The House and Senate must finalize their bills in the next few weeks and then negotiate any differences as we head into May. Not much more left! As always, the detailed schedule with our analysis and recommendations is below with legislators’ contact information at the end.
Public hearings are the best chance to communicate with committee members and share your opinion. The Legislative Office Building (LOB) is located immediately behind the State House at 33 N. State Street in Concord. For senate bills, sign the white sheet on a side table just inside the door to indicate your support or opposition for a bill, and if you intend to speak. The protocol is a little different in the House. The public may sign the blue sheet near the room entrance to indicate support or opposition to any bill; fill out a pink card if you intend to speak. If possible, provide written copies for each member plus the committee secretary. If you are unable to attend hearings email the committee, or better yet, call them individually and indicate if you are a constituent.
Some bills are scheduled for executive session which is when the committee discusses and votes on legislation. The public has until then to make an impact on the committee’s recommendation which is very influential when the entire chamber votes. Exec sessions may happen anytime after the public hearing closes so prompt action is highly recommended.
And other bills will be voted on by the entire NH House of Representatives and/or Senate as noted in the schedule. This is when all members of the chamber will vote YEA (to support the committee’s recommendation) or NAY (to oppose the recommendation). Please contact your legislators before the session day with brief, polite messages and mention you are a constituent.
Legislators’ contact information is at the end of the article.
TUESDAY, April 11, 2017: SENATE EDUCATION, ROOM 103 LOB
9:00 a.m. Executive session for pending bills
***HB 276, relative to student exemption from the statewide assessment
position — SUPPORT
information — This is a repeat of HB 1338 (2016) and that passed the House but snagged in the Senate and identical to HB 603 (2015) that passed both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Hassan. This bill is in response to increasing demand from parents to refuse their children’s participation in mandatory testing, including the statewide assessments that are aligned with College and Career Readiness Standards (aka Common Core). There are many reasons why parents may wish to have their children not participate in the statewide assessment —tests are considered developmentally inappropriate, privacy concerns, and more. Given that these tests have no academic or diagnostic value, many parents believe them to be a waste of valuable instructional time. This bill addresses documented instances of students being harassed and punished for non-participation. It allows districts to offer alternative activities that can be as simple as study hall or reading time so it is not burdensome or expensive. Some NH districts have already done so notably Nashua, Manchester, Keene, and Merrimack. Additionally non-participating students do not count against the districts’ scores. The bill is consistent with existing NH DOE policies, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and US Supreme Court rulings. Even the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) acknowledges that parents may refuse their children’s participation in statewide assessments. The NH DOE and superintendents have previously claimed that the state and districts risk funding if they do not meet the 95% minimum participation rate. This is not entirely accurate. To date not a single district or state has lost federal funding due to low participation rates. This is a threat by the US DOE to ensure compliance, but it is the last in a long line of possible consequences. Again, accountability should be to parents, not politicians. This bill empowers parents to direct their children’s education within the public school system. Also diminishing the hyper-testing mechanisms of Common Core will encourage educational options and variety. For information about how to refuse your child’s participation in statewide assessments, read Testing Time.
HB 304, relative to implementation of academic standards by a local school board and relative to review of academic standards under consideration by the state board of education
position — SUPPORT
information — This bill explicitly empowers local boards to adopt alternative standards from College and Career Readiness Standards and Next Generation Science Standards (aka Common Core) or others adopted by the state Board of Education. School boards may also determine if their locally-selected standards “meet or exceed state academic standards” without deferring to the state Department of Education or Board of Education for approval. While the bill reiterates that districts are able to refuse College and Career Readiness Standards, the key is giving districts more independence for alternative tests. Testing drives standards and curriculum. This is a school choice issue because Common Core stifles diversity and options.
The Senate and House Education Committee members with contact information is available here. Brief phone calls are most effective, but personalized emails directed to an individual are also helpful; mention if you are a constituent. Personal stories and messages are helpful. At the bottom we’ve supplied a list of the House committee members’ emails for an easy copy/paste.
To contact the Senate Education Committee, email or call them directly. Members of senate committees do not have a shared email address.[table “4” not found /]