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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 5-28-17: The Future Of Education Funding And Voter Suppression

This will be a very brief bulletin since neither the Senate or House were in session this past week. Having said that, there was activity.

The Senate has now crafted and released its proposed State budget for the 2017-19 biennium. In an effort to win over some of the extreme right-wing Republicans whose votes scuttled the House version of the budget, Senate Republicans on the Finance Committee adopted very conservative revenue estimates as a means of justifying leaving many programs and initiatives unfunded or underfunded. Full funding of all-day kindergarten has been removed from the budget, and funding for battling the opioid crisis remains inadequate. Yet despite the supposed financial stringencies, the majority in the Senate have found monies to pay for a spokesperson for the Dept. of Education at an annual $83,500 salary (to speak at the behest of Commissioner Edelblut) and also to increase the funding for charter schools (as opposed to the traditional public schools which the vast majority of NH students attend).

House committees were also wrapping up business this past week. The Finance Committee voted to partially fund full-day kindergarten, so while the House and Senate are not in entire agreement, it appears New Hampshire will again need to wait at least two more years before possibly joining the vast majority of states that do support all-day kindergarten. Why rush?

Elsewhere the Election Law Committee narrowly recommended passage of SB3, the bill designed to eliminate non-existent voter fraud while striving to deter and suppress voter registration. In particular, the amended bill still retains lengthy and onerous voter registration forms as well as threats to check up on claimed domiciles of new registrants. Tactics like these have virtually nothing to do with preventing unproven voter fraud, but will serve to deter same-day registrants, who tend to be young, less wealthy, and are often college students. The vote may be close in the House, Please contact your House Representative and ask her/him to oppose SB 3 (voter suppression) before next Thursday to ask that they vote against SB3.

Finally, the Education Committee voted largely along party lines to recommend passage of the amended SB 8, known as the Croydon or Edelblut bill. This proposed legislation authorizes using public funds to send students to private schools, and is so poorly written, that one informed observer speculated a district could convert all its schools to charter schools and then collect both all State aid for public schooling AND State monies for charter schools. This legislation will assuredly face constitutional challenges, centering on use of public monies for private schools and also on the abdication by the State of any responsibility for ensuring an adequate education for all students. This is a bad piece of legislation, and AFT-NH again asks that you contact your State Representative and urge them to reject the Croydon/Edelblut bill.

As promised, this is a short bulletin this week. Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend, be safe, and remember to pause, reflect and honor those who have fallen while in service to our nation.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Edelblut’s Croydon Bill, Voting Rights, And Kindergarten Funding

May 18, 2017  

The NH House met briefly yesterday, primarily to pass an emergency bridge appropriation to keep the Dept. of Health and Human Services functioning until the end of the budget year on June 30. While there was the usual vocal opposition from those who oppose virtually any governmental spending, the bill passed easily.

The most intriguing moments centered around the Robert Fisher case. As you may know, the committee investigating Robert Fisher (the apparent founder and contributor to the anti-feminist, misogynistic website “The Red Pill”) concluded on a strict party-line vote to recommend no action be taken against Representative Fisher, nor against Sherry Frost. Frost is the representative brought before the committee in a vain attempt by Republicans to muddy the waters charging her with uncivil conduct for tweets made months ago and for which she had already apologized. What is truly irksome is the claim that Fisher’s odious comments and postings, all posted anonymously or veiled behind user-names, are protected by free speech and therefore not subject to House action. Yes, his online rants on rape, women as intellectual inferiors and other such topics ARE protected by the First Amendment, BUT the House does have rules and limits on free speech that its members must follow. For example, a member speaking in the House may not refer to another representative by name, and there are other restrictions regarding references to the NH Senate and general rules regarding civil discourse. So for Republicans to suddenly hide behind the First Amendment is truly disingenuous, and to draw any comparison between Fisher and Frost is ludicrous, since none of her comments were anonymous but were openly acknowledged by her and she took full responsibility for her words.

In the end, Republicans continue to refuse to take any action in the Fisher case, and just hope it will all go away. Representative Fisher, unrepentant to the end, resigned his seat in the House after the investigative whitewash and in the face of a possible perjury investigation. The committee report, one-sided and written only by the Republican majority, will come before the House on June 1. As for yesterday, that self-same majority voted down a motion to print in the permanent journal the remarks of Representative Debra Altschiller, who gave an impassioned speech on May 4 regarding the Fisher case, misogyny and denigration of women as part of a dominant culture in the NH House. Republicans walked out on her speech two weeks ago and yesterday, refused the usual courtesy of allowing her remarks to be printed in the permanent journal. Apparently, the hope is that if no record is kept, all will be forgotten. Time will tell.

Voting Rights  Elsewhere in the State House, the House Election Law committee narrowly voted to amend and recommend passage of SB 3, the voter suppression bill aimed at curbing non-existent voter fraud (even Governor Sununu now admits he has no evidence of any voter fraud). To solve this non-existent problem, the bill will place new burdens on citizens seeking to register within 30 days of an election. The goal is to discourage such groups as college students from voting, and while same-day registration will continue, the paperwork and the threat of subsequent investigations will likely turn many from bothering to register while doing nothing to curb non-existent voter fraud. It is a solution in search of a problem, but the House is likely to pass the bill.

Edelblut’s Croydon Bill The House Education Committee was also active, approving an amendment to SB 8 (the so-called Croydon bill) which completely rewrites the proposed legislation. It is reported that Committee Chair Rick Ladd openly stated that this is Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut’s bill and that he and the Commissioner worked to design the replace-all amendment. The new version still permits districts to use public funds to send students to private schools when the district does not have schools for certain grades or any schools at all! In essence, it is another version of vouchers. The private school must be non-sectarian (a bow to the constitutional prohibition of public support of religious schools) but there is no provision preventing private schools from refusing to accept students who need special educational services. There is also pitifully little accountability in place, other than a requirement that the private school administer some sort of annual standardized assessment. In other words, the State would be delegating to the local district its responsibility to provide for adequate education by reneging on accountability requirements and by punting on how districts will provide for students with special needs.

SB 8 will now go to the House with the recommendation to pass the rewritten bill. If it does pass, it will be a victory for Commissioner Frank Edelblut, who has long supported Croydon in seeking to use public monies for private schooling and who is a longstanding proponent of charters, private schools, sectarian schools, and home schooling, everything but public education. Perhaps SB 8 should now be called the Edelblut bill, in honor of the commissioner who in his confirmation hearings claimed he would only be an administrator and not a policymaker. Looks like that stance changed rather quickly!

Kindergarten Funding Setback The Senate Finance committee by a 4-2 vote recommended against including full funding for full-day kindergarten and reverted back to the target formula originally proposed by Governor Sununu. Since the Governor’s original proposal he has now supported the position of the House to fully fund full-day kindergarten. However, the committee did support Edelblut’s proposal for a spokesperson to the tune of $83,500 per year. This is not over and we need to make certain members of the House and Senate are reminded of the broad support for funding full-day kindergarten.

Action Needed   So, many important votes lie ahead. Please contact your House Representative and ask her/him to oppose SB 3 (voter suppression), SB 8 (the Edelblut/Croydon bill) and to fully fund full-day kindergarten. And, while doing so, keep your eyes and ears open, as we await the Senate’s version of the 2017-2019 NH State budget.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

Attached is the bulletin in PDF format you can download and share.

AFT-NH LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN May 18, 2017

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: NH Budget, Kindergarten Funding, And Voter Suppression

May 11, 2017  

The wheels turn slowly in Concord, as we grind towards the inevitable mid-June end of the 2017 legislative session The House did not meet in session this week due to a lack of bills coming to the floor for action, so everything will be condensed into sessions at the end of May. The House meets in session on May 18th to vote on an emergency supplemental appropriation to fund the Department of Health and Human Services until the end of the fiscal year. There will be no consideration of committee reports at this session.

Senate Action   The Senate did meet in session this week. The Senate’s proposed budget is yet to be unveiled. Committees did meet, however, and legislation continues to be refined and revenues continue to be sought for funding of various proposals. HB 356-FN, the bill with the attempted power grab by Education Commissioner Edelblut, was voted on by the Senate and for now, the power grab has been held at bay. The final amended bill as passed by the Senate creates a committee to study education funding and the cost of an opportunity for an adequate education, the original intent of the bill, and “establishes a committee to study the organizational structure of the department of education and the duties and responsibilities of the commissioner of the department of education”.  The report of this committee is due out on November 1, 2017. The bill as amended also “authorizes the commissioner of the department of education, with the advice of the state board of education and after consultation with the deputy director and affected division directors, to transfer or assign functions, programs, or services within or between any division. Vigilance will be necessary to monitor the work of this committee and recommendations for the session in January.

Voter Suppression The House Election Law committee met earlier this week to once again consider SB 3, the voter suppression bill. A lengthy amendment was presented to the committee by Republican members, but while it redrafted many sections of the bill, most of the changes were technical and related to issues raised by groups such as the NH Municipal Association. One interesting proposal was to change who might come to your door to follow up and check on your domicile. Rather than election officials or local law enforcement, the proposed change had county officials doing this work, that is until it was pointed out that county sheriffs and their employees would likely be tasked with this duty. So, back to the drawing board. Given that there are virtually no reported instances of voter fraud in New Hampshire, the idea of having law enforcement confirm the domicile you listed when registering seems just a bit sinister. But to hear some House members and Senators speak, bringing law enforcement into the voter registration process and creating lengthy and confusing forms for new voters to fill out is all just normal, not an attempt to dissuade people from voting. According to the docket, the House Election Law Committee has this scheduled for Executive Session on May 16th at 10:20am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 308.

Funding for Full Day Kindergarten   In other news, the House Finance Committee held hearings this week on funding of full-day kindergarten across New Hampshire. No one can accuse New Hampshire of rushing into new and innovative ideas, since 76% of kindergarten students in 2012 were already in full-day sessions. Whether the Finance Committee will recommend financing this initiative or ask the House to reject it, it will be a difficult vote to defeat this initiative, given that it passed as a policy measure by nearly a 2 to 1 margin in the House just a couple of weeks ago. The public hearing was held last week and the Finance Committee (Division II) has scheduled an executive session for SB 191-FN, funding for full day kindergarten on Tuesday, May 16th at 11:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 209. The Finance Committee is also investigating the financing of SB 247, which will mandate early childhood testing for lead poisoning and require it as a prerequisite for public school enrollment. Everyone concedes that lead poisoning has very serious developmental consequences for young children, consequences that last a lifetime. Where the battle-lines are being drawn in the House is over the proposal to establish a fund to aid landlords in remediating for lead in properties they own. So there are costs associated with this initiative, costs that must then be counter-balanced by the public health benefits, especially in regards to young children who are not responsible for the environment in which they live. It is a public health issue, but also one with serious educational and social welfare ramifications, so it will prove interesting to see how this plays out at the end of the session.

New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony   On Friday, May 19th at 9:45 am in front of the Legislative Office Building at the memorial site, the annual service to honor our fallen NH law enforcement heroes will be held. If you can attend, please do make the effort. Next week is National Policer Officers Week to honor the work of law enforcement. We gather on May 19th to honor and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice keeping us all safe and every day we should appreciate and support the work of our law enforcement officers.

Finally, the House Committee on Legislative Administration held its public hearings on Republican Robert Fisher, accused of misogynistic commentary and running/contributing to a web platform with postings favorable to rape as well as claiming women lose value once past the age of thirty. Fisher defended himself in his hearing, admitting to some comments, denying others, but showing little in the way of remorse or contrition. As for Democrat Sherry Frost, the committee is investigating uncivil language used by her in a series of tweets a number of months ago, for which she already apologized. As noted last week, the political balancing act here is quite clear even if the allegations are not remotely equivalent, but this is life under the golden dome of the State House. The committee will issue its report and recommendations next week, and it will be interesting to see if the committee goes beyond a reprimand. That leaves it to the voters in Laconia (Fisher) and Dover (Frost). However, when the front page of NH’s leading newspaper features headlines on Fisher’s hearing and then the sentencing of former Republican representative Kyle Tasker on drug charges and using the Internet to solicit sex with a minor, well it just wasn’t a good day. Of course, if Tasker were proposing marriage to the 14-year old, that would be fine—remember, the House refused to raise the age for marriage for girls from 13 to 18 years old. It has been that kind of year. 

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Below is a PDF copy of the Bulletin you can print and share.

AFT-NH LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN May 11, 2017

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 5-5-17: Full Day Kindergarten, Private School Funding

May 5, 2017

The House met in session yesterday, but what many expected to be a short session lasted until nearly late afternoon. The primary controversies centered around the continuing saga of Representative Robert Fisher, (R-Laconia), the outed creator and frequent contributor to the anti-feminist and misogynistic discussion forum “The Red Pill.” The Governor, Speaker, and Minority Leader, among others have called for Fisher’s resignation but there he was today, voting in the House. There were protesters outside the State House and the halls surrounding Reps Hall, while in the chamber, Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff introduced a resolution calling for a House investigation into the alleged activities of Fisher and whether he should be censured or even expelled. This touched off a long debate, with claims of free speech countered by the reality that the House maintains the right to regulate the conduct of its members. In the end, the resolution passed, but only after Republicans added on an investigation of a Democratic representative who used foul language in tweets some five months ago and who had since apologized. Hardly an equivalent to someone who allegedly wrote about rape as not entirely bad, since one must always consider the pleasure taken by the rapist.

Funding for Full-Day Kindergarten On a much more positive note, after a short debate the House passed by an overwhelming majority the bill to provide full funding for full-day kindergarten. In other words, any town, city or district with full-day kindergarten will receive full adequacy funding from the State, rather than the current 50% funding allotted for kindergarten, regardless of whether it is full-day or half-day. Opponents vainly argued that full-day kindergarten is too long for young children and tried to invoke a parent’s right to choose to keep her/his child in school for only a half-day. Proponents, including House Education Committee Chair, Republican Rick Ladd, rejected these claims, citing multiple studies on the benefits of full-day kindergarten along with recognition that the lack of full-day kindergarten does NOT enhance New Hampshire’s reputation as a family-friendly state for young families. It was a satisfying moment to have the House vote 247-116 to pass the bill (all 116 votes were Republican, with one Libertarian). Full-day kindergarten now goes to the House Finance Committee for a public hearing on Tuesday, May 9th at 1:30 in the Legislative Office Building, Rooms 210-211. The Finance Committee will need to deal with funding the proposal, then bring it back to the House floor within the next month or so. Stay tuned.

Action to Support Kindergarten   In the meantime, please reach out to members of the House Finance Committee and ask them to support SB 191-FN as amended for full funding of kindergarten. You can email the entire Finance Committee at House Finance Committee.

In other news, the House did quietly pass a bill to eliminate the sunset provision (i. e., automatic expiration) of a program to cover soft-tissue injuries suffered by first responders but not covered by worker’s compensation. The program has helped a very small number of individuals cope with long-term organ injuries and was only opposed in the Labor Committee by the libertarian/Freedom Caucus wing of the Republican majority. In what has become an unusual display of restraint (though actually fairly common for the Labor Committee) they chose not to debate the bill on the floor of the House and allowed it to pass unchallenged.

Croydon Bill   Off the House floor, the Education Committee delayed action on the Croydon bill, which would allow towns to use public funds to send students to private schools if no equivalent school or grades exist in town. In essence, it is another version of vouchers, using public monies for private education, and is a proposal that has the support of Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut.

And of course, the biggest hive of activity surrounds the Senate’s budget process, with a public hearing held this week and more work being done to pull together a budget to send over to the House. Details are sparse at this point, but the budget is now the big piece of legislation remaining for the 2017 session.

The House will not meet next week and perhaps not on May 18th either—the decision on when to meet next resides with the Speaker. The days are dwindling down on the 2017 session, but I still suspect some fireworks remain. Keep an eye on the House Committee on Legislative Administration, which will hold hearings on the Robert Fisher case on Tuesday, May 9th at 10:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Rooms 305-307. You can email members of the committee by clicking the following link Legislative Administration Committee. The committee will then make a recommendation to the House. Whitewash? Reprimand? Censure? Expulsion? Judging by the actions of the Republican majority today, I lean towards predicting a lenient recommendation, so as to save their colleague. But we shall see.

Thank a Teacher   ​And let’s make sure to take a moment and thank a teacher for all they do each and every day for our children. Teacher Appreciation Week begins on May 8th. This is a great opportunity to say thank you to a teacher and even a former teacher for the cherished work they do.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-28-17: Edeblut Watch, Vouchers, And Shame In The NH House

April 28, 2017  

On the surface, there was not much activity in the State House this past week, as the House did not meet in session, while the Senate met briefly and considered only a small number of bills. One quiet action taken by the Senate was to return back to the Committee on Education the so-called Croydon bill, HB 557. This bill would permit local school boards to use public funds to send students to private, non-sectarian schools, rather than funding a public school or agreeing to send students to a neighboring public school. For example, if a town lacks a public middle school, it can currently arrange to send students to a neighboring public middle school, but by the terms of HB557, the district could now use public funds to send students to private schools instead. Keep in mind, private schools do not wish to come under the regulatory burdens already imposed upon public schools, so there is no certainty that with this proposed legislation, that all students would be eligible or accepted, nor that the private school would meet all the same standards as public schools. In other words, it is another attempt to use public education funds for private benefit. Remember also that it was discovered that Education Commissioner Edelblut had donated to the town’s legal fund to fight the NH Department of Education. Read more about Edelblut donation to Croydon at Edelblut Contribution to Croydon. This was not discovered until after Edelblut was confirmed. The fate of the bill is not certain, as it may return to the Senate for a vote at some point during the month of May. We shall keep a watchful eye upon it.

Edelblut Watch The other major news out of the Senate was the defeat of Commissioner of Education Edelblut’s attempted power grab and consolidation of his control over the Department of Education. Edelblut, who repeatedly claimed in his confirmation hearings that he would be a mere administrator and not a policymaker as Commissioner, has acted in complete reversal of his claims. He vocally advocates vouchers and working with Senator Reagan, sought authority to reorganize the Department of Education and consolidate power in his hands, in terms of budgets and personnel. After a public hearing that occasionally turned rancorous, with Senator Reagan nearly badgering witnesses hostile to his pro-Edelblut stance, the Committee rejected the pro-Edelblut amendment and instead of handing him the keys to the entire department, voted to make small changes and authorize further study of the issue. This is what we in the Legislature term a polite form of legislative death, but the public needs to continue to weigh in and press the Senate to uphold the actions of the Education Committee. Rest assured, Commissioner Edelblut will be back, as he seeks to reshape the education landscape in New Hampshire by undermining public education.

Public Education Victories  The House did not meet in session this week, but on Tuesday, April 25, proponents of public education won two significant victories in the House Education Committee. Not only did the committee vote to support funding full-day kindergarten, but in a show of bipartisanship, nearly all members of the committee supported full-funding, not just funding aimed at targeted or poorer towns as was advocated by Governor Sununu. The bill now goes to the House floor for a vote this coming Thursday, and if it passes, will go to the Finance Committee to handle the funding and inclusion within the State budget. Following this action, the committee then voted overwhelmingly to “retain” SB193, the voucher bill that would decimate funding for public education, raise local property taxes, and funnel public funds to private and religious schools. By taking this action, the committee killed further consideration of vouchers for 2017, but we fully expect some slimmed-down version of SB193 to rear its ugly head in 2018, in an attempt to get some sort of voucher system established and get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent.” As I have noted before, it is always fascinating to observe how those who demand strict accountability and transparency when dealing with social programs aiding the less fortunate suddenly abandon any concerns about accountability or transparency when it comes to using public funds to help wealthier families send their children to private/sectarian schools or who choose to home-school. In those cases, a simple confidence that “parents always know best” is sufficient—no need for anything more!

Education Bills The House meets on May 4th and will consider SB 191-FN, the full-day kindergarten funding bill. The bill was amended by the House Education Committee to include funding for full-day kindergarten. House approval would be the next critical step before proceeding to House Finance. Two other education bills on the consent calendar are SB 45, regarding the state’s expectations concerning the teaching of civics and SB 101-FN, enrollment eligibility for career and technical education programs. SB 101-FN seeks to allow high school students after one year of high school, to enroll in these programs and establishes a statewide dual and concurrent enrollment system and allow 11th and 12th grade students to enroll in and complete post-secondary college credit in STEM courses.

Shameful   Finally, this week has seen another embarrassing moment for the NH House, with the outing of State Representative Robert Fisher as creator and contributor to a misogynistic and vile discussion site supposedly defending men’s rights. You can read the complete investigative report at the Daily Beast. A Republican state representative from Belknap, District 9 (Laconia and Belmont), Fisher’s contributions to public discourse apparently include claims that rape is not entirely bad, since the rapist may enjoy the act, women are intellectual inferiors to men, and the value of women essentially expires after age 30. Despite calls for his resignation from Gov. Sununu, Speaker Jasper, House Minority Leader Shurtleff, among others, as of today Fisher refuses to do so. So this is how one advocates for family values? Shame!

Your continued hard work on all of these important issues is critical to our successes. Thank you for your efforts.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: A Triple Crown Victory for Public Education

 

Bow, NH – April 25, 2017

As we all know, public education is under assault here in New Hampshire. Yesterday, though, we won three important victories, and it is time to take a moment to celebrate and to reflect. Days like today don’t come about too often, especially when opponents of public education control seemingly control every branch of NH government. But, through the hard work of thousands of people testifying in Concord, protesting outside the State House, writing letters and emails and calling their senators and representative, you won some important victories. So congratulations, rest up for a day, and get ready for the battles yet to come!

Edelblut Power Grab Halted! The Senate Education Committee defeated the amendment put forth by Sen Reagan, and supported by Commissioner Edelblut, which would have totally reorganized the Department of Education and consolidated much power in the hands of the commissioner. Sen. David Watters put forth an amendment which will have the reorganization and commissioner’s power referred to a study committee. Quick response by AFT-NH members and supporters of public education helped defeat this grab for power which could have had significant consequences for public education in NH.

Please take a moment, send an email or make a phone call and thank the three members of the Senate committee who listened to their constituents and defeated this power grab.

Senator Jay Kahn (D-Keene), 603-271-8631 or Jay.Kahn@leg.state.nh.us

Senator Ruth Ward (R-Stoddard), 603-271-6733 or ruth.ward@leg.state.nh.us

Senator David Watters (D-Dover), 603-271-8631 or david.watters@leg.state.nh.us

SB 193 Retained in Committee     The House Education Committee voted 15-4 today to retain SB 193 , the school voucher bill. This bill would have drained public tax dollars from public schools and diverted to education savings accounts for students in private and religious schools along with home-schooled children. By retaining this bill in committee, no action will be taken this year. There was overwhelming opposition to this bill. We will remain vigilant on any efforts to divert tax dollars from public education. There is no question that direct citizen outreach to state representatives made the difference!

Please be sure to write to the House Education committee and thank them for the defeat of this bill. You can contact the entire committee at the following address: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Full-Day Kindergarten Funding   SB 191, the kindergarten funding bill, came before the House Education Committee today and the Committee voted to recommend funding for full day kindergarten. This amended bill would go beyond the targeted funding proposed by
Governor Sununu. The bill will now go to the full House and will be subject to the scrutiny of House Finance since $5 million was added to the original $9 million in funding. If passed, this would be a great advancement for our schools and NH’s five-year olds. We’ll keep you apprised of the need for action as this bill proceeds.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-21-17: Protecting Public Schools From Edelblut’s Power Grab

In terms of public activity, this was a relatively quiet week at the State House, but be assured, wheels are turning. The House met in session yesterday for only two hours, passing a number of smaller or less important bills, while work continues on the big pieces of legislation. Probably the most noteworthy moment was the brief set of comments offered by Representative Kat Rogers in commemoration of the Columbine school shooting. Her remarks were brief, pointed, and applauded by many, but not all (you can imagine what ideological element of the House refused to honor her efforts). In similar fashion, the Senate also met and rendered decisions on a number of pieces of legislation, each important to certain constituencies but none of major, state-wide importance. The big issues and the controversial legislation is yet to come forth; likewise, work continues on the Senate’s budget proposal.

Protect Public Schools   The Senate will convene next week (April 27) while the House will not convene again until May 4, 2017. In the meantime, committee work continues. The House Education Committee held a working session on SB 193, the voucher bill, this week, and it was a rather contentious occasion. Much of the energy focused upon a potential amendment/rewrite of the bill being put together by supporters of vouchers and those who wish to starve the public schools of funding. Thus far, it does not appear they have solved either of two major problems—the fact that NH’s Constitution bars use of public monies to support religious schools, and the reality that vouchers will siphon money from public schools and thereby lead to higher local property taxes. The Attorney General’s office again warned of constitutional problems with SB193, and there was continuing discussion regarding the financial impact of this legislation. What hampered the committee, however, was the lack of any actual language or text of an amendment, meaning that member were debating and arguing over ideas lacking any specificity or detail. Voucher proponents have yet to reveal their grand plans to rescue SB193 and it now appears that time is running out. The committee will vote on SB193 and any amendments on April 25, recommending the House either pass or kill the bill. Don’t be surprised, however, if the committee decides to instead “retain” the bill, allowing it to be re-introduced in 2018 and providing time to work on the myriad problems bedeviling this bad piece of legislation.

Actions Needed   Let us be sure to maintain contact with members of the NH House Education Committee and ask them to defeat SB 193 in any form. You can contact the entire committee at the following address: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Also, please also take just a moment to tell your state representatives to vote NO to SB 193.  

More Edelblut  One strong advocate for SB193 is Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. To no one’s surprise, the man who claimed in his confirmation hearing that he would be a mere administrator and not a policy-maker is now out waving the voucher flag and slamming public schools. At the same time, he continues to push for legislation granting him broad powers over budgets and personnel in the Department of Education, so as to remake it into a State agency leading the fight for vouchers and privatization of education. Having no experience or interaction with public schools in his entire adult life, Edelblut unsurprisingly advocates what he knows best, homeschooling and private schools. What is fascinating is that while voucher advocates demand accountability and transparency for all those supposed cheaters using food stamps, they are ready to give millions to private and religious schools and home-schoolers, with nary a peep about accounting for how the money is spent or providing any transparency in the expenditure of public funds. The inconsistencies abound.

NH Department of Education   The Senate Education Committee heard the amendment from Sen. Reagan which is a power grab by Education Commissioner Edelblut to completely revamp the Department of Education. The Committee will meet next week on Tuesday, April 25th on HB 356 to consider this non-germane and rushed amendment. Senator David Watters has submitted a revision that would properly slow down this last minute amendment and have the matter studied thoroughly. And we learned this week that Governor Sununu will not reappoint State Board of Education Chair, Tom Raffio and instead has nominated conservative consultant, Drew Cline, who worked for the Union Leader for 14 years. Edelblut is working hard to consolidate power so he can move forward with his extreme agenda. We must keep a watchful eye on the actions at the Board of Education.

Voting Rights   Finally, there are two other legislative issues of note. SB 3, the voter suppression bill, has yet to come out of the House Election Law Committee, but action will soon be forthcoming. Don’t be surprised if the committee recommends passage to the full House, where we will assuredly hear more tales of ghostlike busloads of Massachusetts citizens crossing into New Hampshire, buying cigarettes and liquor, and then going to cast illegal ballots on election day.

NHRS- Double-Dipping   Lastly, the Senate is still considering the fate of HB 561, a bill to limit ‘double-dipping’ into the NH Retirement System by providing enforcement penalties for those who exceed hourly work limitations and establishing greater accountability by having towns and cities pay into the system when reclassifying positions as part-time or interim. The bill easily passed through the House but is facing opposition in the Senate, despite being supported by an odd coalition of organized labor and conservative legislators. Politics does indeed lead to strange bedfellows at times, and the wheels continue to turn!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT NH Legislative Bulletin 4-17-17: School Vouchers, Voter Suppression, and Edelblut’s Power Grab

In the aftermath of the House’s stunning failure to pass a budget (due to Republican intra-party feuding), the Senate becomes the focal point of attention, as it works to develop a budget proposal. Using Governor Sununu’s budget proposal as a starting point, the Senate will craft a budget and attach it as an amendment to a House bill. That amended bill will then be sent back to the House, which will of course reject the bill, forcing a committee of conference to hammer out the final details of the State’s 2017-18 biennial budget. So, much remains to be done, but much of it will occur behind the scenes, in negotiations between the Senate, the Governor, and the House. Stay tuned-this will not be finished until June 2017.

Voter Suppression Meanwhile, the legislative wheels continue to turn, though many House committees are now finishing up their work for the year, having held hearings on Senate bills and sent them on to the House floor for a vote. Two bills still awaiting final committee action are SB 3 (to restrict and limit voting rights in NH) and SB 193 (the voucher bill). The House Election Law committee held its hearing on SB 3 this past week, but has yet to vote on a recommendation for the House. In essence, this is a voter suppression bill, aimed at limiting voting by groups such as college students on the specious grounds of voter fraud in prior elections. You know, the mythical busloads of people coming over the border from Massachusetts to vote in NH. I live in a border town where my town moderator has labeled these tales as pure fiction. Nor is he alone—other town moderators and even the NH Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, have denied the occurrence of identifiable voter fraud. But in an age of “fake news,” we now are on the verge of making policy based not on proven facts, but on rumor, innuendo, and outright falsehoods.

SB 193-School Vouchers The other bill which bears close observation is SB 193, the education voucher bill. After being slammed in front of the House Education Committee by a parade of witnesses, including the head of the Finance Committee and a representative from the Attorney General’s office, the sponsors of the bill have retreated and are working feverishly to draw up an amendment to modify or even replace the entire bill. We will likely see the text of this amendment this coming Wednesday, when the House Education Committee holds a full committee work session on the bill. It is expected that sponsors will seek to limit the financial impact of the bill by capping the number of students who can be withdrawn from public schools and thereby obtain vouchers (formally known as education savings accounts funded by monies provided by the State and withdrawn from supporting public schools). Whatever the formula, the goal is to get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the edge of the tent,” meaning to start the program and then expand upon it in years to come. Many of the same Republican members of the House who voted to torpedo the House budget proposal are now working assiduously to try to render SB 193 palatable, although in any form it will reduce public funding of public schools and thereby raise local property taxes. This bill must be halted! Here is the AFT-NH HANDOUT VS. SB 193 Please take action to contact your representative and tell them NO to SB 193.

Edelblut Power Grab One final note. You make recall that in January we opposed the confirmation of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education, based on his complete lack of experience in public education. At his confirmation hearing, Edelblut repeatedly claimed he would be an administrator, not a policy-maker, merely carrying out the wishes of the legislature and the State Board of Education. Well, we now see his true colors emerging, for at Edelblut’s urging, an AMENDMENT has been offered in the Senate which would give Edelblut power to completely redraw the Department of Education, move personnel around as he wishes, and move monies between budgets and budget lines as he sees fit. This is a non-germane amendment offered to HB 356. In other words, a huge power boost for the “administrator” and a means by which he can easily shape educational policy and practice. Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who grilled Edelblut during his confirmation hearing, characterizes this as “an unprecedented, naked power grab by the commissioner.” Edelblut, known as a champion of home-schooling, charter schools, vouchers, and even creationism, is clearly seeking to expand his power and do so in a way (via legislative amendment) where there will likely be no public hearing or public input. We will be following this unfolding drama very closely.

Now is the time to remain focused as this is the time when we may see breaking news as all of the behind the scenes work is underway. Please be sure to like us on Facebook at AFT New Hampshire or follow us on Twitter @AFTNewHampshire to receive the latest news.

Please remember your actions do matter. One more letter and phone call could just make the difference. Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President


ACTIONS NEEDED

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. As noted above, it appears an amendment will be offered at a work session of the committee this Wednesday. No version of education savings accounts or vouchers should see the light of day here in NH. We still have plenty of time to reach out to committee members before they vote.

Please mail the full House Education Committee directly: 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       

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

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