This is a busy week for the NH House and Senate as we prepare for “crossover,” when they trade surviving bills. Committees are execing remaining bills and the entire House will meet three days next week, Tuesday through Thursday, deliberating over a hundred bills.
The entire NH House of Representatives will vote on HB 632, the bill that seeks to repeal the Education Tax Credit (ETC) scholarship program, on Tuesday, March 19th. The House Ways and Means Committee gave the bill an Ought to Pass (OTP) recommendation last week following two public hearings on the bill – Part 1 and Part 2. This is the time to contact your own state representatives. Calls are best, but emails are helpful. We have a tool that sends emails to your state representatives; the message can be personalized for additional impact. We also have a page about ETC scholarships that compiles relevant information on the background of NH’s program, how they work, constitutional issues, and media coverage – one-stop reading!
The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold an executive session on Wednesday, March 20th, and SB 318 is one of their few remaining bills. This bill effectively kills the ETC program, too, but in more subtle ways. See the write-up below for details and how to contact the committee.
We are monitoring numerous bills this year and those 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). When the House and Senate have sessions, we list all the bills we are following, even if they are on the Consent Calendars, because they may be pulled and individually voted on or a floor amendment may be introduced. 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, MARCH 19, 2019: SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE, ROOM 103, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on any of their remaining bills which may include the following
This bill requires the state Department of Education to provide the statewide assessment organization with students’ names and Unique Pupil Identifiers (UPIs). This is a violation of students’ privacy rights. This gives the testing company vast amounts of our children’s information as the UPI is the key to unlocking all the data. Current law, RSA 189:67, already allows testing entities to access students’ names or UPIs (not both), and birth dates. The UPI is supposed to anonymize student data, to protect identifiable information. Instead, when matched with the student’s name and birth date, everything is accessible. Refusing the statewide assessment, as allowed in RSA 193-C:6, is unlikely to protect students who do not participate in the exam, as the students are included in the data, just noted as non-participants. UPIs follow NH students from the time they enter the public-school system all the way through post-secondary institutions as part of NH’s Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS), also referred to as the NH Longitudinal Data System (NHLDS), for which the state received federal grants exceeding $8M. Homeschool students who attend high-school classes through the local district are included in the database. Learn more about the privacy protections in the current reporting system here in the NH DOE’s FAQ. Read more about the NHLDS here. The NH DOE’s data dictionary is available here to see what information is collected in the state’s various databases. Read more about NH’s database system here.
TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2019: NH HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES, Rep Hall
The NH House will vote on the following bills
Committee recommendation – Ought to Pass with Amendment, vote 17 to 2
Recommendation – no position
This is the second year that the House has introduced a bill regarding Manifest Educational Hardship (MEH). 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. We raised two concerns with HB 489 as introduced and the amendment partially addresses one of our two issues. The amendment specifies when superintendents must determine and notify families regarding a decision for an MEH request, but does not set a deadline for the school board should the family appeal to their local officials. The amendment also does not allow a family to petition the state Board of Education if they are dissatisfied with their local school board’s decision as currently permitted in statute. Without these corrections, we cannot support the amendment.
Committee recommendation – Ought to Pass, vote 10 to 9
Position – NAY on OTP
The Education Tax Credit (ETC) scholarship program is facing multiple legislative attacks this term, of which HB 632 is one. This program is the only one of its kind to put educational opportunities within reach for low-income students across the Granite State. The scholarship program began in 2013 and to date has helped 877 children; 413 low-income students utilize scholarships for the 2018-2019 school year. Of those students, 16% are children will special needs. The ETC program allows private donations – not state funds – to be given to a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to low-income children. Scholarships may be used for tuition at out-of-district public schools, private school tuition, or approved home education expenses. Donors receive a credit against their business enterprise or profits tax; individuals receive a credit against their income taxes. As defined in statute, the program can only help low-income students, those at or below 300% of the federal poverty limit. The 2018 guideline for a family of four is a maximum annual income of $75,300. These families also qualify for a range of federal assistance programs including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Of this year’s scholarship children, 62% are at the Free and Reduced income level which is $46,400 annually for a family of four. Poverty is a major contributor to a range of long-term academic problems. According to The Condition of Education (2018) by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), living in poverty has a great impact for the duration of a child’s academic years, from kindergarten through high school. The report says, “…and living in poverty are associated with poor educational outcomes, including low achievement scores, having to repeat a grade, and dropping out of high school.” These private scholarships put educational opportunities within reach for families that they otherwise could not access. Educational opportunities close the academic gap for at-risk students. The average scholarship award is $2,762; it is higher, $4,833.50 for children with special needs. While this small program makes all the difference for struggling students, it does not have a negative financial impact on local or state education funding. In fact, supporting educational opportunities for at-risk children produces positive outcomes for our communities. Forcing these at-risk students back into educational settings that do not fit their individual needs will not only cause long-term harm to their educational outcomes, but will also cost local districts more money as they would now be responsible for integrating over 400 children back into their schools. Per the NH Department of Education, the average cost per pupil is $15,865.26; the cost per pupil with all expenditures is $18,991.10. The ETC is a win-win for students and communities across the Granite State. Repealing the Education Tax Credit program would have a devastating effect on our most vulnerable children and local districts. Read about the House Ways and Means Committee’s exec session here.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2019: SENATE WAYS and MEANS COMMITTEE, ROOM 101, STATE HOUSE
10:00 a.m. Executive session on any of their remaining bills which may include the following
This bill adds public-school projects to the Education Tax Credit (ETC) program. We might not be against utilizing state tax credits to fund public-school projects, but it does not fit in the nature, process, or intent of the Education Tax Credit Scholarship law which created the program for individual student tuition scholarships or homeschool scholarships. The Education Tax Credit Scholarship program is a school-choice mechanism in place in 18 states with 800 operating scholarship organizations providing tuition scholarships for low- and moderate-income children. We have two scholarship organizations operating in NH and they have been growing every year to assist needy students. More scholarship organizations could open at any time and we expect the available tax credits to be fully utilized. The NH ETC program can already offer scholarships to students to attend out-of-district public schools, and through the homeschool scholarship any public or private educational program that charges tuition. This bill also removes the ability for the NH Department of Revenue to approve or deny the scholarship organizations, a process which is based on meeting required metrics outlined in statute. Instead, the bill politicizes the regulating board of the Education Tax Credit program. This management commission, as defined in SB 318, consists of members from NH School Administrators Association, NH School Boards Association, and others. The named organizations are highly political and have paid lobbyists that actively work against educational options. This would greatly undermine the purpose of the ETC program, which is to support low- and moderate-income children to access educational opportunities. Read more in Politicizing the ETC Program, SB 318.
TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2019: HOME EDUCATION ADVISORY COUNCIL (HEAC) subcommittee at 3:30pm
Derry Public Library, 64 E Broadway in Derry
This is a subcommittee meeting to discuss proposed changes to Ed 315 as requested by the Commissioner. The public is welcome to attend. Read more about the subcommittee’s work in HEAC Reviews Ed Rule Changes.
THURSDAY, MARCH 28, 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. 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
To find your NH senator, and his or her contact information, refer to the senate’s roster page.
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.
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 Senate Ways and Means 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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