We are roughly half-way through the legislative session with many bills already in “cross over,” when the House and Senate trade surviving bills. 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, MARCH 28, 2017: SENATE EDUCATION, ROOM 103 LOB
Public hearings for the following bills
9:00 a.m. HB 339, relative to reimbursement of transportation costs for students attending a career and technical education center
9:10 a.m. HB 556, requiring schools to post the state telephone numbers to report child abuse
9:40 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 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.
10:00 a.m. 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.
TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2017: HOUSE EDUCATION, ROOM 207 LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session for the following bills
SB 45, requiring a course in civics for high school graduation
SB 101-FN, relative to enrollment eligibility for regional career and technical education programs
SB 104, relative to career and technical education
SB 103, limiting food and beverage advertising and marketing on school property
***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 is identical to SB 320 (2016) which was vetoed by Gov. Hassan. Schools routinely ask students to complete non-academic surveys and questionnaires. Usually they are part of state or federal programs or university research projects to assess students’ attitudes, values, decision-making, and behaviors. The committee received reports that these non-academic surveys are sometimes required school work and not anonymous. In fact, the head of the counseling department at Laconia High School admitted in a Concord Monitor interview that the surveys are identifiable. Sometimes surveys request sufficient information that a participant’s identity can easily be reconstructed. Typically the intrusiveness and nature of these surveys are not fully disclosed to parents to make a informed decision about their students’ participation. SB 43 is consistent with federal law, the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). Note that it is directed to students’ rights in public schools and specifically regards non-academic surveys. Parents, as the guardians, are empowered to uphold these rights on behalf of their minor-aged children. The PPRA provides a long list of rights including consent before students participate, receive notice with an opportunity to opt-out, and inspect the surveys. School officials, counselors, and representatives of many social programs have argued 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. Like last year’s bill, SB 43 carves out an exception for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a survey that funds many of the supplemental programs offered in schools. This survey would continue to require passive consent (opt-out) from parents. This is a school choice issue because children’s educational experiences should be directed by the people closest to them, the parents, especially because surveys often cover sensitive and personal issues. Public school students should not be subject to increased risks or privacy violations simply because they attend their zip code assigned schools.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29, 2017: SENATE SESSION, Senate Chamber at 10:00am
The full NH Senate will vote on the following bill. It is on the Consent Calendar and will be voted as a group with other bills. Committee recommendations will likely go through as indicated unless a bill is pulled.
*HB 275, prohibiting the inclusion of statewide assessment results in a student’s transcript without consent
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass, vote 5-0
position — YEA on OTP, SUPPORT the bill
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. Again, breaking the testing stranglehold on our education system will further educational options and accountability to parents. For more information about NH’s statewide assessments and impact on school choice, read Tests and Accountability.
The following bill is on the Regular Calendar.
**HB 122, relative to withdrawal from a cooperative school district
committee recommendation — Re-Refer to Committee, vote 5-0
position — YEA on Re-Refer, OPPOSE the bill
information — Although well intended, this bill does not resolve the problems smaller districts have when trying to dissolve cooperative agreements with larger neighboring districts. It also does not address the financial aspects of withdrawal, a substantive issue involved in these cases. This bill is premature and instead the study committee formed by HB 1303 (2016) should be allowed to continue their work and issue a recommendation to solve this imbalance of power. This position is in consultation with members of the School District Governance Association of NH and members of various local school boards. By re-referring the bill, this gives the study committee time to develop a more thorough recommendation.
THURSDAY, MARCH 30, 2017: SENATE SESSION, Senate Chamber at 10:00am
The following bill is on the Regular Calendar because the committee recommendation was more divided and will have more debate on the floor.
**HB 103, relative to school district policies regarding objectionable course material
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass, vote 3-2
position — YEA on OTP, SUPPORT the bill
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 the 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. It promotes communication between the school, teacher, and parents. 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 so it is not censorship. School choice is about bringing educational choices closest to the student for the best fit and this is a choice issue within the public school system. 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.
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 NH senator, and his or her contact information, refer to the senate’s roster page, or you can email all of them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 /]