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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: “SB 193- Following The Wrong Path”, And Much More

From our perspective, the central event of the week was the hearing before the House Finance Committee regarding SB 193, the bill remove funds from public schools in order to fund home-schoolers and those sending children to private and religious schools. The focus of the hearing was on the financial implications of the bill, not the policy itself, and after four hours of testimony it was rather clear the proposal will force the State and local taxpayers to foot the bill through new or increased taxes.

The hearing featured a leading advocate of the bill understating the number of students eligible for the funding along with vague optimistic prognostications from a national organization supportive of “educational savings accounts” (i.e., laundered public money). The overwhelming number of witnesses, including a parade of school superintendents and school board members, testified that SB 193 will have a far more significant impact on budgets than is claimed by SB 193 proponents. As noted by Advancing New Hampshire Public Education, virtually all NH students could be eligible and the claimed estimate of a 1-2% rate of participation is contradicted by the historical experience of other states with similar programs, where participation rates ranged between 5% and 8.4% of students. You can read the full report at the following link, Virtually every student in New Hampshire could be eligible for a grant from the SB 193 voucher program- 1-17-18. AFT-NH’s own report, Following the Wrong Path: What Can Education Savings Account Programs In Other States Tell New Hampshire About SB 193? 1-16-18, submitted to the Finance Committee, confirms this comparative data, and further agrees with many witnesses who testified to the nearly total lack of public accountability regarding how such monies would be spent or recouped if misspent by parents or private schools. SB 193 places the entire handling of the savings accounts, accountability and audits in the hands of a private entity based in New York, an entity which earns more money by encouraging more families to participate. It is, as some have pointed out, a case of “the fox guarding the hen-house.” The goal of sponsors is to remove as much public involvement as possible, in order to circumvent the NH Constitution’s prohibition on expending public funds to support religious schools.

The Finance Committee will hold a working session on SB 193 next week (Tuesday, January 23 at 1 pm in LOB 209), and it is expected that at that time the Legislative Budget Office will have developed enrollment projections going out 13 years. The purpose is to estimate costs once the program is fully underway, with student cohorts in all twelve grades and kindergarten. This estimate will likely carry great weight with the Finance Committee and ultimately with the Legislature and will play a major role in determining the immediate fate of this measure. We will keep you informed.

This past week also featured a brief hearing on HB 1415, which would establish a $100,000 death benefit payable to the family or estate of school personnel killed in the line of duty. AFT-NH testified in favor of the bill, noting that like law enforcement and fire fighters, this death benefit would be for those giving their lives to protect the lives of other citizens, the students we entrust to their care. You can read the testimony here. As with the death benefits provided to law enforcement and to fire fighters, we hope the money is never expended, but to provide it is to demonstrate the State’s respect for those who put their lives on the line on behalf of others. The bill will likely undergo some technical amendments before the Executive Departments and Administration Committee takes it up again at the end of the month.

Looking ahead, the proposal barring payroll deductions for union dues (HB 438) will come to the House floor on February 7 and a similar proposal barring any payroll deductions for non-governmental entities will be heard in committee on February 13. The latter would end deductions for union dues, AFLAC, United Way, and any other deductions for organizations that are non-governmental. Both proposals are aimed squarely at public sector labor unions and serve no purpose other than making life more difficult for labor unions. They are companion proposals to the so-called “right to work” legislation killed in the House last year, and must be fought with equal vigor and intensity.

There are also a number of pending bills that would affect the NH Retirement System. HB 1756 would provide the first COLA increase for retirees in many years, but in a recent hearing it appeared there was little likelihood of passage, at least in its current form. Another bill, HB 1754, would establish a state-defined contribution retirement plan, completely up-ending the current system and contradicting the majority recommendations of the recent Decennial Commission. That bill will have its initial committee hearing on January 31. Finally, there is also a group of bills that will eventually be heard before the Education Committee regarding assessment and the determination of an “adequate education.” It is not unlikely that these bills, taken as a package, are designed to create a pathway to opt out of public schools yet retain public funding, an alternative pathway in case SB 193 does not pass muster. We will continue to watch these bills closely and update you in the upcoming weeks as the NH Legislature continues on its twisted pathway through the 2018 session.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

Attached is the PDF version of this bulletin for you to download and share.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 1-19-2018

New Bill To Create A Death Benefit For School Employees Killed In The Line Of Duty

In 2017, approximately 40 people per day died from gun related injuries according to a report from Gun Violence Archives. Unfortunately this is the world we live in.  This is why children practice “lock down” procedures in school in the event of an armed gunman gaining access to the school grounds.

Today we are not here to discuss how we need to do something about the growing gun violence problem in America: today we want to talk a new bill being pushed in the New Hampshire Legislature to extend death benefits to school employees who are killed in the line of duty.

This week, the NH House Committee for Executive Departments and Administration held a public hearing on HB 1415.  The bill is would simply extend the same death benefit given to police officers, killed in the line of duty, to school employees.

Doug Ley, President of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-NH) testified before the committee on why this bill should be passed.  He cited that since Columbine in 1996, there has been 202 school shootings that resulted in deaths of “164 students, 44 educators & school employees, and at least 3 security/police personnel.”

The American Federation of Teachers, represented the five teachers at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut. Those educators and aide’s were honored as heroes for doing all they could to protect the lives of the children in their care.

Just one example was special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52, a 14-year veteran of the school, was found dead, holding the lifeless body of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley.

“We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy,” the Hockley family said in a statement. “Dylan loved Mrs. Murphy so much and pointed to her picture on our refrigerator every day.”

These heroes should be given the same death benefit as any police officer killed in the line of duty.


Below is the full written testimony of AFT-NH President Douglas Ley Testimony In Support of HB 1415: Death Benefit for School Employees Killed in Line of Duty

Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you to the Committee for providing me this opportunity to testify in favor of HB 1415, establishing a death benefit for a school employee killed in the line of duty.

My name is Douglas Ley, and I am one of the members from Cheshire County, District 9, representing the towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, and Roxbury. I am also president of American Federation of Teachers-NH, and I have filed all the requisite paperwork with the Legislative Ethics office and intend to participate in the discussion of HB1415.

As we know, NH Statutes currently authorize a death benefit of $100,000 for families of police officers and firefighters killed in the performance of their duties. That is a good thing, and I am proud to have helped pass that legislation. Today, we consider establishing a similar death benefit for the families of school employees killed in the line of duty, and on behalf of AFT-NH I am here to voice our support for this proposed statutory addition.

Dr. Donna Decker is my colleague at Franklin Pierce University and an expert on school shootings, a subject on which she has written and spoken. I asked her the other day just how many such incidents have occurred since the infamous shootings at Columbine High School back in 1999. According to her research, there have been 202 school shootings in the US since Columbine, or an average of 11 shootings per year over the past 18 years at all levels of education. Not all are mass shootings, and not all involve fatalities, but even so, the numbers are staggering—164 students killed, 44 educators & school employees, and at least 3 security/police personnel. Besides Columbine, the most infamous such shooting occurred in Newtown CT, my former hometown (I graduated Newtown High School in 1976)—20 students and six school personnel were cold-heartedly murdered. Thankfully, NH has thus far escaped this phenomenon and I hope that will always be the case, but it is best to be prepared for the worst.

As a negotiator, I have helped negotiate a dozen school personnel contracts. In reviewing them, I find that all include small life insurance policies for the personnel, ranging from $7500 to $30,000, paid for by the Districts. In a few cases, there are also provisions for death benefits in the form of small cash buyouts of unused sick days. None of these benefits, however, come close to the $100,000 benefit proposed here and none of these current benefits would even remotely compensate for the anguish and loss suffered by a family when a school employee is killed in the line of duty.

In my work as a negotiator, I often work with school secretaries. These are the personnel on the front-line of school security, authorizing or denying entry to individuals seeking to enter schools. Their work is often highly-demanding, pulling them in multiple directions at the same time, but the one area about which they always express deep concern is their ability to maintain school security. Like the secretaries, para-professionals, food-service workers, and teachers all tell me over and over that their greatest concern is the safety and security of the children for whom they take responsibility. They wish there was no need for school safety provisions, but they know the world in which they live and work, and they welcome the trainings and drills on how to handle life-or-death school emergencies.

Allow me to close with the following thought. We entrust our children to teachers, para-educators, and all the professionals who work in our public schools. Those school personnel take that charge very seriously, and are ready for whatever emergencies arise. I hope there is never a school shooting incident in NH, but if there is, I am quite certain that school personnel will do all they can to preserve the lives and protect the safety of the children in their charge. Because of the trust and the heavy burden we place upon these secretaries, teachers, para-educators, and all others, providing a $100,000 death benefit to their families in the event of death in the line of duty is right. It can never make up for a family’s loss, but it can provide some aid and assistance and is tangible evidence of the public’s recognition and regard for the heavy responsibilities we place on those in our public schools. Let us do the right thing, and pass HB1415 to the House floor with a recommendation of OTP.

 

AFT-NH President Ley Testifies Against SB 193 To House Finance Committee

(January 16, 2018) Below is the full submitted testimony of AFT-NH President Douglas Ley on SB 193:

Let me begin by offering my thanks to the Committee Chair and to the Finance Committee for taking the time to hear my testimony.

For the record: Douglas Ley, representing District 9-Cheshire County, towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, & Roxbury. In addition, I am here as president of American Federation of Teachers-NH, and have filed the requisite paperwork with the Legislative Ethics Office.

Speaking on behalf of myself and the 4,000 members of AFT-NH, I come before you in opposition to SB193. The written report provided to you focuses upon financial aspects of SB193 and places the proposed program into a broader national context by looking at its financial provisions as compared to those in other states with similar Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). You can read the report by clicking the link Following the Wrong Path.

Based upon the comparison between SB193 and similar programs in five other states, the report concludes that “NH should expect similar taxpayer and academic accountability problems as these states.” Without going over the report in detail (I am confident the Committee will do its due diligence), let me simply highlight a few salient points:

  1. SB193 eligibility requirements closely mirror those in AZ (esp. prior to very recent amendments there), but unlike AZ and other states, there is no requirement in SB193 for prior public school enrollment as a condition of eligibility. Thus, NH can expect similar student loss from public schools and the accompanying costs as occurred in AZ.
  2. Funding formulas across states with ESAs are generally similar. In AZ there was a 10-fold increase in costs between 2012-15, and the losses estimated by Reaching Higher NH are in line with experiences in other states.
  3. On the issue of financial accountability, AZ’s Attorney General just two years ago found that in one six-month period, there was over $100,000 in misspent funds. Under SB193, there is only very limited public financial accountability—instead, accountability is outsourced to the same private entity earning money from the program. In addition, there is no requirement for posting of surety bonds or other insurance by private providers, to ensure that private schools or providers would have enough money to reimburse the State for any misused funds. Ultimately, SB193 lacks even rudimentary public financial accountability standards, to say nothing of the very meager academic accountability standards.

Other witnesses will undoubtedly go into great detail on specific estimated costs to the State and to local property tax payers in order to fund SB193 while maintaining our constitutional duty to education and our social contract commitment to public schools and public education. Allow me to close by noting two additional items:

First, let me draw your attention to a letter from the Superintendent of the Monadnock Regional School District, which includes one of the towns I represent. In that letter sent to you on Monday, January 15, the Superintendent expresses her clear concerns over the financial impact on the Monadnock District of anywhere from $83,000 to $172,000 in lost State aid to the District. What is not said in that letter is that this is a District that has faced very difficult budget battles over the past five years and the likelihood of those budget wars continuing for the near future.

Second, you also received a letter from the president of the Nashua Teachers Union (NTU), who could not attend this hearing today due to conflicting commitments. In that letter, NTU president Adam Marcoux reviews their objections to SB193, pointing to Nashua’s loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in State funds if SB193 becomes law. His conclusion regarding SB193’s financial impact is succinct and pointed: It “sounds like a state property tax increase, in addition to the anticipated local property tax increases.”

At a time when this committee has already rejected a number of other policy proposals on grounds that State funds are simply not available, I ask that the Committee reject SB193 as financially unsound for the State of New Hampshire and as an expenditure of public funds with virtually no public accountability. For localities, this will entail further downshifting of costs onto local taxpayers in order to provide public funds to those who choose of their own volition to send their children to private or home schools. This is not a proper use of public funds, unregulated, unaudited, and certain to result in tax increases. I ask that you therefore reject SB193 and vote to recommend ITL.

[Note: The entire written testimony is provided but actual testimony was abbreviated due to time constraints and to avoid duplicate testimony. Per President Ley, many school boards, school board members, superintendents and policy experts tore into the bill in great and meticulous detail. AFT-NH applauds their efforts.]

 

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: More Attacks On Public Employees And School Vouchers

The New Hampshire legislature is beginning to return to its accustomed rhythms and routines as both the House and the Senate met in session. More important, committees began holding hearings on this year’s avalanche of proposed bills and these hearings will continue unabated for the next six or seven weeks. It is in committees where the majority of the work of the Legislature is done, through listening to testimony, considering bills and amendments, and shaping recommendations for action on the floor of the House or the Senate. If you have never done so and if you have the time, look at the House or Senate calendars, find a hearing that might be of interest, and consider attending to observe or even testify. Testimony from members of the public is always welcomed, especially as it brings a perspective different from that of the usual lobbyists and fellow legislators. You might even conclude that you too can be a citizen legislator—believe me, there are no prerequisites other than a willingness to put in a lot of time for virtually no pay. But it can be satisfying and is certainly interesting.

HB 438 In the House this week, AFT-NH was most concerned with HB 438, a bill to prohibit public employers from withholding union dues from paychecks. The intent of the bill is punitive, to make the collection of union dues much more difficult and thereby cripple labor unions. Back in March 2017, the House Labor Committee held a very brief hearing on the bill. With virtually no evidence presented explaining why this bill was a good idea, the Committee voted to retain the bill and then in October, voted unanimously, both Republicans and Democrats, to recommend it be killed (the formal recommendation is “Inexpedient to Legislate). Despite this recommendation, the bill was set aside for debate, but on this past Tuesday, the debate was postponed until the next House session, possibly on February 7. So that is a momentary reprieve and breather, but I will be bringing it back to your attention and asking you to act and contact your representatives in just a few weeks.

Floor action in the House was quite interesting this week, with many Republicans peeling away from their leadership on certain bills. Measures repealing energy conservation programs were rejected, while a ban on controversial conversion therapy for minors questioning their sexual and gender identities nearly passed the House, defeated by the vote of the Speaker himself.   Late in the day, a proposed voluntary employee-funded family leave insurance plan, HB 628, won initial approval by the House, again with a number of Republicans concluding that NH needed to meet the shifting and sometimes conflicting needs to care for family or to continue working. The program faces a long and difficult road going forward, with visits to the Commerce Committee and then possibly the Finance Committee, but this is the first time the House has ever voted positively on such a program (it has been before the House numerous times over the past fifteen years). So, change is in the air, but there is much work yet to be done.

SB 193 The eyes and energies of those in the public education community, AFT-NH included, remain focused on SB 193 as amended, the legislation that uses public funds (tax dollars) to set up savings accounts for parents to use to defray costs of private schools or home-schooling. The legal legerdemain is that by depositing the money in these accounts, public funds are magically washed (laundered?) of their public nature and thereby use of the money for private religious schools will not violate the NH Constitution. That Constitution is quite clear on this issue, stating in Article 6 that “no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination.” This is reiterated in Article 83, which emphasizes the need and desirability of promoting education but concludes “no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination.” Thus, the goal of the education savings accounts is to make public money into private money, thereby evading the language and intent of New Hampshire’s Founders in regards to private, sectarian schools.

SB 193 passed the House last week by a 22-vote margin, and the Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the bill this coming Tuesday, January 16, starting at 1:30 pm. The bill proposes that State aid for public school districts be reduced whenever a student in the district withdraws to attend private school or is to be home-schooled. As a result, school districts will lose significant amounts of money, and while SB 193 promises to make up the losses, the costs to the State will be significant, especially in light of the State’s already tight budget and future declines in revenue due to business tax cuts passed over the past few years. Just this week, the Finance Committee reported that the State did not have the funds to resume long-promised contributions to help municipalities and school districts pay into the New Hampshire Retirement System and the NH House voted to defeat HB 413 which would have provided much needed property tax relief to communities by fulfilling the state’s promise to fund a portion of the NHRS. Yet at the same time, SB 193 proposes to find funding to make up the losses due to funds diverted to private schools.

Needless to say, if SB 193 passes, expect your property taxes to increase further, so that someone in your town can send their kids to private school and get a refund on much of their school taxes. Those without children pay those taxes, the elderly pay those taxes, because we believe it is in the interest of society to have and educated citizenry. But apparently those who choose private schools or home-schooling are a special category, and may get a major tax break. I encourage you to contact members of the House Finance Committee and ask them to oppose this bill. The Finance Committee will be focusing on the financial aspects versus the policy aspects of this legislation, so please direct your comments to loss of funding for our schools, lack of accountability for use of tax dollars and the long term implications of additional state funding for this bill.

The process of Finance Committee hearings will take a few weeks, so we will keep you informed of developments. A work session by Division II Finance has been scheduled for January 23 at 1:00 pm at the Legislative Office Building. Be assured we will be asking for your help on SB 193 in the very near future, so for now, relax and rebuild your energies. It is going to be a bumpy ride going forward.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

PDF to download and share attached. 

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 1-12-2018

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Vouchers, Paycheck Deception, and State Retirements

The NH Legislature managed to meet one day this past week, but Thursday’s snowstorm and the bitter cold led to the cancellation of Thursday’s scheduled House session. Instead, the House will convene this Tuesday, January 9, to continue working through the remaining retained bills from 2017. Although an additional session day on Thursday, January 11 is possible, most expect the House to finish retained bills on the 9th and then commence committee hearings on 2018 bills.

SB 193
The big news this past week was House passage of Senate Bill 193 as amended , the bill establishing so-called “education freedom savings accounts.” In simple terms, the bill takes funds normally distributed by the State to local school districts and places the money into accounts that can be used by parents who home-school or choose to send their children to private (including religious) schools. The NH Constitution explicitly prohibits expending public funds in support of religious schools, so the “education freedom savings accounts” are an attempt to bypass that prohibition. As one House member noted in debate, these accounts will act as a pass-through system, or in more direct language, as a “money-laundering” system to render public revenues into non-public money and thereby circumvent the state’s Constitution.

Funding for SB 193 will come directly from the state’s Education Trust Fund, thereby reducing the funds made available to local districts. The consequence will be less money to many districts, with estimates ranging well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for districts such as Manchester and Nashua (look here for conservative cost estimates put forward by Reaching Higher NH Analysis, December 6, 2017). Local taxpayers will have to pick up the tab, meaning SB 193 will increase local property taxes, all to subsidize those who choose to home-school or opt for private schools. Moreover, the entire program, its assessment and accountability of how funds are spent will NOT be handled by the State but by a private organization based in New York. Given that the organization’s “take” will increase in direct proportion to the number of parents using these “Education freedom savings accounts,” one can only wonder at the potential conflicts-of-interest when this same organization is charged with monitoring expenditures and assessing effectiveness.

SB 193 now goes to the House Finance Committee where a hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 1:30pm. Ultimately, SB193 will come to the House floor for at least one more vote, this time to consider any amendments and the recommendation of the Finance Committee. So stay tuned for breaking news and action requests. You are encouraged to contact the members of the House Finance committee by sending a quick email by clicking this link House Finance Committee and let them know your concerns about SB 193 and ask them to recommend Inexpedient to Legislate.

Red Alert HB 438 Paycheck Deception
There are two bills of great concern to AFT-NH coming to the floor for votes on Tuesday, January 9. The most important is HB 438, which would prohibit public employers from withholding union dues, which is standard practice across the public sector. Withholding dues imposes no costs on public employers and is no different than withholding money on behalf of charitable organizations such as the United Way. The bill came before the Labor Committee in Spring 2017 but no testimony was offered in favor of the bill and the committee ultimately voted unanimously and in a bipartisan manner to recommend that the House kill the bill (Inexpedient to Legislate). It has been taken from the Consent calendar where it would have been expeditiously dealt with last week and will come up for debate and a vote this Tuesday. It is vitally important that you contact your legislator and urge a ‘yes’ vote to sustain the Labor Committee’s unanimous and bipartisan recommendation. The bill performs no useful public service and is simply designed to punish public sector labor unions representing law enforcement officials, teachers, town, county and state employees. Again, please urge your representatives to sustain the Labor Committee’s recommendation on HB 438 by taking this One-Click Action.

HB 413 State Retirement Obligation
Finally, HB 413 will come to a vote on Tuesday in the House. As previously noted, this bill would require the State to begin meeting its promise to help contribute to the retirement system on behalf of municipal, town and school district employees. The NH House on February 15, 2017 voted Ought to Pass by an overwhelming vote of 267-83 and referred it on to the House Finance Committee. Funding for this did not occur in the state budget. When towns, counties and school districts joined the NH Retirement System, the State promised to pay 40% of the cost of contributions, but for the past six years, the State has paid 0% of the costs. Yes, nothing. HB 513 would have the State pay 15% to local communities which would be a great relief to local property taxpayers. The House Finance Committee has recommended Inexpedient to Legislate by a 17-9 vote. Yet this is the same Legislature that is somehow going to find money to make up the losses in local school districts stemming from SB 193? We hope HB 413 passes on Tuesday, but the bigger lesson is to not trust promises of any future payments by the Legislature, because it is a record of repeated broken promises. Perhaps a note to your legislators asking them to do their job and represent their local communities and provide some necessary property tax relief by supporting this bill might be helpful. To email your representative, you can click Contact Your Representative, find your town and send an email to your representative.

Stay warm and let’s all enjoy the higher temperatures predicted for the end of the week. Our January thaw is on the way!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Download and share the PDF here. 

AFT-NH Action Alert: HB 438, A Direct Attack On Public Employees

 HB 438 is a direct attack on NH public employees. This bill would prohibit any public employer from deducting voluntary union dues from an employee’s paycheck. That’s right. Union dues are singled out from the myriad of other deductions that employees can have withheld from their paycheck. It is a right-wing attack on the right to support your union. This is a hold-over bill from the 2017 legislative session.  We need you to contact your state representative(s) NOW. It is simple to click HERE and send your letter!

The House Labor Committee in a total bipartisan fashion voted 19-0 against this bill.  The final report was scheduled to be acted upon on the consent calendar on Wednesday, January 3rd. It has been pulled from the consent calendar for a vote on Tuesday, January 9th.  Please do take this ACTION and contact your state representative(s) now and ask them to support the Labor Committee recommendation and defeat HB 438.

Here are some things you should know about HB 438:

  • HB 438 is government intrusion, pure and simple. It’s an attack on employees’ democratic freedoms and constitutional rights that every New Hampshire legislator should oppose.
  • Paycheck deduction is a longstanding tradition allowed by New Hampshire law. Currently, New Hampshire law allows an employee to give written authorization to his or her employer to voluntarily deduct union dues from his or her paycheck—along with other recurring expenses such as health, welfare, pension, and apprenticeship fund contributions, housing and utilities, and contributions to charities.
  • This unnecessary and costly ban unfairly singles out public sector unions. Payroll deductions are some- thing that insurance companies, charities, and credit unions all do and will be allowed to keep doing. For example, the United Way often partners with employers to solicit donations at the workplace and use pay- roll deduction to collect donations. Workplace solicitation for United Way is often performed by an em- ployee’s supervisor, a situation with far more potential for coercion than an individual’s co-worker asking them to join the union. While the United Way is a good cause (and one that our national union, the AFT, has always supported), it does not make sense that employees can be solicited in the workplace to give to a charity with payroll deduction, but cannot make the conscious and convenient choice to assign funds to a union.
  • HB 438 is an attack on the ability of workers to stand together to obtain middle-class dignity and benefits in the workplace. It would deny unions, and only unions, the right to speak out on issues vital to working families without first jumping through contrived hoops aimed at weakening their voice. It would deny New Hampshire workers the power to decide how to spend their own paychecks— and what groups or causes to support with their paychecks.

Once you have taken the action, please share this with your colleagues, family and friends!

Thank you for standing up for NH public employees.

AFT-NH

Republicans Ram Through Unconstitutional School Voucher Bill

The House of Representatives voted today to pass SB 193, legislation establishing a school voucher program allowing parents to use Education Trust Fund dollars to subsidize tuition to private schools including religious institutions.

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) released the following statement after the vote:

“Simply put, this bill is an unconstitutional attempt to weaken confidence in public education and reduce funding to public schools.”

“Because funding for this program will come directly from the Education Trust Fund, the total amount distributed to school districts throughout the state will be reduced.  To participate in the program, parents of children with disabilities must waive their right to special education and related services.”

“This legislation was written to deliberately circumvent the New Hampshire Constitution, which clearly and distinctly prohibits the use of tax dollars for religious education.  The pass-through scheme concocted by this bill is an embarrassment to the founders of this great state.”

NHDP Chair Ray Buckley issued the following statement:

“Governor Sununu’s SB193 school voucher bill is an irresponsible, fundamentally unfair bill that violates our obligation to treat all students equally. It means private and religious schools that are under no obligation to follow state or federal education standards would receive our taxpayer dollars. It means students with disabilities would be subject to schools that are ill-equipped to take on their unique challenges. It means that parents of transgender students would have to give their taxpayer money to schools that ban their children.

The bill promises additional revenue to make up for the losses public schools would inevitably incur, but we’ve yet to see where this money will come from. Will Sununu and the Republicans raise our taxes just to give more money to private and religious schools or will they take money away from crucial services that so many depend on? SB193 is a key part of Governor Sununu & Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s attempt to overhaul the New Hampshire education system, moving the focus away from public schools. They should focus instead on growing and strengthening our public schools to make sure every student has a chance to succeed.”

AFT-NH’s President Doug Ley released the following after yesterday’s vote:

“Despite a powerful speech by Rep. Robert Elliott denouncing the bill as in clear violation of Article 6 of the NH Constitution which explicitly bars spending public monies on religious or sectarian schools, a majority composed almost entirely of House Republicans took a major step towards dismantling the State’s commitment to funding public education. By siphoning public tax revenues into private schools SB193 erodes the State’s commitment to maintaining and providing a quality public education to all children and sets up a separate system of funding for private schools. With all assessment and accountability left in the hands of a private agency that also handles transferring public monies to private schools via “Education Savings Accounts,” the incentive to rake in more revenue by ignoring any serious assessment or accountability is clear. It is a case of the fox guarding the henhouse and ultimately, local taxpayers will bear the additional costs.

“SB193 now moves to the Finance Committee, which must somehow figure a way to fund the program without local property tax increases or raising additional State revenues. As one member of the Finance Committee noted on the House floor, SB193 is a jumble of half-baked financial schemes and unanswered financial questions which will pose great challenges for the committee. There is no clear timeline, though the committee will need to report the bill to the House no later than March 2018.”

AFT-NH’s Statement On The House Passage Of SB 193 (School Voucher Bill)

AFT-NH President Douglas Ley released the following statement about the January 3 vote in the NH House on SB193, the so-called “voucher” bill

“AFT-NH and all supporters of public education in New Hampshire are grievously disappointed with yesterday’s initial House vote on SB193. By a margin of 184-162, the House gave initial approval to this grievously flawed bill, sending it on to the Finance Committee for further examination before bringing it back to the floor for a final vote.

“Despite a powerful speech by Rep. Robert Elliott denouncing the bill as in clear violation of Article 6 of the NH Constitution which explicitly bars spending public monies on religious or sectarian schools, a majority composed almost entirely of House Republicans took a major step towards dismantling the State’s commitment to funding public education. By siphoning public tax revenues into private schools SB193 erodes the State’s commitment to maintaining and providing a quality public education to all children and sets up a separate system of funding for private schools. With all assessment and accountability left in the hands of a private agency that also handles transferring public monies to private schools via “Education Savings Accounts,” the incentive to rake in more revenue by ignoring any serious assessment or accountability is clear. It is a case of the fox guarding the henhouse and ultimately, local taxpayers will bear the additional costs.

“SB193 now moves to the Finance Committee, which must somehow figure a way to fund the program without local property tax increases or raising additional State revenues. As one member of the Finance Committee noted on the House floor, SB193 is a jumble of half-baked financial schemes and unanswered financial questions which will pose great challenges for the committee. There is no clear timeline, though the committee will need to report the bill to the House no later than March 2018.”

The people at Advancing New Hampshire Public Education posted the full roll call votes, here.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 12-13-17: Take Action To Stop SB 193 The School Voucher Bill

Launch of the 2018 Legislative Session   In the natural world, many creatures around us are hunkering down for the winter season and going into hibernation. The Legislature, however, is not governed by ‘Mother Nature’ and since October, the pace of activity in the State House has picked up, with hearings and the election of a new Speaker. Now, as we enter into the Holiday season, the Legislature stands of the cusp of the 2018 session, with our first session scheduled to convene on January 3, 2018. It promises to be a busy session, with hundreds of bills proposed in the House and the Senate, each one assured of a public hearing and a vote in either or both the House and Senate. So it is time to muster your energies and your patience—the 2018 Legislative session is nearly upon us!

Over the past two months, the House and Senate have been increasingly busy, with committees taking up bills retained by them from the 2017 session. Hearings have been held, and these ‘retained bills’ have now been reported out of the committee with recommendations for floor action. With a new Speaker (Gene Chandler) in the chair, the first task of the House this January will be to take up the retained bills from the 2017 session, and all indications are that Speaker Chandler would like all retained bills and business concluded quickly and expeditiously. What this means is that the House will be busy on Wednesday and Thursday after New Year’s (January 3 & 4) and possibly Tuesday, January 9. The aim is to clear away all retained bills, then begin scheduling committee hearings on 2018 bills.

There are two retained bills of immediate concern to AFT-NH. The first is HB 413, which over 100 Republicans joined with Democrats in passing back in February 2017. The bill provides for partial restoration of State payments (15%) into the NH Retirement System on behalf of counties, municipalities and school districts, all of whom joined the NH Retirement System with a promise of a State contribution of between 25% to 40%. In 2011, under Speaker O’Brien, the State completely abandoned all payments and for the last six years, localities and employees have borne the entire cost of paying into the retirement system. HB 413 simply tries to begin restoring the State’s promised commitment, thereby easing the property tax burden upon local taxpayers and freeing up monies in cash-strapped cities, towns and school districts. The bill has now come out of the House Finance Committee with a party-line recommendation that it be killed, thereby reversing the House position of a year ago, and contradicting one of the recommendations of the Decennial Commission appointed this past summer to study and make recommendations regarding the NH Retirement System. Rather than foolishly cut business taxes and create a hole in future NH state budgets, it is time to hold the Legislature accountable and demand that they begin honoring the promise to pay the State’s share into the NH Retirement System.

Defeat SB 193 (school vouchers) Action Needed!  The other retained bill of great concern is SB 193, the “school voucher” bill. Significantly amended in the Education Committee and sent to the House floor by a narrow 10-9 vote, the bill still suffers from the reality that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. From the start, the proposal uses a legal subterfuge to disguise vouchers as educational savings accounts, and things only go downhill from there. As students withdraw from public schools and take State education aid with them, school districts will lose thousands of dollars, monies to be made up by local taxpayers. Remember, if you lose 1 student from each grade, that is approximately $40,000 lost to the district, but you can’t combine classes and grades, services still need to be provided, buildings heated, on and on. SB 193 now claims that at a specific threshold the Legislature will step in and pass appropriations to make up for excessive losses due to vouchers. Really? Look at the history behind HB 413 (see above) and inadequate state education funding to get an idea of the Legislature’s woeful track record in terms of fulfilling such promises.

Will you contact your state representative now and ask them to defeat SB 193? Click here now!

The amended SB 193 also claims to put certain criteria in place to determine eligibility, but the language adopted basically leaves eligibility wide open. Accountability? Virtually none. Private and religious schools will still fall under virtually no serious state regulations and will be free to discriminate against and reject those they deem unworthy or too costly to educate. Home schoolers are now up in arms over increased regulation via SB193, but in fact, the regulation is quite minimal and there will be no effective accountability or transparency regarding how public funds are spent.

Do you believe public funds should support public education? If so, please click this link to contact your state representative and ask them to defeat SB 193. Click Here Now!

Finally, one must confront the question of “Choice for whom?” SB 193 is a public funds giveaway, often bestowed upon those who can already afford private schooling or home schooling, or who live in areas where such schools are available and accessible. It contradicts the basic logic of public schooling– that an educated citizenry is a desired social and political goal, and therefore we all contribute to it, regardless of whether we have children in the schools. Parents may choose to send their children elsewhere or educate them at home, but they are still members of our larger body politic and must equally bear the basic burdens deemed essential and desirable, such as public education. They may choose alternative pathways, but they should not receive public subsidies to do so. Just because I choose not to drive on your road, I still pay my taxes to help to plow it in winter, and just because you choose to live on it, does not entitle you to a special subsidy from public funds.

We need all your help in passing HB 413 and defeating SB 193. We will shortly be sending out another message regarding HB 413 so you can contact your representative directly and ask them to support passage of this bill which will provide some much needed relief to local communities.

Please make sure to contact your state representative and ask them to defeat this unprecedented attack on the more than 180,000 children who attend NH public schools. Click Here Now!

AFT-NH is #PublicSchoolProud and we ask you to join in this effort to protect our public schools.

Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley
AFT-NH, President


For legislative updates and news, please like us on Facebook by visiting our page at AFT-NH Facebook or follow us on Twitter @AFTNewHampshire.

Nashua Teachers Union Joins Local Fight To Reduce Childhood Food Insecurity

“Childhood food insecurity is a national problem, it occurs when children receive insufficient food on a regular basis; in many cases missing meals entirely. After a while, these children also experience “fear of hunger” that affects their behavior as much as physical hunger affects their bodies. There are more than 16 million food insecure children in America today,” wrote the coalition End 68 Hours of Hunger.

Nearly one in four children face food insecurity. The “68 hours” between child’s free lunch on Friday and their free breakfast on Monday are specifically what End 68 Hours of Hunger is working to address.

“That insecurity can lead to some behavioral disruptions,” writes End 68 Hours of Hunger. “On Monday mornings they return to school ill, often spending the day in the nurse’s office. They are unable to focus and concentrate until they once again are nourished.”

The work they are doing to eliminate those 68 hours of hunger is having a noticeable impact.

“Teachers report that children are more responsible, and their performance improves.  Actual documented increases in reading and math scores have been reported as well.”

During their meeting on October 10, the Nashua Teachers’ Union Board of Directors unanimously voted to support End 68 Hours of Hunger – Nashua with a donation of $3,000.00 to purchase the food needed to feed about 200 Nashua students during February vacation.

“It was the fastest discussion we’ve had in regards to making donations,” said Nashua Teachers’ Union President Adam Marcoux. “It was never a question of if we would do something, it was a question of how much do they need to help our students over that vacation week. We have worked closely with End 68 Hours Hunger before, and people really appreciate what their organization does for our students.”

End 68 Hours of Hunger provides food for students over the weekend as well as the three vacation weeks. “It’s 2017 and hunger is still a problem for our students.” Marcoux went on to say, “I was talking with a retired nurse and this came up. She recalled speaking with a student at her school, asking if they were excited about the upcoming vacation. The student answered no. When asked why, they responded ‘because I don’t get to eat at home.’ It is a heartbreaking situation to think about our students having to worry about food.”

“One of the goals of the Nashua Teachers’ Union is to be a community partner, supporting groups and organizations that work to help our students and schools. We are proud to once again support End 68 Hours of Hunger in their effort to help our students.”

Members of the Nashua Teachers’ Union will also pack the food prior to the vacation week. “Packing the food is a lot of fun, too! Last year, we had people seeing who could pack the bag the best. By the end, we had people competing with each other. It made for a fun afternoon,” Marcoux said.

For more information on End 68 Hours of Hunger – Nashua, please visit www.end68hoursofhunger.org.

Featured Image: STEM Outreach – Turnagain Elementary School – by Army Corp of Engineers FLICR CC

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