Education Bills Scheduled for Week of May 29, 2017

The NH House of Representatives has three school choice bills on the agenda — SB 8, one of this year’s town tuitioning (aka Croydon) bills and two others of more modest impact. As always, the detailed schedule with our analysis and recommendations is below with legislators’ contact information at the end.

Weekly Schedule

THURSDAY, JUNE 1, 2017: HOUSE SESSION, Rep Hall at 10:00am
The full NH House will vote on the following bill on the Regular Calendar. Because the committee recommendation was divided, it may have more debate.

***SB 8-FN, relative to school attendance in towns with no public schools
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass with Amendment, vote 13-6
position — YEA on OTP/A, SUPPORT the bill
information — The House Education Committee’s amendment clarifies that local school boards may make contracts with non-sectarian private schools as “school tuition programs.”  Although this is a new designation, it is not a new concept as school boards may already enter into agreements with public and private schools. Private school placement is more common for students with special needs, but some districts offer it for other students, too. This bill is specifically for districts that do not provide Kindergarten through 12th grade in-district and must tuition out some portion of their students. This bill, like HB 1637 (2016), is commonly called the “Croydon bill” although it is not limited to just one community; it will impact roughly 50 small towns across the state that do not have K-12 in-district. The amendment does not diminish or remove local school boards’ responsibility to ensure sending students receive an “opportunity for an adequate education” and access to special needs services. This is consistent with existing district contracts with neighboring public and private schools. Previous versions of the town tuitioning bill were heavily debated on accountability. SB 8 as amended allows private schools to administer any nationally recognized standardized assessment to measure student academic achievement in reading and language arts, mathematics, and science, consistent with RSA 193-C:6. Participating schools must submit annual scores to the local school boards and state Department of Education commissioner. They also must achieve no less than the 40th percentile if they have 10 or more students in the program. If they are not reaching required test results, the commissioner may require site visits in accordance with RSA 193-E:3-b. If private schools do not demonstrate satisfactory achievement for three consecutive years, their status as school tuition programs may be revoked. These conditions mirror requirements for public schools in existing statute. School tuition programs also put educational options within reach for children that would otherwise not have them available. Particularly in more rural areas of our state, there are few if any chartered public schools. Making private schools available is a critical option for these children. Just as school tuition programs expand choice for families, they provide fiscally responsible options for school boards. Given statewide student population declines and rising education costs, these programs allow local school boards more flexibility to provide education at negotiated lower rates. For additional information, read Town Tuitioning Bill Advances, Town Tuitioning in CroydonOptions for Small Towns, and Governor Vetoes School Choice that references the 2016 bill.

THURSDAY, JUNE 1, 2017: HOUSE SESSION, Rep Hall at 10:00am
The full NH House will vote on the following bills along with others on the Consent Calendar as a block. The committee recommendations will likely go through as indicated unless a bill is pulled.

*SB 43, relative to non-academic surveys administered by a public school to its students
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass with Amendment, vote 18-0
position — YEA on OTP/A, SUPPORT the bill
information — This bill has been in the works for three years. HB 206 (2015) created a bi-partisan study committee to examine the numerous non-academic surveys given to our students. The 2017 bill as introduced was identical to SB 320 (2016) which was vetoed by Gov. Hassan. The House Education Committee significantly amended the bill, bringing decisions to local school boards to determine district policies regarding distribution and notification to parents and how to identify surveys that require opt-out vs opt-in consent. The amendment also clearly defines “non-academic” to mirror language in the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). Additionally, as amended the bill requires parents be notified if the survey will be used or provided to third-parties for marketing or advertising purposes.
background — Schools routinely ask students to complete numerous 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 or secure. 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. 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. It is also one aspect of accountability to parents.

*SB 44, prohibiting the state from requiring implementation of common core standards
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass with Amendment, vote 16-2
position — YEA on OTP/A, SUPPORT the bill
information — The bill as introduced was identical to SB 101 (2015) that passed the House and Senate only to be vetoed by Gov. Hassan. As amended the bill strongly states that the state Department of Education nor the state Board of Education can require local districts to adopt Common Core State Standards or any derivative of these standards. It also expressly gives local school boards the authority to determine, approve, and implement alternative academic standards. The amendment also requires the state BOE to have all new academic standards reviewed and approved by the legislative oversight committee established in RSA 193-C:7. This bill strengthens existing statute that gives local districts autonomy regarding academic standards.  While a positive step, the bill does not impact statewide testing which drives standards and curriculum choices.

Contact Legislators

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