Today was a good day for school choice and parents’ rights! There were three education-related bills that we tracked in today’s double-header Senate and House sessions. All three will advance to the Governor’s desk! Below are brief summaries of all three bills.
Please contact Governor Hassan urging her to allow them to pass into law. Her phone number is (603) 271-2121. Her office may also be contacted through their website. Alternatively you can email her staff, Amberlee Barbagallo, executive assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Pamela Walsh, her Chief of Staff, at email@example.com.
HB 1301, relative to youth employment certificates
This bill passed both the Senate and House in voice votes without any discussion. Hopefully this is a positive sign heading to the corner office.
— Current NH law puts an unfair hurdle in place for all non-public school students seeking employment.
— Current law forces public school superintendents and principals in a role of responsibility for students they do not know.
— This bill puts the responsibility in the hands of adults closest to the students, their parents, who would see evidence of academic distress well before it appears on a report card.
— The bill does not change any federal or state safety requirements that protect all workers with consequences to employers who put their employees in jeopardy.
— The bill also does not alter what types of jobs youth may accept.
— It is a logical extension of current statute because it already allows parents to approve employment for students aged 16 or 17 years old.
For details, read Youth Employment Bill Moves Forward.
HB 1637, relative to school choice for small towns, also called the “Croydon bill.”
Unlike the previous bill, this one was hotly debated in both chambers. The Senate’s roll call was 14 to 10 along party lines to support the bill. In the House, the roll call was 190 to 132 with only a handful of Democrats supporting the bill. We live-blogged both discussions on Facebook; the Senate floor discussion is available here, and the House discussion is here. It was very disappointing that opponents refused to accept facts about the bill and the Constitutionality of the amendment.
— This bill will help 15 small districts across the state, not just Croydon. There are many more that would benefit from these options given declining student enrollment.
— The amendment is consistent with several NH Supreme Court opinions as well as existing state statute and the NH Constitution.
— The amendment made a minor modification to House version to place the new language in the correct section of statute.
— The new version is a step forward for local control, recognizing that school boards or the state Board of Education may approve contracts between public districts and private schools.
— Districts do not have an unlimited financial liability, as some critics claim. Local school boards “may make a contract…..” means that they are not required to make tuition agreements with all schools, just those the district selects and those private schools that choose to participate. The key word is “may.”
For more details, read New Hope for HB 1637.
SB 320, relative to non-academic surveys administered by a public school to its students.
In the Committee of Conference, the Senate concurred with the House version; this is the bill both chambers passed today. The Senate’s roll call was again along party lines, 14 to 10. And the House supported it 285 to 56 in a roll call vote.
— This bill is the result of the study committee created in HB 206 (2015) that required further research of non-academic surveys and questionnaires administered in our public schools.
— It recognizes that these surveys often include personal questions and students should not be compelled to participate. We also know that students are being required to share this information in class work when it is not optional or anonymous, in direct conflict with claims by many school administrators.
— There are mechanisms already in place for schools to obtain opt-in permission such as for field trips so there is no excuse for ignoring privacy and parents’ rights for these non-academic surveys.
— The bill requires school districts to adopt a policy that parents must provide active consent (opt-in) for their students’ participation in non-academic surveys, with the exception being the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). This is an acceptable compromise that balances funding for important social programs yet recognizes parents’ rights to protect their students’ privacy.
For more information, read Non-Academic Surveys and Parents’ Rights.