Education Bills Scheduled for Week of February 13, 2017

This is week six of the legislative session and committees are finalizing “early bills” that need to go to another committee. Usually these have fiscal notes and move on to Finance or Ways and Means. This also means we are rapidly approaching “cross over” when the House and Senate trade surviving bills.

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 the 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 decides whether or not to support bills, amend them, retain (hold) them, or send them to interim study. The public has until the executive session to make an impact on how they will vote which is very influential when the entire body votes. Exec sessions on pending legislation may happen anytime after the public hearing closes so prompt action is encouraged.

And other bills will be voted on by the entire NH House of Representatives. This is when all 400 have the opportunity to vote YEA (to support the committee’s recommendation) or NAY (to oppose the committee’s recommendation). Please contact your legislators before the session day with brief, polite messages and mention you are a constituent.

As always, contact information is at the end of the article.

 

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017: SENATE EDUCATION, ROOM 103 LOB
Public hearings for the following bills

9:00 a.m. SB 102, relative to eligibility of school district employees for Family and Medical Leave Act

9:30 a.m. SB 228-FN-A, establishing the New Hampshire college graduate retention incentive partnership (NH GRIP)

The committee may exec pending legislation at any time.

***SB 8-FN, relative to school attendance in towns with no public schools
position — SUPPORT
information — This is the senate version of HB 557, the town tuitioning bill, that would allow small districts to make agreements with other public school districts or private schools if the grade-level is not offered in-district. This bill is a return of the Committee of Conference language of HB 1637 (2016) that passed the House and Senate only to be vetoed by Gov. Hassan. It clarifies existing statutes that small towns across the state that do not provide full K through 12 education in-district may enter into tuition agreements with other schools. It is consistent with RSA 194:22 and RSA 193:1. It is also in line with practices by NH districts that have tuition agreements with private schools, even some located out of state. For additional information, read Town Tuitioning in CroydonOptions for Small Towns, and Governor Vetoes School Choice that references the 2016 bill.

***SB 43, relative to non-academic surveys administered by a public school to its students
position — SUPPORT
information — This bill has been in the works for quite some time. HB 206 (2015) created a bi-partisan study committee to examine the numerous non-academic surveys given to our students, and SB 320 (2016) would have required active consent for all surveys, with the exception of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Although SB 320 passed the House and Senate, it was vetoed by Gov. Hassan. The committee received evidence that many non-academic surveys include personal questions, and contrary to current law, students are sometimes required to share this information in class when it is not optional nor anonymous. SB 43 adds the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) from the federal Center for Disease Control to the list of surveys that would require active parental consent (opt in). Although the YRBS allows both active and passive consent, undoubtedly school officials and representatives of many social programs will again argue that student privacy is a necessary loss in order to produce higher participation rates and secure funding. The ends do not justify the means. Although some students may benefit from the social programs, it does not justify ignoring current statute, privacy concerns, and parents’ rights to direct their under-age children’s education. For more information including instances of required participation in these questionnaires, read Non-Academic Surveys and Parents’ Rights.

*SB 44, prohibiting the state from requiring implementation of common core standards
position — SUPPORT
information — This is the same language as SB 101 (2015) that passed the House and Senate only to be vetoed by Gov. Hassan. This is a clear and simple bill that expressly prohibits the state from mandating Common Core standards thereby protecting local control and educational diversity.

SB 46, relative to participation in public school cocurricular programs offered in another school district
position — SUPPORT
information — This is a straight-forward bill. It would allow students to participate in extra-curricular activities offered by another district only if the home district does not offer the activity, and assuming there are no costs, the student would only need the receiving district’s permission.

***SB 193, establishing education freedom savings accounts for students
position — SUPPORT
information — Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are funds that children receive to a designated account that are used for specified educational purposes. While they are new to New Hampshire, they are not new to other states. Currently five states offer ESA programs and each is unique with respect to the approved uses, eligibility qualifications, administration, accountability mechanisms, and funding sources. The two established programs in Arizona and Florida have been immensely successful. They put an expanded range of educational services and options within reach, particularly for low-income families who face the greatest challenges financing their children’s educational needs. ESAs have withstood constitutional challenges. This bill has few restrictions regarding eligibility and is considered a “universal” ESA. The dollar amount would be 90% of the per pupil state adequacy amount plus any differentiated aid the home district would receive for students in grades 1 and above; 50% for kindergarten students. With 5% going to administration by a non-profit scholarship organization, the state keeps 5% which represents a savings. Enrollment is optional. Read more in Education Savings Accounts: The Next Evolution of School Choice.

 

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017: HOUSE EDUCATION, ROOM 207 LOB
Public hearings for the following bill

10:00 a.m. HB 620, relative to compliance with state and federal education mandates
position — SUPPORT
information — This bill would prohibit federal and state mandates of curriculum, instruction, and assessments unless fully paid by state or federal funds. It is a way to inhibit the state Board of Education from imposing more than what is specified by state statute. It also repeals the state BOE’s rule-making authority regarding special education that exceed state or federal minimum requirements, RSA 186-C:16-c.

10:30 a.m. Executive session on the following bills

HB 210, relative to a code of ethics for certified educational personnel

HB 226, relative to documenting the improvement of non-proficient readers

HB 207, prohibiting the implementation of common core in public elementary and secondary schools
position — NEUTRAL
information — Similar to SB 101 (2015), this bill says that the state Department of Education nor state Board of Education can require local districts to adopt Common Core State Standards. They are already unable to mandate standards or curriculum per RSA 193-E; it is the required testing that drives districts to use the state adopted standards and aligned curriculum. While it is redundant, the bill might underscore local districts’ independence because there were instances of the state DOE trying to intimidate districts by falsely telling them that districts faced losing funding and that the standards were mandatory. The bill also requires that any rule-making by the state BOE regarding an adequate education first be adopted by the legislature. It is unclear if the general court would allow increased local control. Additionally, Common Core standards have been rebranded with different names such as College and Career Readiness Standards and Next Generation. HB 207 specifies Common Core standards instead of using a more generic term such as “state adopted standards”  to the detriment of the intentions to empower local districts.

*HB 304, relative to implementation of alternative academic standards by a local school board
position — OPPOSE
information — It appears that the intent of this bill is to allow local boards to adopt alternative standards from College and Career Readiness Standards (aka Common Core) which is good for educational diversity. However, it is unclear how it would be determined if they “meet or exceed state academic standards.” Because RSA 186:8 is about the state Board of Education, the determination would be their responsibility. The language in the bill should be amended to allow the state BOE to make recommendations regarding alternative standards without having the authority to approve or deny them, leaving it to local school boards. Alternatively the language could provide guidelines how “meet or exceed state academic standards” would be judged. Gov. Sununu has the opportunity to nominate three members of the state BOE in the very near future. Although it is likely school-choice friendly people will be put in place, it is better to make policy improvements than rest in the hope that the particular composition of the state BOE will be favorable.

CACR 7, relating to public education. Providing that the general court shall have the authority to define standards of accountability, mitigate local disparities in educational opportunity and fiscal capacity, and have full discretion to determine the amount of state funding for education

 

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017: FINANCE – DIV II, ROOM 209 LOB

10:00 a.m. Division work session on HB 584-FN, relative to chartered public school funding

 

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017: MUNICIPAL & COUNTY GOVT, ROOM 301 LOB
10:30 a.m. Executive sessions for the following bills

*HB 313, allowing a town to appropriate funds to create a town scholarship fund
position — SUPPORT
information — This bill clarifies RSA 31:4 that says towns can do virtually anything that is not expressly forbidden. The bill specifically enables towns to vote in a trust fund for the purpose of collecting town scholarship funds. It allows towns to determine the parameters for these optional programs such as the eligibility criteria. This is needed legislation as towns struggle with declining enrollments and increasing costs. It also gives towns flexibility regarding how to provide an education to local students.

HB 419-FN-L, relative to real estate leased for a public charter school
position — SUPPORT
information — This bill requires the annual refund of the pro rata share of property taxes paid by a chartered public school pursuant to a lease of property from a non-exempt owner. This would help chartered public schools considerably as they are constrained how they can use the limited state funding they receive.

 

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2017: HOUSE SESSION, Rep Hall at 10:00am
full NH House will vote on the following bills; they are on the Regular Calendar because the committee recommendations were more divided; these bills will have more debate on the floor

HB 386-FN, relative to technical corrections to the education tax credit statute
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass, 11-6
position — YEA on OTP, SUPPORT the bill
information — This bill will make simple and clear technical changes to the tax credit statutes including removing certain restrictions on carrying forward contributions, expanding the period for businesses to submit qualifying donations and tax-credit applications, and approving the use of scholarships for distance learning, tutors, and dual-enrollment classes.

HB 641-FN-A, relative to high school students participating in New Hampshire’s dual and concurrent enrollment program and making an appropriation therefor
committee recommendation — Out to Pass with Amendment (#0369h), 17-0
position — YEA on OTP/A, SUPPORT the bill with amendment
information — This bill will allow 11th and 12th grade students to enroll in no more than two NH community college or university classes each year and earn dual credits (college credit while in high school). Additional classes is at the students’ expense. This program will put higher learning opportunities within reach for more students. The amendment says the state will pay up to $250 for successful completion of an approved STEM course. This will expand educational opportunities for high school students, especially those who otherwise would not have access to college-level courses.

***HB 647, establishing education freedom savings accounts for children with disabilities
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass, 11-7
position — YEA on OTP, SUPPORT the bill
information — Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are funds that children receive to a designated account that are used for specified educational purposes. This particular ESA is limited to students with a disability – children with IEPs or 504 plans. While they are new to New Hampshire, they are not new to other states. Currently five states offer ESA programs and each is unique with respect to the approved uses, eligibility qualifications, administration, accountability mechanisms, and funding sources. The two established programs in Arizona and Florida have been immensely successful. They put an expanded range of educational services and options within reach, particularly for low-income families who face the greatest challenges financing their children’s educational needs. ESAs have withstood constitutional challenges. The dollar amount would be 90% of the per pupil state adequacy amount plus any differentiated aid the home district would receive for students in grades 1 and above; 50% for kindergarten students. With 5% going to administration by a non-profit scholarship organization, the state keeps 5% which represents a savings. Enrollment is optional. The Cato Institute and EdChoice representatives testified that districts would have savings if the ESA amount is less than the variable cost of an education. Read more in Education Savings Accounts: The Next Evolution of School Choice. For more info on the evidence of school choice programs, read A Win-Win Solution by EdChoice.

 

CONTACT LEGISLATORS

 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 /]

To find your Representatives, go to “Who’s My Legislator?” Brief and polite phone calls and emails are effective, especially if you mention you are a constituent. Mass emails are far less effective, but the email for all Reps is hreps@leg.state.nh.us.

To contact the entire House Education Committee, you may send one email to HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. Below is a list of the House Education Committee members’ emails for an easy copy/paste.

[table “5” not found /]

ladd.nhhouse@charter.net
terry.wolf@leg.state.nh.us
beshaw3@comcast.net
glenn.cordelli@leg.state.nh.us
bob.elliott@leg.state.nh.us
carolyn.halstead@leg.state.nh.us
Mel.Myler@leg.state.nh.us
patricia.cornell@leg.state.nh.us
jimgreniersullivan7@gmail.com
josh.moore@leg.state.nh.us
Mary.Heath@leg.state.nh.us
David.Doherty@leg.state.nh.us
joe@joepitre.com
patchessul@comcast.net
Wayne.Burton@leg.state.nh.us
linda.tanner@leg.state.nh.us

To contact the entire House Municipal & County Government Committee regarding HB 313, allowing a town to appropriate funds to create a town scholarship fund, and HB 419-FN-L, relative to real estate leased for a public charter school, you may send one email to HouseMunicipalandCountyGovt@leg.state.nh.us.