Senate Votes on Major Education Bills — May 14, 2015

We are down to the biggest, most important education bills of the year. This is when the legislators negotiate votes and favors. It is still possible to impact decisions by contacting Senators. Brief phone calls are most effective, but succinct emails work, too, especially if they are personal. Contact information is at the end of this post. The senators usually meet with the other members of their party on Wednesday afternoons, so they should be contacted before then to have the greatest impact.

We are again greeting the senators on Thursday, May 14th starting at 9:15am. Please join us on the second floor of the State House.

Thursday, May 14, 2015
Senate Session, Senate Chamber at 10:00am

HB 206, relative to non-academic surveys or questionnaires given to students
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass with Amendment (OTP/A), vote 4-0
position — NAY on OTP/A as amended by senate committee, YEA on OTP/A as amended by the House
more information — The senate committee’s amendment turns this bill into a study committee. This is very disappointing as there is a well-documented need for this legislation now. Also read Do Federal Funds Incentivize Schools to Compromise Parents’ Rights? and Controversial Surveys and Questionnaires Need Opt-Out.

HB 322, relative to protection of personally identifiable data by the department of education
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass, Vote 3-1
position — YEA on OTP
more information — This bill provides greater transparency of the Student Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) or other database the DOE may use; it also is the first to propose a data security plan which would add greater security and accountability to the systems in place; it also builds on parents’ rights to inspect and amend their student’s records and consent prior to disclosure of personally-identifiable information; this bill requires the same privacy protections and accountability for students that adults demand; also see Parents Must Have an Opt-Out of Student Databases and Student Privacy at Risk.

**HB 323, relative to the administration of the statewide assessment program (as amended by the committee)
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass with Amendment, Vote 4-1
position — NAY on OTP
more information — The new committee amendment removes PACE in name, but keeps the integrated assessments that will continue the over-testing and make it impossible for parents to opt out. The latest US DOE waiver approval, dated 3/5/15, indicates the NH DOE already plans to implement PACE, which is based on Common Core, on a statewide scale and in all grade levels. This is not less testing; it is significantly more. It is currently being piloted in only four NH districts so there is no evidence of success to justify this massive implementation. The committee amendment keeps the same blank-check power for the state DOE to develop approval criteria and a process for districts to seek permission to use alternative assessments. The feds still have approval authority. All references to “readiness” standards, aka Common Core, remain. This amendment does not recognize parents’ refusal as one of the exceptions for student participation. Current NH law, RSA 193-H:5 states ” Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit either the department of education or the state board of education to take control of the daily operations of any local public school.” If the transition to PACE is unsuccessful, no federal funding will be lost; all districts simply revert back to the existing statewide system with Smarter Balanced Assessments, where informed parents can refuse the tests. For more, read HB 323 Action Alert — Save Our Kids,  and Press Conference on HB 323, the NCLB Waiver Bill.

HB 332, relative to school district policy regarding objectionable course material
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass with Amendment (OTP/A), vote 3-2
position — NAY on OTP/A on amendment #2015-1261s, YEA on OTP/A on amendment #2015-1559s
more information — The senate committee’s amendment inappropriately focuses blame on teachers when other faculty, such as the principal or superintendent, could be at fault for failing to notify parents. There is no need to micro-manage districts. Sen. Stiles previewed an intended floor amendment, #2015-1559s, that removes the penalties to teachers. The bill as passed by the House is consistent with parents’ rights to opt-out of controversial materials for his/her own student found in RSA 186:11, IX-c. It also seeks prior notification to parents from the schools and availability of the materials in advance so parents can make informed decisions regarding their children’s education. Also see A Parent’s Right to Opt-Out.

HB 563-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils
committee recommendation — Ought to Pass, Vote 3-2
position — YEA on OTP
more information — Even with the increased funding in this bill, chartered public schools cost less than traditional public schools. Charter schools introduce market-competition to public education. They offer variety in educational philosophies and approaches, and operate on far less money as compared to traditional public schools. They are an educational alternative for families who are not able to afford private school or homeschooling. The additional funding would enable chartered public schools to accept more students, giving more options to families who want choice. Laws governing charters vary greatly state to state, but in NH, they are all part of the public school system; none are privately owned. Like all public schools, charters follow non-discriminatory enrollment policies. With charters, the money follows the child. Note that charter school do not receive local tax dollars.

**HB 603, relative to student exemption from the statewide assessment
committee recommendation — Inexpedient to Legislate, Vote 3-2
position — NAY on ITL
more information — This bill explicitly reinforces parents’ rights to opt out their children from assessments without penalty. It would require school districts to provide an alternative educational activity during assessments such as working individually on homework or reading a book. This bill is necessary to refute the NH DOE’s Technical Advisories that districts are using to trample parents’ rights and deny participation refusals for their children’s participation. The state DOE commissioner, Dr. Virginia Barry believes there is no opt-out choice in NH statute, so this is explicitly needed to reinforce Supreme Court of the US rulings that recognize parent’s rights to direct their children’s education. No state or school district has lost federal funding due to lower participation rates. Parents’ rights should not be compromised to chase federal dollars. Only the original version of the bill prevents the public from obtaining parent refusal information under the Right to Know law. See Writing Parent’s Rights into Statute and Parents Can Refuse.

To find your NH senator, and his or her contact information, refer to the senate’s roster page, or you can email all of them at Talk to two or three friends about these bills and ask them to do the same! Focus on senators with asterisks.

Jeff Woodburn — District 1, Dalton

* Jeanie Forrester — District 2, Meredith

** Jeb Bradley — District 3, Wolfeboro

David Watters — District 4, Dover

David Pierce — District 5, Lebanon

Sam Cataldo — District 6, Farmington

Andrew Hosmer — District 7, Laconia

* Gerald Little — District 8, Weare

Andy Sanborn — District 9, Bedford

Molly Kelly — District 10, Keene

Gary Daniels — District 11, Milford

Kevin Avard — District 12, Nashua

Bette Lasky — District 13, Nashua

** Sharon Carson — District 14, Londonderry

Dan Feltes — District 15, Concord

* David Boutin — District 16, Hooksett/Manchester

* John Reagan  — District 17, Deerfield

Donna Soucy — District 18, Manchester

Regina Birdsell — District 19, Hampstead/Windham/Derry

Lou D’Allesandro — District 20, Manchester

Martha Fuller Clark — District 21, Portsmouth

** Chuck Morse —  District 22, Salem

** Russell Prescott — District 23, Kingston

* Nancy Stiles — District 24, Hampton