public hearing if at all possible and contact the House Education Committee members. Begin preparation on testimony now as there is usually very little advance notice for public hearings. Make arrangements ahead of time for childcare, if needed. Children and teens are welcome to attend. It can be an excellent civics experience, too.
UPDATE: HB 1610 has a public hearing on Thursday, February 15, 2024 at 10:15am in the Legislative Office Building rooms 205-207. This Facebook event has details and tips for submitting testimony and contacting the House Education Committee.
Heads-up... the committee took HB 1610 off the agenda and hasn't announced a new date/time yet. We're on hold for now. While we wait to hear about a new date for the hearing, you can still email the committee with your testimony. Their group email is HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us
HB 1652 proposes a local Education Freedom Account (EFA) program. If enacted, local districts may offer a “money follows the child” opportunity, subject to a vote by residents. The prime sponsor confirmed that participants in a local EFA are public-school students of their resident district once enrolled, neither home-educating under 193-A nor the statewide EFA in RSA 194-F. This is the third time this kind of bill is presented to the NH House.
This bill had a public hearing on January 22 and the video is available at this link starting at mark 1:37:00. The House Education Committee does not have an executive session scheduled at this time.
CACR 17 relating to the rights of parents. Providing that parents shall have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their minor children.
This bill proposes adding the following language to NH’s constitution:
“[Art.] 2-c. [Rights of Parents] Parents have a fundamental right and responsibility to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their minor children. Neither the state nor any political subdivision shall infringe these rights without demonstrating that its compelling governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served. This article shall not be construed to apply to a parental action or decision that would end life or otherwise physically harm a child.”
CACR 25 relating to the rights of children and parents. Providing that parents and children have the right to control the health, education, and welfare.
This bill proposes adding the following language to NH’s constitution:
“[Art.] 2-c [Rights of Children and Parents.] Minor children have the natural right to the protection of their parents in the control of their health, education and welfare; therefore, parents have the natural right to provide protection to their minor children.”
Both bills had public hearings with the House Children and Family Law Committee on January 30; the video is here starting at mark 3:22:00 for CACR 25 and shortly after, the hearing for CACR 17 began. The bills are similar so the committee combined the hearings after each bill was introduced by prime sponsors.
The committee decided to create a subcommittee with both prime sponsors to merge the bills and address concerns. Both bills will be exec’d on February 20th when it is expected that the bills will be combined.
Constitutional amendments must pass the New Hampshire House and Senate and receive 2/3 support by voters. They become effective when the Governor proclaims their adoption. If they fail to receive a 2/3 vote, then they do not become law.
GSHE Advocacy Resources
Sign up for our newsletters and periodic special alerts at our website.
Make a Difference – various ways to get involved.
NH Legislators – updated for 2024 with the Senate and House Education Committee members’ contact information.
Legislative Process – know how bills go through Concord.
GSHE Action Facebook Group – our group focused on advocacy for traditional, unfunded home education, open to NH homeschooling families and supporters not legislators or special-interest organizations.
Make a Difference video – how to be an effective advocate in Concord including how to follow bills, prepare testimony, and coordinate with like-minded people.
By Michelle Levell