Last Thursday, May 21st, the NH senate voted on House Bill 323, the waiver bill. Not only is it the most important education bill of the year, it likely is the most contested with 19 amendments.
The senate passed a good compromise amendment introduced by Sen. Jeb Bradley. Amendment #1863 reduces testing at the elementary and middle school levels, allows districts to choose their own assessment, lets districts use either the SAT or ACT for the 11th grade assessment, excludes the experimental integrated PACE program, and does not defer to the federal government. This is a huge improvement from the version the House passed with a last-minute floor amendment introduced by Rep. Rick Ladd. The House version increases testing, explicitly includes PACE, and does not allow the SAT or ACT for 11th grade assessments. To see the complete senate discussion, watch this video (begins at 13:24).
During the debate, Sen. John Reagan moved to reverse the committee recommendation and kill the bill entirely. Sen. Reagan serves as the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and his comments were stunning and mark a significant shift in the DOE’s relationship with the legislature.
“I rise in opposition to this and all the other amendments before now and after this to this bill. I arrived at this conclusion when seeking the truth, I found I was unable to believe information coming from the state Department of Education.”
The next step is to reconcile the House and Senate versions of HB 323. The House may either concur (agree) with the version as passed by the senate or request a Committee of Conference which would require public hearings and both legislative bodies to again vote on the bill. We are encouraging Rep. Jack Flanagan, House Majority Leader, and Rep. Rick Ladd, Chairman of the House Education Committee, to concur with the senate version. However, we are prepared to advocate for the senate version if it goes to a Committee of Conference. Stay tuned for updates as the bill progresses.
There is some concern that the NH DOE may try to only fund the assessments that they support although there is nothing in the budget or the current budget bills, HB 1 or HB 2, that would indicate specific assessments or that the DOE has that authority. This will need to be investigated and closely monitored.
We want to particularly recognize the leadership and commitment to parents’ rights and local control of Senators Jeb Bradley, John Reagan, and Kevin Avard. They have been consistently responsive to our concerns throughout this challenging legislative session. Please take a moment to thank them.
Jeb Bradley — District 3, Wolfeboro
John Reagan — District 17, Deerfield
Kevin Avard — District 12, Nashua
For more information about HB 323, read the following articles:
HB 323 Compromise in Jeopardy
Update on HB 323, the Waiver Bill
Things Come Apart So Easily
Debunking the Myths of HB 323, the NCLB Waiver Bill
HB 323 Action Alert — Save Our Kids
Press Conference on HB 323, the NCLB Waiver Bill
HB 323, The Most Important Education Bill of the Year
PACE: the Next Educational Reform from the NH DOE