The “witch hunt” bill, HB 628 (2023), has a work session in the House Education Committee on Tuesday, September 26 at 9am in Legislative Office Building (LOB) rooms 205-207. This is not a public hearing. Only committee members are allowed to speak and discuss the bill.
This bill, sponsored by Rep Linda Tanner, would require background checks on a variety of education providers who directly or indirectly receive taxpayer-funded money.
HB 628 is a return of HB 1664 (2022) whose sponsors wanted to extend it to traditional, independent home-educating families and claimed many parents are “bad actors” who wish to hide child abuse. This was openly said at that bill’s work session on October 11, 2022 starting at 1:32:15 in the video.
Attack on Parents
Because HB 628 bill could apply to informal, parent-led learning groups, not only government-sponsored programs, GSHE and many homeschooling families spoke against HB 628 at the public hearing in February; the recording of it begins at 4:43:30 of this video.
On the surface, HB 628 might not appear to apply to traditional, independent homeschoolers. However, the NH Department of Education launched two programs using federal grants that specifically serve home-educating families – Prenda and KaiPod Learning groups. Both of these programs use taxpayer-funded sources, and therefore expose all homeschoolers to this hostile legislation.
If the intention of HB 628 is to require background checks on other providers that receive contracts awarded by the Department of Education, such as those with Tutor.com, Lexia, College Guidance Network, or others that work directly with students, then this bill should require that of whatever entities are contracted with the department. This mandate could be part of the contract requirements to qualify for these opportunities.
Also, HB 628 states that approved providers who receive support from participants in the Education Tax Credit (ETC) Scholarship would need background checks. However, the ETC is financially supported by private donations, not any government-funded sources. Families who receive the ETC scholarship may use it for tuition at nonpublic schools or for homeschooling.
This bill could trap parents who offer any learning opportunities in their private homes. Imagine a family that hosts an astronomy viewing night and rents a telescope for a group of kids to learn about the event. If any of the children are ETC scholarship recipients or in the Education Freedom Account (EFA) program and use a portion of those funds to help cover the costs of the telescope rental, the host family would need background checks.
There are many family-based learning groups that have both traditional homeschooled, ETC scholarship, and EFA children enrolled. Imagine a monthly book club that meets at a local library, or a group that meets for periodic field trips. If ETC or EFA families claim the costs of learning materials against their accounts, then participating families would need to have background checks if HB 628 passes.
Many formal programs like 4-H, scouts, Prenda, and nonpublic schools already conduct background checks of their volunteers and adults who work with students. So what is the purpose of this bill if not to extend background checks to parents?
HB 628 is poorly defined and a slippery slope as it could apply to parents educating their own children and to families who do not use government-sponsored programs.
This is a dangerous bill to home-educating families and must be watched carefully.
GSHE Advocacy Resources
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NH Legislators – updated for 2023 with the Senate and House Education Committee members’ contact information
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Make a Difference video – how to be an effective advocate in Concord