Education Bills Scheduled for Week of February 20, 2017

This is week seven 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 Senate. This is when all 24 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. The House does not have a session this week.

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

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2017: HOUSE EDUCATION, ROOM 207 LOB
Public hearings for the following bills

10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on HB 216, relative to the procedure for expulsion of certain pupils

10:45 a.m. Continued public hearing on HB 391, relative to checklists in other districts

11:00 a.m. Executive session on the following bills

HB 494, relative to eligibility for a chartered public school charter
position — NEUTRAL
information — The bill would require that only NH residents could apply for a chartered public school. The proposal is also incorporated into HB  505 (2017), which would also create a third authorizer for public chartered schools.

**HB 293, relative to the requirements for filing a chartered public school application
position — OPPOSED
information — This is another recycled bill that has been attempted twice before —HB 1449 (2014) and HB 253 (2015). Like the earlier bills, it would change the charter school approval process by allocating 25% of the total possible points in an application to a single criteria (out of 26), the proposed chartered public school’s mission statement. It is another attempt to limit charter schools and create a subjective approval process. Currently many charter schools in NH have waiting lists. Parents clearly want more options in public education, even in areas where there are existing charter schools. If a charter school does not adequately serve a family  or community, enrollment will decline and the school would ultimately close. Let chartered public schools succeed or fail on their own merits without being subject to an agency’s presumptions of what a community needs.

**HB 341, repealing the provisions for tax exemption for certain chartered public school facilities
position — OPPOSE
information — This is yet another bill by Rep. Timothy Horrigan regarding chartered public schools. Per existing statute, RSA 194-B, chartered public schools “shall operate as nonprofit secular organizations.” Also, traditional public schools do not pay property taxes and charters are part of our public education system. This bill would place a tremendous financial burden on charter schools that already operate on lean budgets. They provide a critical educational alternative within the public school framework and this bill would cause great financial struggle, significantly increasing the likelihood that they would close.

**HB 505, establishing an independent commission as an additional authorizing entity for chartered public schools
position — SUPPORT
information — This bill expands the persons or entities that may submit an application and incorporates the change proposed in HB 494 (2017) to require NH residency. This bill also creates a third authorizer – an independent chartered public school commission.

HB 339, relative to reimbursement of transportation costs for students attending a career and technical education center

1:30 p.m. Full committee work session on the following bills

**HB 122, relative to withdrawal from a cooperative school district
position — SUPPORT
information — This bill is a result of a study committee from HB 1303 (2016). It was clear from last year’s hearings that small towns in cooperative agreements are out-muscled by bigger towns. At a time when many school districts are facing decreasing enrollment and escalating costs, this empowers smaller districts with more self-determination and access to more educational alternatives for their students. For more information on town tuitioning and other options for small towns, read How New Hampshire Provides Small Towns with Access to Schools by the Granite Institute.

**HB 396, relative to student assessment data privacy
position — SUPPORT
information — Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA) provides little protection. The US DOE made dramatic changes in 2008 and 2011 that removed restrictions prohibiting educational institutions and agencies from disclosing students’ personally identifiable information without first obtaining student or parental consent. Now the state has the power to share student information with third-party corporations, not just educational institutions, and not only for academic purposes. Key terms including “school officials”, “educational programs”, and “authorized representatives” are redefined so broadly that third-party administrators of any program offered through an educational institution may have access to student information. Additionally HIPPA does not apply to elementary and secondary schools. This bill would explicitly prohibit the collection, tracking, storage, or sharing or certain non-academic or demographic data elements that may be personally identifiable. It also gives parents and students above age 18 the ability to inspect the student records and block the transfer of data. The bill does not restrict districts’ ability to grade and score assessments or surveys administered within the district, or sharing aggregated student data. For more information about this issue, read NH’s Student Database. This is a school choice issue because privacy violations disproportionately impact families of limited means who are trapped in their zip-code assigned schools.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2017: FINANCE – DIV II, ROOM 209 LOB

2:30 p.m. Division work session on HB 584-FN, relative to chartered public school funding
The bill is scheduled for an exec session on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 10:00am in LOB 210-211.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2017: HOUSE EDUCATION, ROOM 207 LOB
Executive sessions for the following bills

9:30 a.m. Continued executive sessions for the following bills

HB 477, relative to free speech on campuses in the university system and the community college system

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

***HB 557-FN, relative to school attendance in towns with no public schools
position — SUPPORT as originally written, OPPOSE the amendment
information — 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. Unfortunately a poor amendment, #2017-0316h, was adopted at the initial executive session. It would require private schools to have accreditation from an independent organization that the Department of Education recognizes as well as the DOE’s approval. That would make private schools subject to DOE admin rules Ed 400 that require private school approval for attendance and program.  Additionally, that program approval involves academic competencies (Ed 404.02(a)(2)). Competencies are defined in RSA 193-E Adequate Public Education and 193-E is filled with references to RSA 193-C Statewide Education Improvement and Assessment Program – all involving the Common Core standards, statewide assessment, and accountability apparatus implemented due to the Claremont Decisions and the federal ESEA/NCLB/ESSA waivers.  The consequence of amendment #0316h are that any private school that contracts with a school district will have to become a de facto public school and conform to all the requirements of an approved public school. The bill as originally submitted is good, but the current amendment, #0316h, is unacceptable. Any amendment that requires private schools to comply with RSA 193-E and Ed 306, which are the standards for public school education, is greatly problematic. For additional information, read Town Tuitioning in CroydonOptions for Small Towns, and Governor Vetoes School Choice that references the 2016 bill.

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.

**HB 122, relative to withdrawal from a cooperative school district
position — SUPPORT
information — This bill is a result of a study committee from HB 1303 (2016). It was clear from last year’s hearings that small towns in cooperative agreements are out-muscled by bigger towns. At a time when many school districts are facing decreasing enrollment and escalating costs, this empowers smaller districts with more self-determination and access to more educational alternatives for their students. For more information on town tuitioning and other options for small towns, read How New Hampshire Provides Small Towns with Access to Schools by the Granite Institute.

**HB 396, relative to student assessment data privacy
position — SUPPORT
information — Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA) provides little protection. The US DOE made dramatic changes in 2008 and 2011 that removed restrictions prohibiting educational institutions and agencies from disclosing students’ personally identifiable information without first obtaining student or parental consent. Now the state has the power to share student information with third-party corporations, not just educational institutions, and not only for academic purposes. Key terms including “school officials”, “educational programs”, and “authorized representatives” are redefined so broadly that third-party administrators of any program offered through an educational institution may have access to student information. Additionally HIPPA does not apply to elementary and secondary schools. This bill would explicitly prohibit the collection, tracking, storage, or sharing or certain non-academic or demographic data elements that may be personally identifiable. It also gives parents and students above age 18 the ability to inspect the student records and block the transfer of data. The bill does not restrict districts’ ability to grade and score assessments or surveys administered within the district, or sharing aggregated student data. For more information about this issue, read NH’s Student Database. This is a school choice issue because privacy violations disproportionately impact families of limited means who are trapped in their zip-code assigned schools.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2017: SENATE SESSION, Senate Chamber at 10:00am

***SB 8-FN, relative to school attendance in towns with no public schools
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass, vote 3-2
position — YEA on OTP, SUPPORT the bill
information — This is the senate version of HB 557, the town tuitioning bill as originally written, 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
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass, vote 3-2
position — YEA on OTP, SUPPORT the bill
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
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass, vote 3-2
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
committee recommendation — Inexpedient to Legislate, vote 5-0
position — NAY on ITL, SUPPORT the bill
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-FN, establishing education freedom savings accounts for students
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass with Amendment, vote 3-2
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. The amendment, #2017-0500s, makes good changes stating the Department of Education may audit a student’s account to ensure compliance, parents may appeal to the DOE, and the scholarship organization or DOE may refer suspected fraudulent misuse of funds to the Attorney General for investigation. Read more in Education Savings Accounts: The Next Evolution of School Choice

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 find your NH senator, and his or her contact information, refer to the senate’s roster page, or you can email all of them at senators@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 id=5 /]

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