The legislative session is winding down, and this week the NH House has important school-choice bill votes. We are monitoring numerous bills this year and those include our analysis and commentary. Legislators’ contact information is at the end.
With your help, we successfully neutralized eminent threats to the Education Tax Credit (ETC) scholarship program, HB 632 and SB 318. Unfortunately, efforts remain in the legislature to end or weaken the ETC program. We continue to watch for these bills, or something like them, to be tacked on to other legislation. We must remain vigilant these remaining few weeks of the session to protect the ETC program and #SaveOurScholarships. We compiled extensive information about the ETC scholarships regarding the background of NH’s program, how they work, constitutional issues, and media coverage – one-stop reading!
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.
THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2019: NH HOUSE, Rep Hall
The NH House will vote on the following bills
Committee recommendation – Ought to Pass, vote 12 to 8
Recommendation – NAY on OTP
This repeal is a blatant political power-move against the yet-to-launch Learn Everywhere program enacted in 2018. Learn Everywhere is designed to bring more learning opportunities to public school students, beyond their classroom experiences, and have it count towards graduation credit. This innovative program adheres to the state’s philosophy and statutes, maintains the strong tradition of local control, while allowing greater flexibility for students to pursue interests and potential careers while earning high-school credit. Local school districts may have policies governing how many credits from alternative learning options may be applied towards graduation, so this does not diminish local districts’ control for granting diplomas. The state Board of Education already credentials schools and teachers; this simply allows the BOE to also credential these courses, unbundling learning from bricks and mortar, while expanding the opportunity for an adequate education. Modeled on the existing Charter School authorization program, Learn Everywhere is adapted for individual programs instead of entire schools. It builds on Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) that are available and managed at the local district level. Learn Everywhere allows for these opportunities to extend beyond zip-codes, making more options available for students and simplifying the process for organizations and businesses that wish to participate in multiple areas. Learn Everywhere will not impact school funding because these opportunities already exist. They are simply awarding credit towards graduation for participation. Many of these programs are available for free or reduced fees like those available through the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, Civil Air Patrol, other community organizations, and after-school clubs. Typically, alternative learning programs are at the family’s expense, not the district’s. For example, if a student pursues classes at Southern NH University, those programs are available at a discount, but the family is responsible for the tuition, not the local district school. Learn Everywhere is fully consistent with this practice. Increasingly education is moving to “course choice,” not just “school choice.” More and more learning occurs across platforms, with a little here and there. Even now students may take some classes at the local district school, some online, some at home, and some through the local community college. Learn Everywhere recognizes this trend and positions NH as a front-runner in this new frontier for public education. At a time when public-school districts face tight budgets, declining enrollment, and demands for more individualized instruction, New Hampshire’s Learn Everywhere program is a win-win for students, schools, organizations, businesses, and our communities. Read more in Want to Learn Everywhere in NH and Expanding Educational Opportunities.
Committee recommendation – Ought to Pass with Amendment, vote 11 to 9
Recommendation – NAY on OTP/A
This bill is nearly identical to SB 431 (2018) and seeks to reverse the hard-won active consent (opt in) for non-academic surveys, SB 43, passed only two years ago. The bill requires passive consent (opt-out) instead of active consent for all non-academic surveys. Nearly all, including the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the CDC, are tied to government grants and funding based upon participation percentages. In other words, the bill sells students’ rights and private information for additional funding. Active consent as required in current 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, allowing passive consent. The partisan House Education Committee recommendation to support amendment #1802h requires districts to distribute written notice via the student and they may send notice electronically. This makes students responsible for informing their families. It also allows parents to opt-out in writing or electronically. This is a school-choice issue because public school students should not be subject to increased intrusiveness or privacy violations, nor should their families forfeit their rights to direct their children’s education simply because children attend their local district schools. It is also one aspect of accountability to families.
THURSDAY, MAY 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. The public is welcome to attend. 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.
[table id=17 /]
The House Education Committee list is below. A list of the committee members’ emails is below the table for an easy copy/paste.
[table id=19 /]