The Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee will vote on all remaining legislation, including a couple school-choice related bills. This is a good opportunity to contact them with your thoughts on these important bills. The full Senate is likely to vote on them when they reconvene on May 15th, so it is also a good opportunity to contact your Senator, too. There is also an education funding presentation on Tuesday to the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee, a major issue across the state. The entire NH House of Representatives will vote on critical bills regarding anti-discrimination issues as well as a bill regarding releasing sensitive student information re the annual statewide assessment. This is the time to contact your local state representatives about these important bills. 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, there remain efforts underway 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 over the next few months 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!
You are also invited to our first fundraiser, a special presentation by Kerry McDonald, outspoken blogger for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and Intellectual Takeout, policy advisor to the Heartland Institute, and author of the newly-published book titled “Unschooling: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom.” She will talk about educational opportunities at the Nackey Loeb Communications School in Manchester on Tuesday, May 14th, 2019. Tickets are available here and must be pre-purchased; tickets will not be sold at the door. Copies of Kerry’s book are also available for pre-purchase and must be picked up at the event. We are also offering an optional Meet-and-Greet with Kerry prior to her presentation with very limited availability. Reserve your tickets today!
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, May 7, 2019: SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE, ROOM 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. Executive session on pending legislation, which may include the following bills
Last week the Senate voted to re-refer HB 383 back to the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee, so they may take further consideration and action on this bill. This is important to monitor because the House is considering significant changes to SB 263, another bill regarding anti-discrimination issues in public schools. (See below for more information on this bill.) As both bills are regarding anti-discrimination, the two chambers may seek to merge them in some way. HB 383 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 VI 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 Title IX of the Civil Rights Act and 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 or if “minor adjustments” allows the student to participate in the private school’s program. The ADA already is applicable to private schools if they receive public funds. Religious schools are exempt from these ADA laws unless they receive federal dollars. Currently many private schools receive federal funds, particularly Title 1 money. Also, it would set a dangerous precedent for undue regulation of nonpublic schools.
This is the second year that the House 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 House version partially addresses one of the two issues. HB 489 as amended by the House 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. We hope a friendly amendment is introduced to address these concerns.
10:30 a.m. John Tobin – presentation on school funding
Funding our public schools is a major focus in the legislature, as it is every two years when the budget is determined. Over 20 different bills were introduced this year regarding education funding. It is important to acknowledge that our schools are facing financial difficulties, especially with a long and steady decline in student enrollment, and rising costs. Per the NH Department of Education, the 2017-2018 average cost per pupil is $18,991.10, including operating, tuition, transportation, equipment, construction, and interest expenses. Most districts quote the average cost per pupil excluding these expenses, which is $15,865.26. It is also appropriate to examine academic outcomes. Per the NH Department of Education, 58% of NH students are proficient or above in English Language Arts, 48% in mathematics, and 41% in science, as measured by the 2018 statewide assessment. A 40-year longitudinal study by the Cato Institute shows that increases in education funding does not improve student outcomes. If we focus on children, not just brick and mortar buildings, then providing educational opportunities to more families is the solution to NH’s education funding concerns. Educational options improve student achievement and financial efficiencies. More details are in our Myths Regarding Education Funding article.
TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2019: HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE, ROOM 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive sessions on the following bills
SB 140, relative to credit for alternative, extended learning, and workbased programs.
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 senate passed the bill with amendment #0313s that requires school districts notify families about the non-academic survey via “email or text in addition to any written notice given via the student.” While this is a helpful addition to the notification procedure, it does not address the fundamental concern. 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.
SB 282-FN, relative to suicide prevention education in schools.
SB 141, establishing a committee to study violence against school personnel.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 8 and THURSDAY, MAY 9, 2019: NH HOUSE, Rep Hall
The NH House will vote on the following bills
Committee recommendation – Ought to Pass with Amendment, vote 11 to 7
Recommendation – NAY on OTP/A
The majority of the House Education Committee voted to support amendment #1690h, but it is problematic and rushed. Among its biggest flaws is that it exposes districts to lawsuit risks, not just by students and staff. If a person feels aggrieved, they may go to the Human Rights Commission or directly to the courts. The NH School Board Association concurs that this amendment makes all NH school boards vulnerable to these lawsuits. This amendment expands the Human Rights Commission into education, as well. The minority of the committee voted to support a different amendment, #1717h which will be introduced as a floor amendment, that creates a study committee to further examine the multiple concerns that were raised in public hearings and discussions. Given that the senate recently re-referred HB 383, relative to the prohibition on unlawful discrimination in public and nonpublic schools back to the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee because the two bills have overlapping issues, a study commission or voting the bill to Interim Study is advised so anti-discrimination in our schools can be considered more thoroughly.
Committee recommendation – Ought to Pass with Amendment, vote 16 to 2
Recommendation – NAY on OTP/A
The majority of the House Education Committee voted to support amendment #1718h that releases student names, birth dates, and Unique Pupil Identifiers (UPIs) to the testing organizations, and allows these testing entities to maintain the results, scores, and other evaluative materials on every student. It 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 database, 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. While the amendment requires the data be destroyed after 10 years, this completely undermines the purpose of Unique Pupil Identifiers and privacy protections. The intent of the bill is to allow schools and families to more readily track progress of individual students. However, we believe families are already able to do this by maintaining a file of the scores and reports from year to year. Also, the amendment supported by the House Education Committee also removes the penalties for inappropriate use of this data, as passed by the Senate. 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.
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.
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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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