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About AFT - New Hampshire

AFT-NH is the State Affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. The AFT has over one million members with nearly 4,000 members here in New Hampshire. These members are teachers, school support staff, police, higher education faculty and town employees. AFT-NH is a member of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO which represents over 45,000 working men and women.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-8-17: Budget Failure And School Vouchers (Action Needed)

April 8, 2017

House Budget Fails   The deadline for the NH House to pass a state budget was April 6th. Despite having a 53-vote margin majority, the NH House Republicans failed to pass a budget to send to the NH Senate by the deadline for the first time in at least 50 years. The House met over two days and recessed on Thursday, April 6th with no budget. Speaker Shawn Jasper was unable to garner the votes of the republican caucus to approve a budget after the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House balked at the budget citing too much spending. The NH Senate begins the process of dealing with the budget. 

Town Elections The NH State Senate passed an amendment to HB 329 on Thursday that will give those towns who rescheduled their March 14th elections, due to the blizzard, an opportunity to have the local governing bodies (school board or selectmen) after a public hearing, ratify the results of the rescheduled elections. Minority leader State Senator Jeff Woodburn (D) has worked tirelessly on this issue since the chaos and confusion was launched on Election Day. Along with his colleague, Sen. Donna Soucy (D) and Majority leader Sen. Jeb Bradley (R), this solution was crafted to help the approximately 80 communities who needed to reschedule their elections. Unlike the failed attempt by House Speaker Shawn Jasper, there would not be the requirement of a town wide vote to ratify the results of the elections which include elected officials, bonds, budgets and collective bargaining agreements. The bill will now pass over to the NH House where one would hope it will be met with a quick passage so our towns and school districts can move forward with the work approved by local voters.

SB 193-School Vouchers (ACTION NEEDED!) The House Education Committee heard testimony this week on SB 193, the school voucher bill. I testified in strong opposition to the bill. I also presented thoughtful written testimony from the President of the Hillsboro-Deering Federation of Teachers’, AFT#2348, Alex Luhtjarv. The testimony by members of the public was overwhelmingly in opposition to this scheme to defund public schools.

House Education Committee member, Rep. Linda Tanner (D) provided a synopsis of the hearing which underscores that testimony included the impact of funding cuts to local school districts and the important role played by our public schools, “I was never so impressed or proud of the educators, citizens, parents, school board association, disabilities community, the principals association, the superintendents, AFT’s Doug Ley, and all the parents and retired teachers for their statements to our committee. You told stories about your schools, your communities, your families and how they might be effected by taking money from the public schools and sending those students and dollars to private and parochial schools with no accountability, no oversight, no representation from the people who are sending their money through taxation while leaving the public system to be poorly funded safety net. You told how schools especially in small communities are the center of the community and a source of pride and civic involvement.”

Again, we know that this is a bill driven by out of state interests and will divert necessary public tax dollars away from our public schools causing an increase in local property taxes and/or reduced services to the public school students. We must be heard on this bill and do everything in our power to stop this attack on public education. Here is an AFT-NH HANDOUT VS. SB 193 on why we oppose SB 193. Please feel free to share far and wide and ask others join in our campaign to save public schools. Over the next two weeks, we need to make certain our opposition is duly recorded with our representatives.

Your Action Needed Now   So, if you have not already done so, please join us in opposing SB193 by completing the two following actions:

  1. The House Education Committee has scheduled the committee vote for Tuesday, April 25th at 9:30am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. We still have plenty of time to reach out to committee members before they vote. You can email the full House Education Committee directly at HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. For more resources on this issue to assist you with writing a quick note, please visit our web site at: http://nh.aft.org/2017-nh-state-house-news#.

AND

  1. Regardless of what happens in the Committee, SB 193 will be voted on by the full House after the committee vote. So let’s get ahead of this and contact your State Representative(s) by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!

Defeat SB 193           

The NH House and Senate will both next convene on April 20th. In the meantime, let us be sure to keep up the great work by letting your elected officials know that you are engaged and care deeply about the issues they are considering.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-2-17: School Vouchers, Voter Suppression, And NHRS

In a final flurry of action, the NH Senate completed action on its bills this past week, setting the stage for the next round of activity at the State House. One of the bills passed by the Senate was SB3, which is another in a long line of attempts at voter suppression. With some newspapers continuing to give front-page coverage to claims of massive voter fraud in NH (even as the stories themselves admit there is no evidence to back such claims), NH Republicans voted to impose new restrictions upon individuals registering to vote. Under this proposed legislation, the applicant will need to fill out a cumbersome and lengthy registration form and provide proofs of residency far beyond what has previously been accepted in NH. The goal, of course, is to reduce same-day registration and reduce voting by college students by dissuading them from even trying to register or creating such long delays at polling places that they will walk away and not vote at all. All of this is done in the name of voter fraud claims repeatedly and definitively refuted by town officials, the NH Secretary of State, and every non-partisan election observer. Instead, as NH’s Granite State Progress puts it, the NH Senate has now (by a party-line vote), thrown NH voters under the “make-believe, magic bus” of those who continue to assert fraud but offer not one scintilla of evidence to back their claims. What a basis for making policy!

SB3 will now go to the NH House, where it will undergo further hearings before being brought to the floor for a vote. Given that there is a Republican majority in the House and that Governor Sununu has also put forward unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, this bad legislation is likely to pass.

Full-Day Kindergarten   One positive development out of the Senate this past week was passage of a bill to provide targeted aid for full-day kindergarten here in NH. The House Finance Committee cut full-day kindergarten from their proposed 2018-19 State budget, but passage of this bill by the Senate makes clear that targeted funding for full-day kindergarten will be a point of contention in upcoming budget battles over the next two months.

House Finance Committee The House did not meet this past week, but the House Finance Committee did take its final votes and has now presented a proposed 2018-19 budget for the State of New Hampshire. As noted above, the Republican majority on the committee voted to eliminate proposed targeted funding for full-day kindergarten, following the logic of House Speaker Shawn Jasper, who could not imagine how any 5 or 6-year old could sit in school for a full day. (Maybe I’m odd, but I know I managed it just fine back in 1963-64!) The other proposals concerning us in this proposed budget concern the NH Retirement System. First, the budget makes no change in the State’s contribution to retirement costs for school districts and towns & municipalities that joined the System with promises of State backing. Instead, the State contribution rate remains at zero, meaning the State continues to break its promises and instead, passes along all retirement cost increases to local taxpayers. Second, this budget forces retirees under age 65 to pay 14% more towards their health insurance (20% of premium cost) and requires those aged 65-67 to now pay at least 10% towards health insurance premiums. In essence, the proposed budget reneges on prior agreements for retirees, making clear once again that the State of NH (at least in this budget) is not to be trusted whatsoever.

The proposed House budget will now go to the floor on Wednesday April 5 and will be voted on either the 5th or 6th. There will be numerous amendments proposed by members of both parties, but in the end, unless there is a major split within the Republican majority, the proposed budget will pass. It will then move on to the Senate where an entirely new budget will likely be drawn up and eventually passed, which means the final version of the 2018-19 budget will be worked out in a committee of conference between the Senate and House in May and likely voted on in June. In sum, the process has only begun.

School Vouchers   Finally, SB193, the radical voucher bill will be considered by the House Education Committee in a hearing this coming Tuesday morning. Advocates of “school choice” will be out in force in support of this raid upon public revenues, and have already launched attacks upon AFT-NH, among others, for opposing this legislation. They imply that AFT-NH spends millions in lobbying against this sort of legislation, which of course, is pure fiction, and whatever AFT spends nationally on the issue is dwarfed by the money spent by ALEC, Americans for Prosperity and the all the various front organizations funded by corporate interests intent on privatizing and profiting from education. The sad truth here in NH is that SB193 will result in major property tax increases as public funds are drained from public education to pay for private schooling. The reality is that choice already exists—what does not exist is the use of public funds to support private choices. SB193 does that, giving public monies to schools that can cherry-pick their students, need not offer the services required for special needs students, and remain free many programmatic and support requirements that public schools must meet. What the advocates of SB193 seek is public money, not public regulation, accountability or transparency. As Mark Fernald perceptively noted in a recent editorial, “If we create a system that is truly competitive and fair—with every school receiving public money meeting the same standards—I think we would find that our public schools do very well, and that most private and charter schools would not be interested in participating.”

Your Action Needed Now   So, if you have not already, please join us in opposing SB193 by completing the two following actions-

  1. A hearing before the House Education Committee has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 4th at 10:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. Please attend the hearing and show your opposition. If you do not wish to testify, you can sign a card showing your opposition.

    If you are unable to attend, you can email the full House Education Committee directly at HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. For more resources on this issue to assist you with writing a quick note, please visit our web site at: http://nh.aft.org/2017-nh-state-house-news#

  2. Contact your State Representative by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!

    Defeat SB 193           

There is no question when our members, partners, and other stakeholders stand up and register their opinions to lawmakers, we do make a difference! Thank you for all that you are doing every day to push back against legislation that is harmful to our state.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-17-17: School Vouchers And Kindergarten Bills

March 27, 2017

 

After concluding business in a rush back on March 10, the NH House reconvened this past Thursday for a short session. The most notable action of the day concerned HB 647, the so-called voucher bill for children with disabilities. The bill had previously passed the House on policy grounds, but on Thursday, came to the floor with a strong, bi-partisan recommendation of “Inexpedient to Legislate” from the Finance Committee. Nevertheless, in what looks to have been a party-line vote (it was not a roll-call but a division vote, meaning only the totals are recorded, not individual votes) the bill was tabled rather than killed. The motion to table came from Republican leader Dick Hinch, who asked the House to table on grounds that voting to kill the bill would prejudice the fate of SB 193, the broader, full-scale education voucher bill. With a vote of 193-161 (closely resembling party numbers in the House) HB 647 was tabled. The bill itself is essentially dead for 2017 but can be revived in 2018, and may also make an appearance in the 2018-19 budget bill still under construction by the House Finance Committee.

School Voucher Bill   As for SB 193, the broad-based education voucher bill, it has been referred to the House Education Committee but no public hearings have as yet been scheduled. As we have stated before, SB 193 is a very dangerous piece of legislation and could have dire consequences for public education in New Hampshire, reducing funding and ultimately raising property taxes in towns and cities across New Hampshire. A fine piece by Mark Fernald, recently published in the Keene Sentinel and Nashua Telegraph, quite clearly makes the case for SB193 as legislation that will increase property taxes AND harm public education. According to Fernald, the immediate impact of SB 193 will be to drain $25 million in funds from public schools, and the eventual costs will range much higher. Nearly all the benefits of the bill will go to families in upper-income brackets, since the amount per student per voucher is merely a fraction of the cost of sending a student to private or charter schools. In other words, the only “choice” to be offered is for those who can already afford it, while the cost will be borne by the rest of us in higher property taxes to support our public schools. (The full piece by Mark Fernald can be accessed at Vouchers for the Wealthy). This is not a good or sensible approach to public education, and the costs must be made clear when the bill comes before the House Education Committee. In the meantime, we must also remain vigilant that this proposal is not dropped into the upcoming budget bill coming from House Finance Committee (a often-utilized method of hiding unpopular or controversial proposals). 

Action Needed   We are requesting that you reach out to your state representative(s) and ask them to vote no on SB 193. Here’s the link, Protect NH Public Schools, so you can take direct action and have your opinion heard. Please share far and wide! For more resources to help defeat vouchers, please visit our website at Defeat School Vouchers

Kindergarten   Speaking of the House Finance Committee and the upcoming budget bill, the Republican majority on the committee voted this past week to remove funding for full-day kindergarten. This was an initiative proposed by Governor Sununu, but it was made clear that in the eyes of House Republicans the governor knows very little regarding education. House Speaker Shawn Jasper, when questioned about the Finance Committee vote, replied that “The capacity of a 6-year-old to be attentive in a classroom for a full day is pretty much non-existent,” hence his opposition to State-funding towards full-day kindergarten. And so, New Hampshire remains adamant in its stance against full-day kindergarten, unless localities or individual parents & families wish to pay for it (as has been proposed by some in places such as Nashua).

The focus this week in the State House will be on the final construction of the House budget bills, which must be reported by March 30. What must be remembered is that the budget bill for 2018-19 can contain or include all sorts of policy initiatives, so long as they have a fiscal impact. Therefore, proposals such as HB 647, tabled by a House vote, are not yet dead, but may surreptiously re-appear in the House budget bill. So stay tuned.

In Memoriam   On a final sad note, we mourn the untimely passing of Senator Scott McGilvray. Only 51 years of age, Senator McGilvray had just been elected to the NH Senate in November 2016 after serving for many years as president of NEA-NH, and his passing is a major blow to Democrats in the NH Senate and to the labor movement in NH. Upon learning of the tragic news, I released the following statement on behalf of AFT-NH:

“AFT-NH is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of State Senator Scott McGilvray. On behalf of AFT-NH members, we express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of Scott McGilvray, and to our colleagues at NEA-NH.” 

“Scott dedicated his life to advocating for New Hampshire’s children, public education, educators and working families. He was a strong labor leader and his career was marked by public service at its finest culminating with his election to the NH State Senate this past fall.” 

“The passing of Senator McGilvray is a great loss to public education, the labor movement and the entire state of New Hampshire.  He was taken from us far too soon, and leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.” 

I wish you all good health as Spring slowly makes its way to NH, and let’s keep up the good fight!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Town Meeting Day: Support AFT-NH Contracts In Your Local Town

Dear Union Colleagues and Supporters,

Your Union colleagues around the state have spent countless hours negotiating fair and reasonable contracts with their employers. On Tuesday, March 14th contracts will be presented to voters in many districts. There are five AFT-NH contracts on ballots on this date. There will also be important votes to approve budgets, stop outsourcing and save police department positions. On Saturday, March 18th, there will be an important town meeting in Pittsfield where we are asking people to show up and vote to restore the two police officer positions which are being cut. Public safety matters! We are asking that if you live in one the towns below that you take the time to be sure to vote in support of these contracts and encourage your friends and family to vote. When we act in unity, we make a difference every time!

Together by supporting those who work with our children and adequately funding our schools, we can reclaim the promise of public education. We also must make certain that vital public safety services are funded appropriately.

Please remind folks that they can register to vote at the polls with proper identification and proof of residency! There’s still time to get an absentee ballot for voting on 3/14 if you will be out of town or unable to vote. Voting locations and times are provided below!

Thank you for supporting your fellow union members or for being a supporter of AFT-NH members.

In Solidarity,

Doug Ley

AFT-NH President

 

VOTING INFORMATION FOR TUESDAY, MARCH 14TH

Farmington School District

Farmington School Custodians, AFT Local #6212

Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #4 and #5.

A three-year contract.

Farmington Town Hall: 8am-7pm

 

Hillsboro-Deering School District

Hillsboro-Deering Support Staff, AFT, Local #6219

Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #6 and #7.

A three-year contract. The H-DSS members have been without a contract for 3 years.

Deering:                      Deering Town Hall                                               11am to 7pm

Hillsboro:                    Hillsboro-Deering Middle School Gymnasium   7am to 7pm

 

Newfound Area School District

Newfound Teachers’ Union, AFT Local #6557

Please vote YES on Warrant Article #5.

A two-year contract.

Alexandria:                  Town Hall, 45 Washburn Road                                 11am-7pm

Bridgewater:                Town Hall, Route 3A, Mayhew Turnpike                12pm to 6pm

Bristol:                        Old Town Hall, 45 Summer Street                             8am to 7pm

Danbury:                     Town Hall, 23 High Street                                          11am to 7pm

Groton            :                       Groton Town House, 754 North Groton Road          11am to 7pm

Hebron            :                       Community Hall (Hebron Church)                             11am to 7pm

New Hampton            :           Town House, 86 Town House Road                          11am to 7pm

 

Raymond School District      *Outsourcing Alert

Raymond Educational Support Staff, AFT Local #4823

Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #4 and #5.

A two-year contract.

*Please stop the outsourcing of the Raymond Schools’ cafeteria program. 100% of the employees live in Raymond. Voters have rejected it in the past but the school board is trying to do this again.

Please vote NO on the School Board’s Article 9 and YES on the Citizens’ Petition Article 10.

Iber Homes Gove Holmes Middle School Gymnasium:   7am–7pm

More information on the outsourcing proposal in PDF below. 

 

Timberlane Regional School District

Timberlane Support Staff Union, AFT #6530

Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #4 and #5.

A three-year contract.

Atkinson:        Community Center, Rt. 121      7am – 8pm

Danville:          Community Center, Rt. 111      8am – 7pm

Plaistow:         Pollard School , Main St.           7am – 8pm

Sandown:        Sandown Town Hall, Main St.   8am – 8pm

 

VOTING INFORMATION FOR SATURDAY, MARCH 18TH

Please support our Pittsfield Town Employees, AFT #6214 at their annual town meeting. The Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee have recommended cutting two police officer positions. The Town has had the benefit of receiving a COPS grant which is a three-year contract. The decision to reduce the number of police officers, in addition to the grave concerns about public safety, also exposes the Town to paying back $40,000 +/- for not fulfilling the obligations of the grants. Please attend the meeting, support public safety and vote YES on Citizens’ Petition Article #8.

Pittsfield Elementary School Gymnasium     10am

New Hampshire Pittsfield COP budget v2

 

RAYMOND OUTSOURCE HANDOUT 2-3-17 REVISED

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-18-17: Victory Over Right To Work, Edelblut’s Confirmation, and Looking Ahead

Yesterday was a good day, a very good day for us in the NH House. As you most likely know by now, a coalition of Democrats and courageous Republican representatives thwarted out-of-state corporate interests and defeated so-called ‘right to work’ legislation (SB 11) on a 200-177 vote. Defying Governor Sununu and his anti-worker agenda, Representatives also blocked Republican plans to bring forward another so-called ‘right to work’ bill in March, thereby effectively killing the issue for the next two years. This was a hard-fought victory, produced by the hard work of a broad coalition of labor unions, faith-based and community action organizations working together, designing an effective strategy, and carrying it out through the work of thousands of individuals writing and calling their State Representatives. The parliamentary maneuvers on the floor of the House were carried out with nary a hitch, but it all would be for naught without the work of so many of you. Thank you!

The defeat of so-called ‘right to work’ was not the only victory we had this week in the Legislature. In a surprisingly strong vote, the House adopted HB 413, which would require the State to begin paying 15% of the employer contributions into the NH Retirement System. The bill now goes to the Finance Committee where it will face close scrutiny before coming back to the House for a final vote, but any restoration of State contributions to the retirement system would be a blessing to sorely-pressed municipalities, counties and school districts. The road ahead will be difficult, but at least we have taken some initial steps.

Not all news was good news this week. Most important, the Executive Council voted 3-2 to confirm the inexperienced and unqualified Frank Edelblut as NH’s next Commissioner of Education. Despite concerns expressed by hundreds of constituents and education professionals, and despite even a letter from the State Board of Education expressing grave concerns, the three Republican members of the Executive Council voted to approve what is clearly a politically-motivated appointment by Governor Sununu, leaving NH with a Commissioner of Education who supports creationism over science, and who defends discredited “conversion” therapy targeting LGBTQ students and attempts to change their sexual orientation. AFT-NH will work with the new commissioner in all legitimate efforts to sustain and improve our traditional public schools in NH, but we shall also remain vigilant and wary of any efforts to undermine the public schools serving the vast majority of NH children.

In other education-related news, the House passed a voucher bill for parents of children with disabilities, thereby opening the door for broader voucher programs which would rob public schools of already insufficient State funding. The bill, HB 647-FN, sets up “education freedom savings accounts” for parents of children with disabilities. State education funds are then placed in these accounts, which parents can then use to pay to private and religious schools if they choose to remove their child from the traditional public schools. This is simply a foretaste of broad-based vouchers, which are contained in SB 193-FN, which passed out of the Senate Education Committee yesterday by a 3-2 party-line vote. Sponsored and supported by Republicans, SB 193 is a full-blown voucher system which would severely undermine funding for traditional public schools and funnels millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to private and religious schools in New Hampshire. The bill now goes to the floor of the Senate, where it will likely receive a hearty welcome from Republicans bent upon destroying our system of public schools, the bedrock of the American Dream and the incubator of democratic citizenship. Please contact your State Senator and ask them to vote NO on SB 193. To contact your state senator, please click WHO IS MY SENATOR? and enter the city or town where you reside. Once you have determined who is your state senator, go to the SENATE ROSTER to find out how to contact the senator. To put it simply, please tell them to vote against SB 193 and that money should not be diverted from our public schools.

Finally, we also saw the defeat this week of Richard Ames’ fine legislative proposals aimed at reforming the adequacy funding for public schools and creating a tax on capital gains, the revenues of which would have been applied to retirement fund payments, thereby easing local property tax burdens. Both proposals were detailed and carefully crafted, but the Republican majority has little interest in improving public school funding and no interest in creating or expanding taxes, especially those aimed at the wealthiest NH residents.

Looking Ahead. The NH House will not be meeting in session next week but committees will be continuing to wrap up their work to meet the March 2nd deadline to report on bills not going to a second committee and the March 9th deadline for the House to act on those bills. The House Education Committee will be meeting in executive session to act on a number of bills addressing charter schools (House Bills HB 494, HB 293, HB 341, and HB 505) as well as HB 339 (transportation costs for students attending career/technical education centers), HB 122 (withdrawal from a cooperative school district), HB 477 (free speech on college campuses), HB 210 (code of ethics for educational personnel), HB 620 and HB 396 (student assessment data privacy).

On the Senate side, the full Senate will be considering the following bills with a recommendation of Ought to Pass by the Education Committee: SB 8-FN (school attendance in towns with no school districts), SB 43 (non-academic surveys to students), SB 44 (prohibiting the state from requiring the implementation of common core standards), SB 103 (limiting food/beverage advertising/marketing on school property), SB 191-FN (definition of average daily membership attendance), and SB 228 (NH college graduate retention incentive partnership-GRIP)

The dangerous bill as mentioned in last week’s bulletin is HB 438 which would prohibit public employers from withholding union dues from a public employee’s wages. Yes, the bill would not allow voluntary union dues to be deducted from an employee’s paycheck. Locals would have to find other methods to collect dues from members. This is clearly a punitive measure aimed at Unions. We know there are dozens of other voluntary payroll deductions allowed such as insurance deductions, charitable contributions such as United Way or voluntary disability insurance plans, to name a few. Despite the title of the bill, this would affect all public employees and all of our locals. It is expected the House Labor Committee will now be hearing this bill on March 2nd and then this bill would go to the full House on March 9th. We will be sending out requests for action on this bill. We will need members to engage actively to help defeat this bill.

So the news is mixed, as always, but we are thankful for all the hard work so many of you put into the fight over so-called ‘right to work.’ Relish the victory, knowing it means you CAN make a difference. Other fights are coming and we will be asking for more support and engagement in the coming weeks. Please continue to encourage folks to “like us” at the AFT New Hampshire Facebook page for breaking news.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-10-17: Right To Work (for less) And NH Retirement System

February 10, 2017  

Besides the snowstorms this week, the big news out of Concord is the current status of ‘right to work’ legislation, legislative action on the NH Retirement System, and the continuing saga of Frank Edelblut as NH’s own version of Betsy DeVos.

‘Right to Work’: The House Labor Committee held its mandatory hearing on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation this past Wednesday, a marathon hearing stretching from 10am until past 5 pm. Hundreds packed Reps Hall in the State House, and most of those who testified did so in opposition to so-called ‘right to work.’ There were numerous stories of how unions helped workers in the workplace and bettered their lives, along with testimonies on the need for workers to have a voice of their own. Many of the advocates of so-called ‘right to work’ were from outside NH, offering up slanted evidence and demonstrating virtually no understanding or familiarity with NH traditions, politics or even our economic situation in 2017. One such witness, when pressed, ultimately admitted that the reason business often supports so-called right to work is because it makes it harder to organize (translation: weaker unions, lower pay, fewer benefits). Interestingly, other than gun manufacturer Sturm Ruger (a non-union workplace) virtually no businesses testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work,’ and not a single employer who deals with unions testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work.’ AFT-NH local leaders submitted some fantastic written testimony for consideration by the Labor Committee. Please click here to review the testimony.

At the end of the long day, the Labor Committee then voted on the two identical bills (SB 11 and HB 520). Both bills will be sent to the House floor with the recommendation of “ITL”—Inexpedient to Legislate (in layman’s terms, “kill them”). Five Republicans voted with the nine Democrats on the Labor Committee, a strong bipartisan showing against legislation advocated by outside, non-NH organizations. As a result, SB 11 will come to the floor for a House vote on next Thursday, February 16, while HB 520 will come up later in the session. So, our challenge right now is to defeat SB 11 next Thursday—now is the time to act! Please, contact your State Representative and tell her/him to vote against SB 11 by following the Labor Committee’s recommendation of ITL. Do not delay—now is the time. Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter—we need to make our position known!

NH Retirement System: Another important legislative proposal dealing with the NH Retirement System will come before the House on Wednesday, February 15. The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee has recommended passage by a 10-9 vote. If approved by the full House, the bill would then be referred to the House Finance Committee. Sponsored by Representative Renny Cushing, HB 413 mandates that the State of NH reinstate payment by the state of 15% of retirement contributions, thereby providing some relief to cities, towns, counties and school districts, all of whom must bear the burden with employees of contributing to the NH Retirement System. Many years ago, when the State sought to persuade towns and cities to join the NHRS, it made the financial promise to pay 40% of the cost, a promise which has not been kept, thereby leaving towns and cities with increased burdens and higher property taxes to cover the payments reneged on by the State. The increased costs to local communities, especially in our locals such as Nashua, Newfound Area School District and Rochester dealing with tax and/or spending caps, this bill will provide some long-overdue relief and is strongly supported by AFT-NH. So, when you contact your State Reps about so-called ‘right to work,’ be sure to put in a good word for HB 413 as well, and remind them that even Governor Sununu has promised restoring some of the State aid promised to towns and cities.

Frank Edelblut: The Executive Council vote on Frank Edelblut was delayed this past week when it was revealed that a required consultation by the Governor with the State Board of Education had not actually occurred. That meeting was scheduled for yesterday but the snowstorm led to its cancellation, so the meeting will now be held on Tuesday, February 14th. In the meantime, video of Edelblut’s testimony in favor of discredited “conversion therapy” for gay teens is now circulating, leading one to wonder just how supportive he can be of our LGBQT students? There is also more material now available in which Edelblut is clearly identified as a denier of climate change. Combined with his previously noted affiliation with creationism (Patrick Henry College), it is sure to make one question just where science education will be headed under a Department of Education led by Frank Edelblut. So please, keep up the good work and contact your Executive Councilor and urge him to vote against Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. Remind him—if you need to be certified to teach or licensed to drive, shouldn’t the Commissioner of Education meet the statutory requirement for appropriate education and experience?

A brief follow-up on two items noted in last week’s bulletin. First, HB 438 which would prohibit public employers from processing voluntary payroll deductions for union dues is scheduled for public hearing before the House Labor Committee on February 22nd. Secondly, the school voucher type bill, SB 193 had a public hearing and no action has yet been taken by the Committee.

Thank you for all you have done so far and thank you for all you will do this coming week. Please, reach out, participate, and encourage a colleague or friend to do likewise. Democracy is governance by the people, and YOU are the people!

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Testifies Against Frank Edelblut For Commissioner Of Education

Testimony in Opposition to Frank Edelblut Nomination as Commissioner of the State of New Hampshire Dept. of Education

Councilors,

Thank you for taking the time to hear my testimony and thank you for providing everyone here an opportunity to weigh in on this nomination.

As president of AFT-NH, I represent some 4000 education professionals, including teachers and para-educators. I mention those two groups because they form the largest portion of our membership and as education professionals they are required to be certified as competent to do their work and in many cases they must be highly qualified. Public education, filled with myriad of mandates and a maze of requirements and regulations, is a complex field. An individual charged with heading the NH Dept. of Education should be familiar with and have extensive experience in the educational arena. In fact, State statute (RSA 21-N:3) is quite clear: “The commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be qualified to hold their positions by reason of education and experience.” I am afraid that Mr. Edelblut, even with his success in business and his brief tenure in the NH House, does not reach this threshold of qualifications.

Mr. Edelblut has never served in any capacity in the public school systems of NH. He did not serve on the Education Committee in the NH House, nor has he ever served on a District School Board or even taken an active/visible interest in local educational issues, if election campaign media reports are to be believed. While personally educated in public schools, that is not sufficient to meet the statutory standard—otherwise, virtually everyone in this room would be qualified to serve as Commissioner. His post-secondary fields of endeavor were in business and in theology, not in any field related to education.

Choosing to home school his own children, he has had very little, if any, contact with local schools, whether public or even public charters, and one is left to wonder how he can carry out the statutory mandate to lead the Department in

  • Providing general supervision for elementary and secondary schools, teachers and administrators.
  • Providing a variety of educational services to schools and particular groups.
  • Providing vocational rehabilitation and social security disability determination services for persons with disabilities.

Our teachers and para-educators are required to be certified, and for good reason. The welfare of our children, the State’s most precious resource, is at stake. It seems foolish to entrust their welfare and the future of the State to an individual who is undeniably accomplished, but who has no record of accomplishment, nay, virtually no record at all, in the area of education. It is for these reasons, that on behalf of the members of AFT-NH, I ask that you vote to reject the nomination of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of the NH Department of Education.

Thank you,

Douglas Ley
AFT-NH, President

1-27-17 AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Right To Work, Minimum Wage, And Frank Edelblut

January 27, 2017

Yesterday was a warm, almost Spring-like day, always welcome in January. The gold of the State House dome shone brightly in the sunshine, and I even took the time to sit for a short while on a bench on the State House grounds. Inside, however, the legislative session is just beginning to warm up, with a short session of the House to deal with a few legislative items, following an intensive week of public hearings on proposed bills, as committees work hard to push legislation to the floor for debates and votes.

The most important news of the week was the scheduling of hearings on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation by the House Labor Committee. The hearings on both the Senate (SB 11) and House (HB 520) versions of ‘right to work’ (virtually identical and almost entirely plagiarized from sample legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC), will be held in Reps Hall on Wednesday, February 8, beginning at 10 am. The hearings are expected to draw hundreds to the Hall, and it is likely the testimony will last for hours. More information on attending and testifying will be forthcoming, but if you can, start planning to join the fun! Battle-lines are being drawn now on this issue, between those who advocate for the working people of New Hampshire and their workplace voice versus those who seek to eradicate any vestiges of worker rights. Our focus will turn to reaching out to the members of the NH House and asking them to oppose so-called Right to Work in any and all forms. Please be sure to visit the AFT-NH website at www.aft-nh.org and utilize the resources on the Defeat Right to Work page.

Interestingly, the House Labor Committee also conducted hearings this week on proposed legislation HB 115 to increase the minimum wage in NH, from its current $7.25/hour up to an eventual $12.00/hour. Any increase would be welcome and long overdue, but those who clamor for so-called ‘right to work’ are also those who oppose any increase in the minimum wage, preferring to redesign the New Hampshire Advantage as one built on low wages and severe limitations on working people’s voice and rights.

In the background, there is also the dangerous proposed bill (HB 438) to ban payroll deduction of union dues by public employers, a strategy employed in Wisconsin to eviscerate public sector unions by making it very difficult for them to collect any member dues. This is actually the most severe threat facing organized labor and all working people in NH. Once unions are gone, can we expect employers to suddenly shower us with generous raises, expanded benefits, and kindly treatment? Remember, when employers exercise unilateral control over the workplace, it is not a recipe for happiness and harmony. Power seeks more power is the old axiom, and absolute power seeks more power absolutely.

Amongst the hundreds of bills now before the various committees of the House and Senate, a few stand out. There are over a half-dozen bills aiming to further reduce pensions or even nearly destroy the NHRS system, breaking every promise made to state, county, municipal, educational, and public safety employees. In a bright note, a bill to require the State to pay 15% of the annual cost of the NHRS survived its first committee test, but faces rough waters in the House. The State used to pay 35% of the costs of the NHRS, but now contributes nothing, a classic example of “downshifting” costs onto local taxpayers, so this bill would at least begin to right that wrong. AFT-NH remains an active partner and participant in the NH Retirement Security Coalition. It will take the combined effort of employee groups, stakeholders and members to protect the NH Retirement System as we know it.

There are also a number of bills to increase funding for charter schools, free them from property taxes, and further siphon off monies for public schools. Once again, there is a bright spot—the proposal to fund full-day kindergarten. The bill has had its public hearing in front of the House Education Committee, which is expected to act on it on February 8. Governor Chris Sununu loudly proclaimed his support for full-day kindergarten during his gubernatorial campaign, so it will be interesting to see if his support translates into Republican votes for it in the House.

In closing, I have two requests of you. First, I hope some of you can attend the January 31 public hearing on the nomination of businessman Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. AFT-NH has already posted a “lesson plan” on Mr. Edelblut, and your testimony, whether in person or in writing, may help sway the Executive Council, which must approve his nomination. You can email the Executive Council members directly at gcweb@nh.gov. Second, please “Wear Red for Public Ed” on January 31. Let’s show our pride in public education! Dress in red, have your colleagues dress in red, take photos and send them to us for posting on-line. Be proud and say it loud, to paraphrase James Brown, and let’s celebrate one of America’s greatest accomplishments and contributions to the world—the idea of free, broad-based public education.

Your outreach to the legislators does make a difference and we are hearing back that you are contacting them. It matters. Please keep contacting them! We know when we act in unity, we can make a real difference.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Opposes Edelblut For Commissioner Of Education, Releases ‘Lesson Plan’ On Edelblut

NH Students Deserve a Commissioner of Education
Who Is
QUALIFIED and SUPPORTS Public Education

AFT-NH ‘Lesson Plan’ on Frank Edelblut

Objectives

  • Determine if the nominee for Education Commissioner is qualified to serve the 180,000+ public school students in NH;
  • Advise fellow citizens how to have their voices heard on the Edelblut nomination 

Background

  • Governor Sununu has nominated Frank Edelblut to be the next NH Commissioner of Education.
  • Mr. Edelblut served as a state representative for one term and then ran for Governor.
  • Frank Edelblut ran in the republican primary against Gov. Sununu and lost by 800 votes.
  • Mr. Edelblut has no background in education.
  • Mr. Edelblut has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies. He attended K-12 public school.
  • He home-schooled his 7 children.
  • His work experience includes Price Waterhouse Coopers, Niagara Corporation and his own business, Control Solutions International.
  • He supports school choice in all forms such as private, charter, religious, public schools, and home-school. As a legislator, he supported school choice legislation.
  • He has never served on a local school board. He did serve on the Water Commission in the Town of Wilton.

What is the job of the Education Commissioner?

  •  Department of Education Responsibilities

21-N:2 Establishment; General Functions. –
I. There is hereby established the department of education, an agency of the state under the executive direction of a commissioner of education.
II. The department of education, through its officials, shall be responsible for the following  general functions:
(a) Providing general supervision for elementary and secondary schools, teachers and administrators.
(b) Providing a variety of educational services to schools and particular groups.
(c) Providing vocational rehabilitation and social security disability determination services for persons with    disabilities.

  • RSA 21-N:3, I states in relevant part, “…The commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be qualified to hold their positions by reason of education and experience.”
  • The specific duties of the Commissioner of Education are outlined in law at RSA 21-N:4 Duties of Commissioner. The Commissioner needs to be qualified in order to efficiently and effectively run the NH Department of Education and support our schools across the state.

Who approves the nomination of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education?

The five elected members of the NH Executive Council. The vote could occur as soon as January 31st. 

AFT-NH OPPOSES THE NOMINATION OF FRANK EDELBLUT.

NH STUDENTS, PARENTS AND TEACHERS DESERVE BETTER.

You can express your opinion about this nomination by sending an email to all five Executive Councilors at gcweb@nh.gov.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: ‘Right To Work’ Passes Senate, House To Hear Bills On NH Retirement

January 20, 2017

Yesterday, the NH Senate passed SB 11, the so-called ‘right to work’ bill, by a vote of 12-11. Ten Democratic senators were joined by Republican Senator Sharon Carson in opposing the bill, while one Republican Senator, Robert Guida, was absent and did not vote. By this action, the Republican majority in the NH Senate (excepting Senator Carson) makes clear where it stands. Their aim is to weaken organized labor and the ability of working people to negotiate collectively and have a powerful voice in the workplace. When organized labor is strong, working people are strong, wages rise, benefits improve, and there is greater mutual respect and equality in the workplace. ‘Right to work’ intends to reverse gains made in New Hampshire over nearly the past fifty years, and in tandem with other legislation, will turn New Hampshire into the low-wage haven of New England.

The battle over ‘right to work’ now moves to the NH House, where it is expected that the Senate bill (SB 11) and the identical House version (HB 520 ) will be examined jointly in a hearing before the House Labor Committee, possibly as early as February 8. When one of the bills would then reach the floor of the House for a vote is not yet clear, but at least one of the measures would likely be brought forward prior to the Legislature’s usual winter break in the final week of February.

What does this mean for us? It means we must redouble our efforts to rally public opposition to this anti-working families legislation and we must each commit ourselves and our co-workers to identify the NH House members who represent us, contact them, and make our position clear and our voices heard. Phone calls, emails, letters and petitions will all be in play over the next few weeks, so tighten your seat belts—it will be a rough ride! You can start by visiting the AFT-NH website, clicking on ‘State House News’ under the ‘2017 State House’ tab, and scroll down to where you can search out the names of your NH Senator and Representatives. Knowing who they are is Step 1, before we initiate further actions. And while there, please browse the AFT-NH website—there is much useful information on so-called ‘right to work’ and other issues of concern to us.

In other legislative news, HB 438, prohibiting public sector automatic union dues withholding from paychecks has yet to be scheduled for a hearing in front of the House Labor Committee. Advocates of so-called ‘right to work’ like to claim they are defending individual choice (to free-load) but with HB 438, no such figleaf or specious justification exists. This is direct and undisguised attempt to destroy the ability of labor unions to collect dues from their members in a convenient and simple manner, negotiated via their collective bargaining agreements. Keep this bill in your sights—it is crucial that we defeat it.

A number of bills regarding the NH Retirement System will have their House committee hearings next week. These early hearings are on bills that utilize a variety of strategies to reduce the heavy burdens being placed on public employers (cities, towns, school districts) across New Hampshire due to the State’s refusal to share the burdens and make ANY contributions into the NHRS. Assaults on the NHRS itself will come in future weeks, when proposed legislation reducing benefits or even dismantling the NHRS will come up for hearings.

The final deadline for House bills to be introduced is January 27th. The AFT-NH Bill Watch list is posted on our website and will be updated regularly.

Finally, in the area of education, we have had committee hearings on bills authorizing the State Board of Education to implement a code of ethics for certified teaching personnel, mandating a minimal two-week notice regarding curricular materials on human sexuality, and a proposal to repeal the education tax credit program benefiting charter and private schools. Education Committee actions have not yet been reported on these bills, and we will continue to monitor them as we move deeper into the legislative session. And no account of education-related activity in Concord would be complete without noting Governor Sununu’s nomination of Frank Edelblut as NH Education Commissioner. Given Edelblut’s complete lack of any education experience (he is an accountant by profession) and his clear support for siphoning public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, this is a nomination that deeply concerns AFT-NH and likely the entire education community in NH. So stay tuned—we will be asking your help to mobilize opposition to his confirmation by the Executive Council.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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