Education Bills Scheduled for Week of January 16, 2017

The House Education Committee continues with public hearings on several important bills. This is the best chance to communicate with committee members and share your opinion. The public may sign the blue sheet near the room entrance to indicate support or opposition to any bill. The public may testify before the committee; indicate that on a pink card also available on the table. 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. Contact information for the committee is at the end of this post.

Some bills are already scheduled for executive session which is when the committee decides whether or not to support bills, amend 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.

 

TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2017: HOUSE EDUCATION, ROOM 207 LOB
Public hearings for the following bills

***9:30 a.m. 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 similar 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). Children are the responsibility of their parents, and as such, parents — not the state — should direct their children’s education in the manner they believe best meets their individual needs. 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 problems of students being harassed and punished for non-participation as described in our March 2016 article Districts are Bullies. The bill allows districts to offer alternative activities that can be as simple as study hall or reading time so it is not burdensome or expensive and NH districts have already done so. Not a single district across the country has faced reduced funding if they fell short of the federally mandated 95% participation rate and non-participating students do not count against the districts’ scores.

*10:00 a.m. HB 166, relative to assessments administered to pupils in grades 3 through 8
position — OPPOSE
information — On the surface this bill appears to be a positive step to reduce testing and give districts more options to develop and administer alternative assessments from those which are College and Career Readiness Standards (aka Common Core) aligned. However, tests must be still be approved by the state Department of Education and currently the only alternative they allow is PACE, a controversial integrated assessment. Funding is also not addressed which also makes it more likely that PACE would be selected as it is already funded by the state. This could be a positive for school choice, but not if PACE is the only option. The current Commissioner, Dr. Virginia Barry, is scheduled to step down in late January 2017. Even a new, school-choice friendly commissioner will need time to make the necessary changes to allow more options. Still, it is better to make policy improvements than rest in the hope of any individual effecting change. The language of the bill should include a statement allowing the DOE to make recommendations regarding alternative testing, but not have the power of approval or denial, leaving the decision to local boards.

*10:45 a.m. 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 and they have been focused on the development and implementation of PACE, a controversial integrated assessment. This could be a positive for school choice, but not if PACE is the only option. Gov. Sununu has the opportunity to nominate three members of the state BOE at the end of January 2017. This could be a plus for school choice issues, but like HB 166, it will take time to make changes. Again 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.

11:20 a.m. 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 the district 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.

1:15 p.m. HB 216, relative to the procedure for expulsion of certain pupils

2:15 p.m. HB 270, establishing a committee to study suspensions and expulsions in middle and high schools

2:45 p.m. HB 271, requiring the department of education to collect data related to the reasons for suspension and expulsion of pupils

***3:15 p.m. HB 297-FN, repealing the education tax credit program
position — OPPOSE
information — This is another repeal bill by Rep. Timothy Horrigan. The difference between this one and HB 129 (2017) is that the former would be effective immediately whereas the latter would take effect 60 days after passage. The tax-credit scholarships have helped more than 120 low-income children across the state in its three years of operation. There is documented academic improvement and parent satisfaction. Other states with Blaine Amendments have ruled tax-credit scholarship programs to be constitutional because monies are distributed to parents who choose the schools and not to the schools directly. Like other charities, the tax-credit scholarship program is funded by private donations, not money from the state. For more information about the scholarship program, read K-12 Scholarships in NH.

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2017: HOUSE EDUCATION, ROOM 207 LOB
Public hearings for the following bills

**9:30 a.m. 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.

**10:00 a.m. 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.

10:30 a.m. 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

**1:00 p.m. 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.

1:30 p.m. HB 339, relative to reimbursement of transportation costs for students attending a career and technical education center

2:00 p.m. HB 221, relative to the national guard scholarship fund and the New Hampshire national guard education assistance act

2:30 p.m. Executive session on the following bills

**HB 113, relative to grounds for denial of a chartered public school application
position — OPPOSE
information — This is a repeat of HB 474 (2015) by Reps. Mary Gile and Timothy Horrigan. This bill would allow the state Board of Education to deny the application of chartered public schools solely for budget reasons; the legislature, not the BOE sets the budget and allocation of state funds. This is a blatant attempt to justify the charter school moratorium from a few years ago and deny additional schools; see The State Board of Ed Overreaches Its Authority.

**HB 147, relative to the laws governing chartered public schools
position — OPPOSE
information — This is another  recycled bill by Rep. Horrigan, HB 1351 (2016), that overwhelmingly failed in the House Education Committee. Chartered public schools are designed to be centers of innovation and flexibility regarding methods and processes to meet the educational needs of students not served in traditional public schools. For example, they can take a focused STEM or fine arts approach — both quite different from the traditional public school model. Even with these differences, charter schools and traditional public schools have much in common. Like other public schools, charters must comply with federal and state laws regarding non-discrimination for enrollment and hiring, meet school building codes including ADA compliance, and follow the same privacy protections. Also, charters must meet all federal and state requirements regarding background checks for employees and volunteers. Teachers at charter schools may enter into collective bargaining units, just as they may at public schools. Finally, charter schools must also administer the same statewide assessment in the years they are required of all public schools. This bill is simply another attempt to put more obstacles and regulations in place to limit charter schools. NH Ed 300 applies to traditional public schools, and Ed 318 applies to chartered public schools. For more information on chartered public schools, read Charter School Truths.

**HB 148, relative to chartered public school teacher qualifications
position — OPPOSED
information — This is another returning bill sponsored by Reps. Timothy Horrigan and Mel Myler – HB 1120 (2016). Current statute requires charter schools to have a minimum of 50% of their teaching staff with teacher credentials. Note that NH private schools have no credentialing requirement at all. Teachers are important, but there is more to making a “good teacher” than his or her certifications. Teaching is an art; certification cannot measure the rapport teachers develop with their students or the breadth and depth of knowledge and skill teachers bring to their classrooms. Note that teacher credentials alone are not correlated with student performance. Read Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: Making the Most of Recent Research, March 2008 and Educational Leadership: Research Says…Good Teachers May Not Fit the Mold, December 2010-January 2011 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

**HB 103, relative to school district policies regarding objectionable course material
position — SUPPORT
information — The language for this bill has been vetted the last two years; first as HB 332 (2015) that passed the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Hassan, and as HB 1231 (2016) that passed the House but was tripped up in the Senate. It seeks to address a gap in RSA 186:11 IX-c  by requiring parents be given  two weeks advanced notice and access to classroom materials for subjects pertaining to human sexuality. While this statute can be used for any academic area, it does not address the loop hole that parents must first be aware of what material is being used and when. The bill would allow parents to make informed decisions regarding their children’s education. Note that the existing statute does not allow one parent to change the material for the entire class; just their child and at their own expense. For more information, read Parents’ Rights Vetoed by Governor Hassan about the 2015 bill. Also read Urgent – Contact the Senate re HB 1231 and HB 1232 for more information about the 2016 bill.

HB 233, relative to the submission of school emergency response plans

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

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2017: HOUSE EDUCATION, ROOM 207 LOB
9:30 a.m. Executive session on the following bills

***HB 129-FN, repealing the education tax credit
position — OPPOSE
information — The tax-credit scholarships have helped more than 120 low-income children across the state in its three years of operation. There is documented academic improvement and parent satisfaction. Other states with Blaine Amendments have ruled tax-credit scholarship programs to be constitutional because monies are distributed to parents who choose the schools and not to the schools directly. Like other charities, the tax-credit scholarship program is funded by private donations, not money from the state. For more information about the scholarship program, read K-12 Scholarships in NH.

*HB 166, relative to assessments administered to pupils in grades 3 through 8
position — OPPOSE
information — On the surface this bill appears to be a positive step to reduce testing and give districts more options to develop and administer alternative assessments from those which are College and Career Readiness Standards (aka Common Core) aligned. However, tests must be still be approved by the state Department of Education and currently the only alternative they allow is PACE, a controversial integrated assessment. Funding is also not addressed which also makes it more likely that PACE would be selected as it is already funded by the state. This could be a positive for school choice, but not if PACE is the only option. The current Commissioner, Dr. Virginia Barry, is scheduled to step down in late January 2017. Even a new, school-choice friendly commissioner will need time to make the necessary changes to allow more options. Still, it is better to make policy improvements than rest in the hope of any individual effecting change. The language of the bill should include a statement allowing the DOE to make recommendations regarding alternative testing, but not have the power of approval or denial, leaving the decision to local boards.

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 the district 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 216, relative to the procedure for expulsion of certain pupils

HB 270, establishing a committee to study suspensions and expulsions in middle and high schools

HB 271, requiring the department of education to collect data related to the reasons for suspension and expulsion of pupils

*HB 275, prohibiting the inclusion of statewide assessment results in a student’s transcript without consent
position — SUPPORT
information — This is another repeat bill from last year, HB 1229 (2016), that passed the House, but didn’t get through the Senate. The statewide assessment is not designed as a measurement for individual performance. It was originally created for school district comparisons as well as school and teacher accountability. This bill prevents assessments from being used for a purpose for which they were not intended. For more information about NH’s statewide assessments and impact on school choice, read Tests and Accountability.

***HB 297-FN, repealing the education tax credit program
position — OPPOSE
information — This is another repeal bill by Rep. Timothy Horrigan. The difference between this one and HB 129 (2017) is that the former would be effective immediately whereas the latter would take effect 60 days after passage. The tax-credit scholarships have helped more than 120 low-income children across the state in its three years of operation. There is documented academic improvement and parent satisfaction. Other states with Blaine Amendments have ruled tax-credit scholarship programs to be constitutional because monies are distributed to parents who choose the schools and not to the schools directly. Like other charities, the tax-credit scholarship program is funded by private donations, not money from the state. For more information about the scholarship program, read K-12 Scholarships in NH.

***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 similar 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). Children are the responsibility of their parents, and as such, parents — not the state — should direct their children’s education in the manner they believe best meets their individual needs. 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 problems of students being harassed and punished for non-participation as described in our March 2016 article Districts are Bullies. The bill allows districts to offer alternative activities that can be as simple as study hall or reading time so it is not burdensome or expensive and NH districts have already done so. Not a single district across the country has faced reduced funding if they fell short of the federally mandated 95% participation rate and non-participating students do not count against the districts’ scores.

*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 and they have been focused on the development and implementation of PACE, a controversial integrated assessment. This could be a positive for school choice, but not if PACE is the only option. Gov. Sununu has the opportunity to nominate three members of the state BOE at the end of January 2017. This could be a plus for school choice issues, but like HB 166, it will take time to make changes. Again 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.

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2017: HOUSE EXEC DEPT & ADMIN, ROOM 306 LOB
Public hearings for the following bill

**10:000 a.m. HB 125, relative to chartered public school boards of trustees
position — OPPOSE
information — This is a repeat of HB 1456 (2016) again sponsored by Rep. Timothy Horrigan and another outrageous bill against charter schools. This bill would allow the Governor, with the approval of the Executive Council, to appoint members to the board of trustees of all NH chartered public schools. Not only is this hyper-politicizing public schools, it is a way for the executive branch to remove parents and taxpayers from the governance of their children’s schools. It would be no more appropriate for the Governor to appoint members to the boards of local K-12 public schools.

 

CONTACT LEGISLATORS

To contact the entire House Education Committee, you may send one email to HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. Brief phone calls are most effective, but personalized emails directed to an individual are also helpful; mention if you are a constituent. At the bottom we’ve supplied a list of the 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

To contact the entire House Executive Departments and Administration Committee regarding HB 125 relative to chartered public school boards of trustees, you may send one email to HouseExecutiveDepartmentsandAdministrationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.