Education Bills Scheduled for Week of March 6, 2017

This is week eight of the legislative session and “cross over,” when the House and Senate trade surviving bills, is underway. We now have some House Bills with public hearings in the Senate, so continue to follow the bills as they work through the other chamber.

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 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 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 recommendation). Please contact your legislators before the session day with brief, polite messages and mention you are a constituent. This week the House will have sessions on both Wednesday and Thursday; the Senate will not meet.

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

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 7, 2017: SENATE EDUCATION, ROOM 103 LOB
Public hearings for the following bills

 9:00 a.m. **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 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. 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. 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.

9:20 a.m. HB 166, relative to assessments administered to pupils in grades 3 through 8
position — OPPOSE
information — The intent of the bill is 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. Unfortunately the amendment only partially addresses a concern in the original bill — that the state Department of Education would have the power to approve or deny alternative tests. Another statute, RSA 193-E:3-c III (a), specifically says the DOE must give prior approval so the bill as amended by the House is insufficient even though it says “in consultation with the department.” 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 and would not pose a new or additional financial burden. Districts administer several assessments that might qualify, but it is not assured they would be acceptable as a replacement. Also, even though a school-choice friendly Commissioner might be more accepting of alternative tests, statute should not hinge on any individual holding office. This could be a positive for school choice, but not if PACE is the only option. Our hope is that a friendly amendment will be introduced. This is a school choice issue because Common Core reduces educational diversity. Breaking the hold of Common Core and rigid testing imposed on our public schools helps educational options. Additionally, accountability to parents, not the state, is a major component of school choice.

9:40 a.m. HB 233, relative to the submission of school emergency response plans

10:00 a.m. *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. 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.

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 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 293, relative to the requirements for filing a chartered public school application
committee recommendation — Inexpedient to Legislate, 12-5
position — YEA on ITL, OPPOSE the bill
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 395, relative to state board of education rulemaking authority over home education programs
committee recommendation — Inexpedient to Legislate, 14-4
position — NAY on ITL, SUPPORT the bill
information — Although there have been recent modest improvements with Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC), there is a long history of transparency and communication problems and this bill will explicitly require “effective communication” with the homeschool community. This bill also addresses HEAC’s difficulty obtaining a quorum to conduct business. Additionally the bill removes the state BOE’s rule-making authority over home education programs. This is appropriate because in 2010 the state BOE, at the urging of rogue legislators, nearly implemented draconian requirements that did not have legislative approval (HB 367 (2009) and HB 368 (2010)). It took a massive outcry and sustained effort by the entire homeschool community and supporting organizations to defeat this unprecedented attack on homeschooling. This bill would prevent a similar threat from arising again.

HB 494, relative to eligibility for a chartered public school charter
committee recommendation — Inexpedient to Legislate, 11-8
position — YEA on ITL, OPPOSE the bill
information — The bill would require that only NH residents could apply for a chartered public school. The proposal is incorporated into HB  505 (2017), which would also create a third authorizer for public chartered schools. HB 505 is a better bill and should be the one to advance.

HB 620, relative to compliance with state and federal education mandates
committee position — Ought to Pass with Amendment, 10-8
position — YEA on OTP/A, SUPPORT the bill
information — This bill as amended restrains the state Board of Education from imposing rules that exceed federal or state statutes and minimum requirements that may down-shift costs and responsibilities to districts. It does not interfere with the state BOE’s authority to determine minimum standards in rule-making.

*HB 313, allowing a town to appropriate funds to create a town scholarship fund
committee position — Inexpedient to Legislate, 18-2 (Municipal & County Government)
position — NAY on ITL, SUPPORT the bill
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 create 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. It also gives towns flexibility regarding how to provide an education to local students. This is needed legislation as towns struggle with declining enrollments and increasing costs.

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 2017: HOUSE SESSION, Rep Hall at 10:00am
full NH House will vote on the following bills; these are on the Consent Calendar and will be voted on as a group; the committee recommendations will likely go through as indicated unless a bill is pulled.

**HB 122, relative to withdrawal from a cooperative school district
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass with Amendment, 19-0
position — NAY on OTP/A, OPPOSE the bill
information — Although well intended, this amendment compounds the problems smaller districts have when trying to dissolve cooperative agreements with larger neighboring districts. The amendment 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.

*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
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass with Amendment, 16-2
position — YEA on OTP/A, SUPPORT the bill
information — This bill as amended 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 which is good for educational diversity. Local school boards are also able to determine if their locally-selected standards “meet or exceed state academic standards” without needing to defer to the state Department of Education or Board of Education for their approval.

**HB 341, repealing the provisions for tax exemption for certain chartered public school facilities
committee recommendation — Inexpedient to Legislate, 17-0
position — YEA on ITL, OPPOSE the bill
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 396, relative to student assessment data privacy
committee recommendation — Inexpedient to Legislate, 19-0
position — NEUTRAL
information — After hearings and discussion, it appears that much of this bill is already in statute at the state level, but it raised concerns about how personally identifiable student information is handled at the local level which would require separate legislation.

**HB 419-FN-L, relative to real estate leased for a public charter school
committee recommendation — Inexpedient to Legislate, 18-2 (Municipal & County Government)
position — NAY on ITL, SUPPORT the bill
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.

 

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 id=4 /]

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 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