Homeschoolers Push Back Against HB 1610 re Mandatory Statewide Testing and WIN

On Monday, March 4, over 500 homeschoolers pushed back against the discriminatory and extreme bill that would mandate school-aged children “in all learning environments” participate in the same statewide assessment given to public-school students. HB 1610 relative to standardized assessment data for participation in education freedom accounts was sponsored by three representatives on the House Education Committee: Rep Corinne Cascadden, Rep Peggy Balboni, and Rep Hope Damon.

The crowd filled five double-committee rooms with more people in the hallway. The committee heard over three hours of testimony, all against the overreaching bill. Only the prime sponsor spoke in favor of HB 1610 and indicated that it was flawed as written; the purpose was to apply only to EFA participants. The remote House portal had 229 in support and 853 opposed.

homeschoolers fill multiple committee rooms in the NH LOB

The public hearing is available at the NH House YouTube channel, House Education playlist, beginning at mark 3:35:20. Rep Cascadden introduced the bill and cited recommendations by the EFA oversight committee for more accountability re academic outcomes. Early in the hearing, Chairman Rick Ladd reminded everyone that there are four educational options for compulsory attendance and that home education is separate from the EFA.

GSHE leaders all spoke powerfully against this mass intrusion into independent homeschoolers lives and education.

Abigail Bellemore read quotes from several children that expressed their frustration, anxiety, and anger if required to take a test that is not reflective of their learning in an unfamiliar place with people they don’t know.

Karen Towle spoke about the estimated $2.5 million expense to the state and local districts to accommodate home education and nonpublic school students.

Amanda Weeden said “I want nothing to do with government money and extreme oversight,” she said, noting homeschoolers were pushed out of the conversation from the beginning of the EFA. Adding, “An entire side of the aisle has hitched its wagon to a program that is not transparent, and people are waking up to the long-term implications.”

Michelle Levell said, “There is no compelling reason for this bill,” noting just two years ago the NH House passed a bill that leveled the playing field for homeschooled students [in a reference to HB 1663 (2022)]. She also said, “Children are more than test scores.”

The public hearing was in the NH news.

On Wednesday morning, Karen was a guest on the WFEA Morning Update radio show with Drew Cline, who is the president of the Josiah Bartlett Center and chairman of the state Board of Education. They spoke about why home-educating families may be opposed to standardized tests and the statewide assessment in particular.

Just before noon on Wednesday, March 6, the House Education Committee quickly exec’d HB 1610 with no discussion. Rep Cascadden, the prime sponsor, introduced an Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL) motion to kill the bill and the committee vote was unanimous, 20 to 0. This is significant given that the committee has been highly contentious the past two years and finds common ground on few issues. HB 1610 moves on to the full House on the consent calendar for an upcoming session. Although a representative could take it off the consent calendar, it is extremely unlikely. They have other priorities than to take on this issue again this year. The video is available here starting at mark 2:16:33 .

Thank you to everyone who attended the hearing, emailed the committee, and signed the remote House sign-in. Your voices were heard loud and clear – don’t mess with homeschoolers.

Read more about this bill on HB 1610 Would Make NH Worst State for Home Education Regulation.

Note: There is an error on the docket for HB 1610 indicating a second executive session on March 18. It was reserved as a precaution in case the committee was unable to address this bill on March 6. It will move on to the full House on the consent calendar with a 20 to 0 unanimous vote as originally reported.


By Michelle Levell