One school choice bill has a public hearing continued this week and several have executive sessions when committees will vote. It is critical to contact committee members about these bills before their decisions are made. Below is the upcoming schedule for the next couple weeks; we include our analysis and recommendations for priority bills. As a courtesy, we list additional bills, meetings, and events relevant to education issues.
The House Finance Committee continues to hold subcommittee sessions on SB 193, the Education Savings Account bill, and we expect them to schedule an executive session soon to vote on it. Please write to the committee urging them to support this critical bill that empowers our most vulnerable children with educational opportunities. Supporters can send a note to their state representatives and House Finance members in support of ESAs with this easy email form. If you want to compose your own message, we developed tips and information; resources with links can be found here, in Contact Legislators re ESAs. Additional articles about ESAs regarding the financial impact, constitutionality, and effect on NH families are available in ESA Articles. Please take a few minutes to email the committee asking them to support SB 193; their email is HouseFinanceCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.
Public hearings are the best opportunity 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 Senate hearings, 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. Generally, committee chairmen limit remarks to three minutes or less. Personal stories are most effective. If you are unable to attend hearings, email the committee, or better yet, call members individually and indicate if you are a constituent.
Bills may have an executive session at any time after the public hearing. This is when the committee discusses and votes on legislation; it is very influential when the entire chamber votes. Consequently, prompt action on legislation is highly recommended.
Once bills are exec’d, they are usually scheduled for a vote by the entire chamber soon after. This is when all members of the NH House or Senate will vote YEA (to support the committee’s recommendation) or NAY (to oppose the recommendation). Contact your legislators before the session day with brief, polite messages and mention you are a constituent.
Education committee members’ contact information is at the end of the article. For other committees, their group email addresses are in the analysis.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2018: SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE, ROOM 103, LOB
Public hearings for the following bills
9:00 a.m. SB 568-FN, relative to criminal history record checks for school employees and certain volunteers (continuation from February 13, 2018)
9:15 a.m. Hearing on proposed amendment #2018-0669s to SB 568-FN
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2018: HOUSE EDUCATION, ROOM 207, LOB
Executive session for the following bill
10:00 a.m. HB 1403, relative to members of the state board of education.
Although bills are not specified, the committee may vote on any pending legislation. The committee will also hold executive sessions on Wednesday, February 21 starting at 10:00am.
Position – OPPOSE the bill
Information — The bill requires home-educating families to submit their year-end assessments to their local SAU superintendent, a private school that serves as their Participating Agency, or the state Department of Education. It reinstates this requirement from pre-2012. The results could no longer be kept private by the family. It also restores the Participating Agency’s authority to place a home education program on probation if a child does not meet the performance standards — a composite score at or above the 40th percentile on a standardized test or “progress commensurate with age and ability” on a teacher evaluation. If a child does not meet these expectations a second consecutive year, the program is terminated and the child must enroll in a public, charter, or private school the following school year. This is a much higher standard and severe consequence than our public schools face. It presumes homeschoolers “guilty until proven innocent” which is completely counter to our values as a society. Homeschoolers would again need to prove they provide a satisfactory education for their own children. Under current statute, concerns re educational neglect can be handled on a case-by-case basis. All NH children aged 6 to 18 are required to satisfy compulsory attendance; truancy laws already exist that apply to all, including homeschoolers. Although 700 homeschool supporters appeared at the public hearing to oppose HB 1263, there is considerable pressure to pass this unnecessary bill. The prime sponsor, Rep. Theberge, recently published his testimony in the Berlin Sun, reiterating his bogus claim of homeschoolers “falling through the cracks.” It is ignorant of the Berlin district’s dismal scores that fall short of the standards they would impose on all homeschoolers. Continue to urge the House Education Committee to reject this unfounded bill; it is a solution in search of a problem. Their email is HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. There is more information and background on the bill available here, here, and here.
Position – OPPOSE the bill
Information – This bill would seek to impose redundant requirements on private schools that they must already satisfy via federal laws regarding nondiscrimination and background checks. The proposed requirements also go beyond those applied to public schools; as an example, district schools do not perform background checks on volunteers. This bill is retaliation to the Education Savings Account bill, SB 193, which already includes relevant nondiscrimination laws. Further, the bill seeks to apply these requirements to schools that accept students using tax-credit programs; however, these programs do not use public funds and are sourced via private donations from individuals and businesses. This is an intrusion in the operation of private organizations and businesses.
Position – SUPPORT the bill
Information – Families are the ones best positioned to know if a situation presents a hardship for their children. Often times, families seek options when they have concerns regarding academic fit and safety. Unfortunately, most cases of Manifest Educational Hardship (MEH) brought before local school boards are denied. Of all the cases appealed to the state Board of Education in the past 16 years, only one was reversed for the family. House Bill 1492 specifies Manifest Educational Hardship must consider “the best interest of the child” and take families’ as well as medical professionals’ recommendations into account. It also expands options school districts may utilize including “another action that may offer relief.” This bill empowers families to seek relief for their child and allows local school boards a broader consideration of MEH and ways to address those circumstances. There are chronic bullying issues in our schools that go unresolved. The state BOE heard two appeals regarding unresolved bullying situations at their November meeting, cases that dragged out for years at the local level. Because the current statute leaves it solely to district discretion to determine MEH, children are left in vulnerable and potentially dangerous situations. True accountability is to families. HB 1492 allows for more educational options within the public-school system. Read more about MEH, including two recent stories about NH families who have struggled to reach solutions for their children, in Manifest Educational Hardship is Needed Relief.
Position – SUPPORT the bill
Information – This bill has had three rounds before: HB 276 (2017) that died in the Senate, as well as HB 1338 (2016) and HB 603 (2015) that were vetoed by Gov. Hassan. This bill will break the stranglehold on our students and teachers. This bill is in response to increasing demand from parents to refuse their children’s participation in mandatory testing, including the statewide assessments that are aligned with College and Career Readiness Standards (aka Common Core). There are many reasons why parents may wish to have their children not participate in the statewide assessment. Given that these tests have no academic or diagnostic value, many parents believe them to be a waste of valuable instructional time. This bill addresses documented instances of NH students being harassed and punished for non-participation. The bill is consistent with existing NH DOE policies, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and US Supreme Court rulings. Even the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) acknowledges that parents may refuse their children’s participation in statewide assessments. Unions also oppose using them to evaluate teachers. Unfortunately, federal ESSA only recognizes refusals if state law allows them; this bill will do exactly that. Again, accountability should be to families, not politicians. This bill empowers parents to direct their children’s education within the public-school system. Also diminishing the hyper-testing mechanisms of Common Core will encourage educational options and variety. Read more at Children are More Than Test Scores. For information about how to refuse your child’s participation in statewide assessments, read Testing Time.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2018: HOUSE LABOR, ROOM 307, LOB
Executive sessions for pending legislation
9:00 a.m. Subcommittee work on HB 1321, relative to the hours youth are permitted to work
11:00 a.m. Executive session the following bill
Position – SUPPORT the bill
Information – The current youth employment law, RSA 276-A, includes several restrictions in section four regarding the hours a teen may work during the traditional school day and school year. However, homeschoolers are not required to follow the local school district schedule or calendar. This simple bill removes the limitations that are tied to traditional school hours and days. This is important because schools recognize Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) for course credits and it can impact students’ work-study opportunities. The NH Department of Education encourages district schools to offer ELOs to students as a way to gain “knowledge and skills through instruction or study outside the traditional classroom methodology.” Increasingly schools recognize the value of learning through apprenticeships, community service, internships, and other alternatives. Traditional public and private schools are increasingly offering ELOs as school-day educational options; the current hourly restrictions unfairly limit home-educated students. Email the entire committee at HouseLaborIndustrialandRehabilitativeServicesCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2018: HOUSE CHILDREN & FAMILY LAW, ROOM 206, LOB
Public hearing continued for the following bill followed by the executive session
Position – SUPPORT the bill
Information –The committee will vote on this bill at their 11:00am executive session. This simple bill removes education as a component of neglect and responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). HB 1650 treats homeschool investigations the same as other educational cases which are handled by the state Department of Education and local school districts. Compliance with compulsory attendance applies to all children age 6 to 18, including homeschoolers. HB 1650 allows DCYF to focus on higher priority investigations.; it removes education-only investigations from DCYF which is poorly equipped or trained to evaluate education concerns. Instead it places responsibility in the hands of the state DOE and local districts through existing compulsory education and truancy statutes. Further, it places homeschoolers on a level playing field with families who choose public or private schools. Finally, if a home-educating family is investigated for educational neglect, current statute requires them to maintain the Letters of Intent and acknowledgements from their Participating Agencies, reading logs, work samples, and year-end assessments which provide evidence against such charges. This bill does not alter investigations that go beyond educational concerns. HB 1650 takes away a big fear home-educating families face – that their children could be removed from their homes by DCYF simply because of paperwork errors or misunderstandings with education statutes. Homeschooling is not abuse and should not be treated as such. The public hearing was recessed and will continue to allow the remaining speakers to be heard. The entire committee can be emailed at CFL@leg.state.nh.us. Read more in Level the Playing Field for Homeschoolers and Homeschooling is Not Neglect.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2018: SENATE SESSION, Senate Chamber, 10:00am
The entire NH Senate will vote on the following bill
Committee recommendation — Inexpedient to Legislate, vote 3-2
Position – YEA on ITL, OPPOSE the bill
Information – This bill seeks to reverse the hard-won active consent (opt in) for non-academic surveys in SB 43 (2017). SB 431 seeks to have non-academic surveys require passive consent (opt-out) if they are tied to “grants, initiatives, or contracts.” In other words, the bill sells students’ rights and privacy for additional funding. Active consent as required in the 2017 law is consistent with the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) and carves out an exception for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey created by the CDC which allows passive consent (opt-out). This is a school choice issue public school students should not be subject to increased risks or privacy violations nor should their parents forfeit their rights to direct their children’s education simply because children attend their zip code assigned schools. It is also one aspect of accountability to families.
THURSDAY, MARCH 8, 2018: HOME EDUCATION ADVISORY COUNCIL (HEAC) at 3:30pm
Department of Education, Londergan Hall, room 13, 101 Pleasant Street, Concord
This is the regular bi-monthly meeting of the Home Education Advisory Council. It is open to the public.
Brief phone calls are most effective, but personalized emails directed to an individual are also helpful; mention if you are a constituent. Personal messages are best.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the Senate Education Committee, email or call them directly. Members of senate committees do not have a shared email address.
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To contact the entire House Education Committee, you may send one email to HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. At the bottom we’ve supplied a list of the committee members’ emails for an easy copy/paste.
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