Welcome to National School Choice Week! It is a cross-country series of independent events that spotlight the array of K-12 learning environments. It began January 20th and last through January 26th, 2019. It all started eight years ago and has noted over 58,000 events across the country! It is a fabulous way to highlight the diverse options available to families – district schools, chartered public schools, magnet schools, online learning, private and independent schools, and home education. New Hampshire has a rich educational environment!
As part of this celebration we are hosting an Intro to Homeschooling discussion on Wednesday, January 23rd at the Nashua Public Library starting at 6:00pm. The session is designed for new(er) and prospective families to learn more about homeschool requirements, the extensive resources available, and how to begin their programs with confidence. Tickets are free and available here.
This week also has full slate of education bills in the House, nothing in the Senate calendar yet. See below for the full schedule. Several hearings pertain to SAUs, a few on chartered public schools, one on student data security, and one on Manifest Educational Hardship. We are monitoring numerous bills this year and those will include our analysis and commentary.
Legislators’ contact information is at the end.
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. Indicate if you are a constituent.
Bills may have an executive session any time after the public hearing. This is when the committee discusses and votes on legislation, and amendments may be introduced. The committee makes one of three recommendations: Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL) which is to kill the bill; Ought to Pass (OTP) which is a recommendation to support the bill; or to send it to Interim Study (IS) which is to continue work on the bill. Committee recommendations are 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 body soon after. This is when all members of the 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.
Legislators’ contact information is at the end of this article.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2019: HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE, ROOM 207, LOB
Public hearings for the following bills
10:00 a.m. HB 327-FN-A, making an appropriation to the community college system to continue the math learning communities program in partnership with New Hampshire high schools.
10:15 a.m. HB 226, relative to the renomination of teachers.
10:45 a.m. HB 231, requiring school districts to establish policies relating to suspensions and expulsions.
11:15 a.m. HB 251, relative to criminal background checks for education personnel.
11:45 a.m. HB 258, establishing a committee to study teacher preparation and education programs.
1:00 p.m. HB 275, relative to school nurse certification.
1:30 p.m. HB 302, relative to communications between school administrative units and certain other entities.
This is a straight-forward bill that requires local school boards to create and adopt a data security plan of some kind that is reviewed and updated annually. It does not prescribe what the plan must entail, but follow best practices so it respects local control. This is important as there are significant security risks for student and faculty information and school districts maintain vast amounts of data. Districts also keep medical records on students which are not protected by HIPAA. Student privacy is a relevant school choice issue because increasingly educational options are driven by technology. Managing this information while respecting privacy issues is part of the challenge as more learning occurs across platforms, utilizing a mix of public, charter, online, private, and home education approaches. Technology-driven education also makes more educational opportunities available for students in low-income households and rural communities.
2:00 p.m. HB 380, relative to the duty of school superintendents regarding criminal history records checks.
2:15 p.m. HB 493, relative to adoption of cooperative school district budget.
This is the second year that the House has introduced a bill regarding Manifest Educational Hardship. This year’s bill is notably different from last year’s HB 1492 as introduced, and the version the House Education Committee recommended in October as drafted by the NH School Board Association. It is very important that families have the option to petition their school officials when their children’s assigned schools are not a good fit. Manifest Educational Hardship refers to a documented physical, mental, or emotional condition brought on by the student’s current assigned educational placement and that the condition interferes with the student’s achievement or growth, physical safety, or social and emotional well-being. The condition must be severe, pervasive or persistent to be considered for MEH. We know of many circumstances when there is a poor academic fit – even in otherwise excellent districts – or an on-going bullying problem that challenges the child’s well-being. However, there are some concerns with HB 489 which we hope will be addressed in an amendment. As introduced, HB 489 removes districts’ ability to make placements in non-public schools by specifying only “public school or public academy” within their own district or another. This would devastate many students with special needs as MEH is the mechanism most-used for those with severe needs. Although sections IV and V of current statute remain intact, they do not address district-placements in nonpublic schools. Additionally, the time periods throughout the bill only specify when meetings must be held by the superintendent and school board, but does not provide deadlines by which they must make decisions or take action. The bill also removes the ability for a family to petition the state Board of Education if they are dissatisfied with their local school board’s decision. We hope the committee considers these suggestions.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2019: HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE, ROOM 207, LOB
Executive session and public hearings for the following bills
10:00 a.m. Executive session on HB 357, relative to the public school infrastructure fund.
This bill is similar to last year’s HB 1432 and HB 916 (2008), both of which were voted Inexpedient to Legislate. This bill seeks to impose redundant nondiscrimination requirements on private schools that they must already satisfy per federal laws. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act and numerous Supreme Court decisions state that no private school may discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. To do so would jeopardize their IRS non-profit status. Private schools must also follow the Equal Employment Opportunity’s requirement re nondiscrimination on the basis of gender for hiring practices, unless the institution is religious-affiliated. There are also protections for students with special needs. Per the Americans with Disabilities Act, nonpublic schools must provide “auxiliary aids and services” to children with special needs if they are otherwise qualified for admission. Additionally, the bill as introduced is broad and vague, saying that it applies to any school “receiving public funds, directly or indirectly.” What exactly is meant by “indirectly?” Also, it would set a dangerous precedent for undue regulation of nonpublic schools.
10:45 a.m. HB 400-L, relative to alternative transportation of students for public school activities.
11:00 a.m. HB 411, relative to equalized property valuation used to apportion expenses in cooperative school districts.
This extends the reporting of substantiated incidents of bullying or cyberbullying from superintendents to the school board or chartered public school board of trustees. This is applicable to school-choice issues because school safety is a common reason families seek educational alternatives.
1:00 p.m. HB 430, requiring school boards to establish conflict of interest policies.
1:15 p.m. HB 435, relative to certain terminology in the rulemaking authority of the department of education.
1:30 p.m. HB 447, relative to school calendar days.
2:00 p.m. HB 448, making technical corrections in the department of education.
2:15 p.m. HB 449, relative to safe school zones and chartered public schools.
This bill applies existing local district school statutes to chartered public schools. It includes laws that empower families with the ability to opt-out of health or sex education for religious objections; exemptions for objectionable material at the parents’ expense; refusals of participation in the statewide assessments; authorization of the state Board of Education to review contracts to determine if they promote education, establish qualifications for learning disability teachers, pupil safety and violence prevention programs; and require policies re school resource officers if assigned to the school, computer use policies, and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Several of these provisions extend school-choice issues to public charter schools without interfering with their mission or pedagogy.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2019: HOME EDUCATION ADVISORY COUNCIL (HEAC) at 3:30pm
Department of Education, Londergan Hall, room 12, 101 Pleasant Street, Concord
This is the regular bi-monthly meeting of the Home Education Advisory Council. It is open to the public. February 28th is the placeholder date if a meeting is needed. We closely follow the council and regularly report on their meetings. Below is a list of recent articles relative to HEAC and homeschool issues.
CONTACT INFO for LEGISLATORS
The lists of education committee members with their contact information are available here. Brief phone calls are most effective; personal stories can be particularly compelling. Mention if you are a constituent.
The Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee list is below.
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The House Education Committee list is below. A list of the committee members’ emails is below the table for an easy copy/paste.
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