This is part two in a series that will detail the 2016 legislation session. Like last year, this session had mixed results, but the good news is that more parents and concerned citizens are engaged. This is how we win. We all can make a difference to engage with our children’s teachers and schools, encourage our friends who want to refuse the assessments for their kids and seek educational alternatives, support and elect school choice candidates at all levels, persuade legislators in Concord, and hold our officials accountable. Ultimately this creates more and better educational options; that is what matters most for our kids.
Below are this year’s more notable wins — good laws that passed and defeated bad bills. It is much easier to kill bills than to get them into law, and that trend will be evident in our reports. There were several wins for charter schools, and a parents’ rights bill that didn’t get a lot of attention, but will make a great impact.
In the coming weeks we will also detail our losses, provide a comprehensive list of this year’s legislative efforts, and publish a Legislators Report Card in advance of the upcoming elections.
Wins — Good Bills Signed into Law
WIN *HB 536, relative to payment for special education services for chartered public school students and relative to federal funds for chartered public schools
This was a retained bill from 2015. It sends special education funding directly to the school that provides the services to those students. This new law went into effect as of June 24, 2016.
WIN *HB 1301, relative to the issuance of youth employment certificates
While not directly about education, it was an important bill for parents’ rights. There was a tough fight in the House Labor Committee plus a roll call vote in the House, but it went through the Senate and Committee of Conference with little resistance. The statute, RSA 276-A:5, as previously written presented an unfair burden for non-public school students who seek employment certificates as it required authorization by a school principal who is not involved in their education. This bill puts the authority in the hands of parents, as they know how their children are performing academically and what strain, if any, employment may put on their school work. This new law will go into effect as of August 23, 2016. For more information, read Youth Employment Bill on Governor’s Desk and Permission to Get a Job.
Wins — Bad Bills that Failed
WIN **HB 1120, relative to teacher qualifications at charter schools
We successfully defeated this egregious bill in a House roll call vote. (A Yea vote opposed the bill.) Current statute requires charter schools to have a minimum of 50% of their teaching staff with teacher credentials. Note that NH private schools have no requirement at all. There is more to making a “good teacher” than his or her certifications. There is an art to being a great teacher and connecting with students. Many teachers at charter schools were certified but have not renewed their credentials. Does this change their skills, experiences, and knowledge that they bring to their students? Teacher credentials alone are not correlated with student performance. This bill is about employment and union protection, not the quality of education or serving students. For more information, read Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: Making the Most of Recent Research, March 2008 and Educational Leadership: Research Says…Good Teachers May Not Fit the Mold, December 2010-January 2011 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).
WIN ***HB 1192, repealing the education tax credit
We defeated yet another attempt to repeal the successful tax-credit scholarship program in a House roll call vote. (A Yea vote means they supported killing the bill.) There are legislators who think private donations belong to the state. Just as donations to private organizations like the Red Cross or St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital are charitable donations, so are gifts to the Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire (formerly the Network for Educational Opportunity). It is just as absurd to argue that someone’s income belongs to the state before he/she pays taxes. This young scholarship program helps needy New Hampshire families afford tuition at out-of-district public and private schools, and covers many homeschooling expenses. Wealthy families already have choice; this program puts those educational options — funded with private donations — within reach for underprivileged NH children. For more information, read What Do They Have Against Needy Students? based on the 2015 repeal attempt.
WIN **HB 1351, relative to the laws governing chartered public schools
This was another strong-armed attempt to radically alter NH’s charter schools and stifle them. Chartered public schools are designed to be centers of innovation and flexibility regarding methods and processes to meet the educational needs of students not sufficiently served in traditional public schools. This is the very foundation of charter school options. Fortunately the House Education Committee understood the core issue and unanimously recommended to kill the bill.
WIN ***HB 1456, relative to chartered public school boards
This was another outrageous bill against charter schools. It would have empowered the Governor, with approval of the Executive Council, to appoint members to the board of trustees of all NH chartered public schools. Not only would it hyper-politicize public schools, it was a way for the executive branch to remove parents and taxpayers from the governance of their children’s schools. It would be no more appropriate for the Governor to appoint members to the boards of local K-12 public schools. Fortunately the House Education Committee thought the sponsor’s arguments were weak and gave it an unanimous Inexpedient to Legislate recommendation that easily defeated the bill.
WIN **HB 1563-FN-LOCAL, relative to funding for full-day kindergarten pupils
This was an unlikely win as we had to flip the House Education Committee’s Ought to Pass recommendation in a House roll call vote. (A Yea vote was to kill the bill.) Kindergarten is not included in compulsory school attendance (RSA 193:1), and is therefore optional to families. Our public school system has many needs, such as catastrophic and building aid, that are not sufficiently addressed and should have higher priority than funding an optional program. Many communities already offer full-day kindergarten. If this bill passed, it would have discouraged those that offer half-day programs. Additionally, the benefits of full-day vs half-day Kindergarten program are short-lived at best.
WIN *HB 1604-FN-A-L, relative to instructional methods to enable students to acquire and apply requisite knowledge and skills
This misleading bill was fast-tracked through the House, but stopped in the Senate. What started off as a bill to provide and support gifted education became one that would dictate “instructional methods” and curriculum at the state level, in violation of RSA 193-E:2-a,V, and against local control. It also sought to put statewide competencies and the experimental PACE assessments into statute which the Board of Education needed authorized because the waiver expires August 1, 2016. It also would have implemented Outcome-Based Education (OBE, the same as Competency-Based Education) across the state. While OBE, on the surface, appeals to individualized education and mastery instead of “seat time,” it has been twisted to be equal expectations and outcomes. See the videos of Dr. Marc Tucker’s presentations, Common Core Architect in Concord Part 1 and Part 2.
WIN ***SB 503-FN-A, relative to pre-kindergarten education using “pay for success” financing
There were several heavy-hitters from the Senate and House as sponsors of this horrible bill, so it was a surprise win. It was similar to SB 69 (2015), but took it a major step further. Instead of a study committee like last year, the 2016 bill would have created a commission to implement a public preschool program funded through “pay for success” or social impact bonds (SIBs). These “pay for success” experiments are still unproven to justify a launch in New Hampshire. The bill’s original fiscal note was for $10M to support a grade level outside compulsory attendance. NH has many other important commitments to our public education system than to support an optional and experimental program. To complicate the proposal even more, these early childhood programs do not produce long-term gains for our youngest learners. For more information, read Noble Goals Funded with Public-Private Partnerships — What Could Go Wrong?. Also read Noble Goals of Pre-K Programs Fail to Deliver and Testimony for SB 69 that reference the 2015 bill, but still apply to the latest one. For more information on social impact bonds, read Are Governments “Paying for Failure” With Social Impact Bonds” by Governing, August 2015.
To see the other parts of the 2016 series, read
2016 Legislation Highlights