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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

The Nashua Teachers Union Stands With AFSCME Custodians Against Privatization

NASHUA, NH October 12, 2017 – During their meeting on October 10, the Nashua Teachers’ Union Board of Directors unanimously voted to support the Nashua Custodian Union Local 365/Council 93, AFSCME, AFL-CIO as they again face the possibility of losing their jobs to privatization.

“It should go without question that the Nashua Teachers’ Union has and will continue to support our colleagues in the Custodian Union,” said Nashua Teachers’ Union President Adam Marcoux. “We oppose any and all privatization of jobs within the Nashua School District. Custodians are valuable members of our school communities. We trust our custodians, we know who they are, and they know us. We don’t want a revolving door of strangers entering our schools every day.”

On September 16, 2015, the Board of Education voted to not renew the contract with the Custodian Union and pursue privatization. A petition encouraging the Board to reconsider the privatization was written and signed by over 1,100 Nashua residents. The petition was presented to the Board of Education and placed on file.

“Many of the custodians in the district are Nashua residents, have kids in the district, and also have spouses working within the schools,” Marcoux said. “They are just as much a part of our school communities has anyone else who works for the district. We stand in solidarity and support of our brothers and sisters of the Nashua Custodian Union Local 365/Council 93, AFSCME, AFL- CIO. We encourage the Board of Education to discontinue their plans to privatize custodial services, and continue negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.”

Right-Wing Front Group Attacks Teachers With Biased Report On Absenteeism

Image by Woodleywonderworks FLIKR CC

Yesterday, the Concord Monitor, along with a number of other media outlets across the country, ran a story about a new report on “teacher absenteeism,” produced by the conservative think tank, The Fordham Institute.

The crux of their entire report is that based on their research that public school teachers – specifically the unionized public school teachers – take more sick days than charter school teachers.

According to the report, “Twenty-eight percent of traditional public school teachers are chronically absent, compared with 10 percent in charter schools.”

Fordham defines chronically absent as being absent for 10 or more days a year.

Educators were quick to disagree with Fordham’s research.

“Fordham is a biased organization that is driven by an anti-student agenda with anti-public education funders,” wrote the National Education Association. “The authors of this study themselves note that their own research ‘cannot establish a causal relationship between any specific policy or factor and absenteeism.’ Fordham is using corrupted assertions to draw misguided conclusions that denigrate the service of hardworking educators who put the best interest of students at the center of their daily lives.”

The report specifically targeted New Hampshire along with seven other states, claiming that, “public school teachers are at least four times as likely to be chronically absent.

“The report did not look at New Hampshire schools specifically, instead it conveniently lumped together data to make their conclusions. I think actual abuse of paid time off is quite rare,” said Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-NH. “If a teacher is not in their classroom as expected, it is most likely because of illness, issues with child-care, or increasingly now, with elder care. And because of the limitations placed on public schools that charter schools do not have to operate under, public school class sizes are larger, increasing a public school teacher’s exposure to more kinds of illness.”

“It’s no secret that teaching is a high stress profession, and that stress is only getting worse. In addition to their assigned duties, teachers now also address issues of student homelessness, hunger, addiction and abuse. In some cases, teachers have acted as protectors and first responders as the incidence of school violence increases. Teachers dedicate their lives to their students, often reaching into their own pockets to purchase supplies and food. To paint them, as this report tries to do, as somehow focused only on themselves is shameful,” added Tuttle.

“A poorly-designed report that, for example, counts maternity leave as chronic absenteeism,” said Doug Ley, President of AFT-NH. “Using the logic of the report, ill teachers should report to work regardless of the risk of spreading illness to students and colleagues.”

“In my experience working with teachers and para-educators, they tend to under-utilize their sick days. Why? Because they stay late, arrive early, and are 100% dedicated to the education and welfare of their students, and hesitate to miss a day and hinder their students’ learning,” added Ley.

The report attempts to pit workers against each other by suggesting that teachers get too many “sick and personal” days off per year.

“On average, teachers get more than twelve sick and personal days per year, though only one-third of US workers are entitled to ten or more sick days.”

Fordham conveniently omitted the fact that 68% of full-time private sector workers get between 6-10 paid sick days a year and this does not include additional paid vacations days or paid holidays. Most large companies give employees more than 10 sick days per year after 20 years of service.

“The question the Fordham Institute should ask is: How do we recruit, retain and support teachers for America’s schools—teachers who, the OECD has shown, are paid much less than their similarly educated peers, teach longer hours, and have less time to prepare their lessons than their international counterparts?” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

This report is nothing more than paid propaganda attacking unions and the collective bargaining process that has helped generations of workers in the public and private sectors.

“The report also tries to link collective bargaining with increased sick time, but what it fails to point out is that contracts limit the amount of sick time a teacher has available to take,” continued Tuttle. “Rather than leaving it open ended, teachers, administrators and school boards balance the number of days any teacher has available to be out sick with the health needs of educators, and cap it to prevent abuse.”

Even if you believe Fordham’s research, which is clearly skewed against public school teachers, it does make the case that unionized teachers who bargain collectively, get better benefits than their non-union counterparts.

“Educators at charter schools, most without the benefit of a collectively bargained contract, are often forced to quit because they don’t have leave and vacation provisions to fall back on. The reality is that charter schools need better leave policies, not worse ones, a fact ignored by Fordham,” explained Weingarten.

Fordham’s feeble attempt to pit worker against worker only proves that when workers stand together and bargain collectively, they will all do better.

Nashua Teachers And Para-Professionals Respond To A Lack Of Contract

NASHUA, NH September 6, 2017 – The General Membership of the Nashua Teachers’ Union met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the lack of contracts for teachers and para- educators. The para-educators contract expired on June 30th while the teachers’ contract expired on September 1st. Both negotiating teams have been waiting for a response from the Board of Education since late June.

“The lack of productive communication from the Board over the summer is problematic,” said Adam Marcoux, President of the Nashua Teachers Union. Marcoux went on to say, “I have tried numerous times to engage in talks to move this process forward for both teachers and para-educators only to be met with responses stating why the Board could not meet or with no response at all. The silence is deafening.”

For the third straight contract, teachers are starting the school year without a contract. For para-educators, this is the second straight contract those employees are starting without a contract. “We are trying to come to agreements that are fair and equitable to our teachers and para-educators while understanding the budgetary impact on the school district and the City,” said Marcoux. “However, that is difficult to accomplish when requests to meet go unanswered.”

The Nashua Teachers’ Union General Membership overwhelmingly approved the following actions:

  • Effective immediately, all members are asked discontinue membership on all district committees.
  • Effective immediately, all members are asked discontinue membership on all school committees that are not contractual obligations.

Members should continue to attend scheduled faculty meetings, Early Release meetings, and NEASC meetings (high school). New teachers should continue to attend new teacher cohorts.

The Nashua Teachers’ Union General Membership also overwhelmingly approve the following actions, effective September 18, 2017, if there is not a tentative agreement reached at the next session of negotiations:

  • Effective September 18, 2017, all members are asked to discontinue advising any club or organization for which they do not receive a stipend
  • Effective September 18, 2017, all members are asked to cancel and not schedule any field trips
  • Effective September 18, 2017, all members are asked to discontinue writing letters of recommendation for higher education
  • Effective September 18, 2017, all members are asked to “Work to Your Contract” – follow the contract

    — Come to work at the start of the pupil day (15 minutes before the pupil day starts; traditionally the first bell)

    — Leave work 10 minutes after the pupil day

    — Complete all work related to your job (grading, planning, etc.) during your planning time

These actions will remain in place until such time that a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between the Nashua Teachers’ Union and the Board of Education for the members of Unit A – Teachers and the members of Unit B – Para-Educators, and until such agreements are ratified by the Nashua Board of Aldermen and signed off on by the Mayor, or these actions are discontinued by authorization of the Nashua Teachers’ Union General Membership.

“I am hopeful that when we meet on September 13th, we will be able to reach a tentative agreement that I can bring forward to the membership. Our teachers and para-educators will continue to come to school every day to provide the best education to the students of the Nashua School District,” Marcoux said.

Nashua Teachers Union (AFT) Sends Support To Colleagues In The Wake Of Hurricane Harvey

NASHUA, NH August 31, 2017 – By now, we have all seen the destruction and devastating flooding left by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. As we start another school year here in Nashua, it’s hard not to think about the students, teachers, and school personnel who can’t go to school right now.

“It’s just heart-breaking,” said Adam Marcoux, President of the Nashua Teachers’ Union. “It’s hard to comprehend such destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey and the impact it has had on the communities. Here we are enjoying nice weather, the start of another school year, and they’re all just trying to survive, wondering where they might sleep or eat.”

The Nashua Teachers’ Union Board of Directors met on August 30 for their first meeting of the year. On the agenda was Texas AFT and how they could help their colleagues in Texas. To that end, the Board of Directors unanimously approved donating $2,415.00 to the Texas AFT Disaster Relief Fund. The $2,415.00 is an odd number for a donation, but it has special meaning.

“Members of the Nashua Teachers’ Union have met and become friends with members of the Houston Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2415, through the AFT Teacher Leaders Program,” Marcoux said. He added, “The devastating event takes on a new meaning when you know people personally impacted by the destruction.” The $2,415.00 is in honor of the friends and colleagues of the Houston Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2415. “AFT and locals around the country are bonded by our commitment to our profession and to our organization. We’re always going to be here to support each other,” Marcoux said.

The Nashua Teachers’ Union is also planning a school supplies drive for later in the year to help get the students, teachers, and classrooms ready for learning. Marcoux added, “They aren’t at a point yet where they can put these supplies to use so we’ll wait until November or December to collect those basic things like crayons and glue and then send them down.”

All the proceeds collected by Texas AFT will go to direct relief to affected Texas AFT members.

For more information, or to make a donation to Texas AFT, please visit http://www.texasaft.org/help-educators-impacted-hurricane-harvey/.

Nashua Teachers Union Calls On Board For Action On Proposed Contract

NASHUA, NH August 28, 2017 – Over 1,000 teachers are waiting for a new contract, but they’re not going to have one before the school year begins. For the third contract in a row, Nashua’s teachers are beginning the school year without an employment contract in place to continue the one that is expiring on August 31. This year, however, the Nashua Teachers’ Union (NTU) seemed to be on the verge of an agreement with the Nashua Board of Education (BOE) when the Board suddenly went silent after a promising meeting on June 15. Last week, the BOE finally agreed to resume negotiations in mid-September – a full three months since the parties last met.

“We are entering our second school year in a row without a contract,” said NTU President Adam Marcoux. “The lack of productive communication from the Board is problematic. I have tried numerous times to engage in talks to move this process forward, only to be met with responses stating why they could not meet or with no response at all. The silence is deafening.”

The expiring one-year contract was approved toward the end of 2016 as a stop-gap measure to give both parties time to evaluate the current salary structure. Under last year’s contract, a joint Board and NTU Salary Committee was created to study the current salary structure and recommend how it could be improved to insure retention of highly experienced faculty, especially those who were being paid significantly less than teachers with similar experience in comparable districts around the state. That committee proposed a new salary schedule that would be based on education and actual years of teaching experience instead of continuing the unsatisfactory step method.

Five months of negotiations for a new contract began in January, followed by one month of mediation when an impasse was declared in May. On June 15, the NTU left the mediation meeting believing they were within hours of settling a new multi-year agreement. The parties agreed the BOE would meet to discuss the proposed changes in salary structure, and then negotiations would resume. Despite many requests to continue negotiations since June, the Board was unable to resume working with the teachers to secure a contract and ensure a smooth opening of the school year.

“We are trying to come to an agreement that is fair and equitable to our teachers while understanding the budgetary impact it has on the school district and the City,” said Marcoux.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 6-24-17: Kenogarten, State Budget, Final Votes Of The Session

Bow, NH – June 24, 2017  

Yesterday, the both the Senate and the House cast their final votes, and the long slog of the 2017 legislative session came to a merciful end. It seemed over the past two months that whatever day the House met in session, it was a beautiful day, often the only one in the entire week (remember all the chilly weather?), thereby condemning members to sit and sweat in Reps Hall. Keep in mind, there is no air conditioning there, and on a warm day with over 400 people crammed in the room, the ceiling fans just cannot keep up. Yesterday was no exception.

The work of the House and Senate yesterday was confined to voting on Committee of Conference reports where Senate and House conferees had come to agreement upon how to reconcile each chamber’s different version of a piece of legislation. In this process, no further amendments are permitted, and the vote is to simply concur or non-concur with each piece of remaining legislation as designed by the conferees. There was still debate, but business moved along briskly, enough so that we all were able to leave and enjoy much of the sunny afternoon.

Defeat of HB 620 If only the results of the votes were as bright as yesterday’s sunshine! This is not to say that the day was an unmitigated disaster. For example, the Senate killed HB 620, the bill which would have severely affected and weakened NH’s special education programs, leaving thousands of children with fewer services and greater challenges. Senators clearly responded to contacts from constituents and wisely rejected this extremist legislation, thereby preserving programs that currently place NH amongst the best states in graduation rates for students with special needs.

Kenogarten   The other significant and popular vote came on SB191, the so-called “kenogarten” bill. This column was rather scathing in its critique of this legislation last week, but in the end, the bill passed both chambers quite easily. Even yours truly ended up voting for the bill, determining it simply would be foolish to vote against more education funding coming to my property-poor town. I still believe it is outrageous to even partially fund kindergarten through the promotion of gambling. Yes, I know, the NH lottery already does so, but the lottery does not fund a specific grade which is what happens with the newly-enacted “kenogarten.” As I wrote last week, NH is highly dependent on “sin” for its revenues, and the piper will soon be calling for a reckoning. Kindergarten could easily have been funded in the new State budget, but instead of open and honest funding, the Legislature resorted to keno in order to provide new tax cuts for business. Those lost revenues will almost entirely go to large, out-of-state corporations (can anyone here say Wal-Mart?) and not actual NH-based businesses, but the majority chose this giveaway over fully funding kindergarten. I guess this is the NH Advantage.

Final State Budget   The most important legislation of the day was the State biennial budget, which despite many predicting a close vote, passed easily on a party-line vote through the House (the Senate was a foregone conclusion).   Business tax reductions, already noted above, mean the State will soon be facing a severe revenue crunch, meaning that by 2020 and beyond, it will become very difficult to fund critical existing programs, never mind expanding programs as needed. For the purposes of this bulletin, the key points are as follows:

  • Funding for the University System of NH is flat-funded, meaning four consecutive years of flat-funding. Given inflation, this translates into a real funding cut for the University System, and will invariably lead to higher tuition costs for a system that is already criminally underfunded and ranks as one of the most expensive for students in the entire United States.
  • Funding formulas for traditional public education remain unchanged, but monies were found to increase per-pupil support for charter schools. Thus, the erosion of support for public education continues, even if vouchers were not enacted this year. The classic New England image of a small-town with a neighborhood school may still catch the public’s fancy, but the State does less and less to support such a system in reality.
  • Most egregiously, the budget includes language making it quite likely that Medicaid expansion will come to an end in NH, throwing 53,000 people (children included) off of health insurance.

What does this all mean for us? The majority will tout the business tax cuts and claim they will spur business growth, but the cuts are too small to have any meaningful impact. In fact, the mantra of business and business organizations in NH is not tax cuts but job training and education, in order to be able to hire educated and prepared workers. Business tax cuts will have no impact when businesses must leave in order to find workers, the State’s infrastructure continues to slowly crumble, and electricity costs remain among the highest in the nation. Those are some of the real problems facing New Hampshire, but this budget resolutely refuses to solve, or even acknowledge them as substantive challenges threatening the economic future of our State. And so, the wealthiest reap the greatest harvest from this budget, and the rest of us will face increasing property taxes over time and a slow erosion of the basic institutions and infrastructure that are the elemental basis of our social fabric. In the end, it was a beautiful day outside, but not so bright and sunny “under the Dome.”

With the Legislature now in adjournment for a few months, this bulletin will also go on hiatus, barring any sudden policy crises or emergencies. It is our hope that this Bulletin has proven useful to you this year, and I wish all readers a restful and relaxing summer. The rigors of an election year legislative session loom ahead, so rest and recharge now.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 6-18-17: Kenogarten And The NH Budget

The 2017 legislative session is nearly completed, with one more scheduled meeting this coming Thursday, June 22, when the House and Senate will each vote on Committee of Conference reports. These reports concern bills where the House and Senate differed over amendments, appointed a committee to try to iron out the disagreements, and the Committee came to a resolution. The resulting bills can now only be voted up or down, no further amendments.

Budget Deal The focus of attention will be on the two-year budget agreement announced yesterday. It is a Republican agreement, providing inadequate funding for battling the state’s opioid crisis, failing to address growing waitlists for mental health treatment, and as usual, generally neglecting to move New Hampshire into the 21st century. But it does include further business tax cuts, most of which flow to large, out-of-state corporations. Democrats appear to be strongly opposed to this agreement, but the real question is whether far-Right Republicans in the House will again revolt against their party leadership. If they do, the budget may fail, forcing the Governor and the Legislature to vote for funding under a continuing resolution, which doles out monies at the rate of the existing budget, broken into 12 monthly increments, and precludes shifting monies to where most needed. Stay tuned.

“Kenogarten” The other headliner of concern to AFT-NH is SB 191 regarding funding for full-day kindergarten. In this case, NH will lead the nation in innovation, since going forward, kindergarten will now be known in the Granite State as “kenogarten.” Why? Because the amendment adopted in the Committee of Conference will not fully fund full-day kindergarten, and the revenue to provide expanded state support for kindergarten will come from keno, an electronic, lottery-style gambling game. The game is quite common in Massachusetts (many bars there have it though why I know that we will leave to idle speculation), but is only now on the precipice of being legalized here in NH. Therefore, NH will now add keno to the lottery as funding sources for education in our state, and our fair state will continue in its fine tradition of encouraging “sin” as a means of funding state operations. Yes, let’s be proud, New Hampshire—we are already known for our interstate rest areas equipped with state liquor stores, and now we can have “kenogarten!” There are also some observers, most notably Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who question the constitutionality of the funding system proposed in this bill, arguing that the State is required to fully fund kindergarten as part of an “adequate education.”

Furthering the absurdity of “kenogarten,” the bill provides that parents be allowed to have their child attend only a half-day. Ah, choice. Not much thought given to the fact that curriculum planning will revolve around a full day, so that a child leaving halfway through each day will be placed in a difficult situation. But then, many who support such an option just see kindergarten as a waste of time, or as Speaker Jasper stated earlier this year, “the capacity of a six year-old to be attentive for a full day in a classroom is pretty much non-existent.” Perhaps the solution shall be to teach the youngsters the rudiments of keno.

Finally, there is HB 620, which began as a proposal to require the State Board of Education to take into account the fiscal impact of rules implementing Federal law but exceeding the minimum Federal requirements. In the Senate, the bill was amended to categorize as proving an “adequate education” any school that has begun seeking accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). This provision will help clear the way for implementing vouchers for private school education, but the HB 620 Committee of Conference has now added a further amendment barring the State Board of Education from exceeding the minimums of Federal requirements if it leads to any unreimbursed expenditures or administrative burdens upon local districts. This will especially affect recently adopted NH guidelines for special education and have a serious impact on many of the 28,000 NH students with IEPs (individualized education plans). This draconian proposal will not save money but will likely impose future costs, as programs designed by localities to work with disabled and special needs students are curtailed to meet the Federal minimum, thereby reducing graduation rates and future employment prospects. Failing outcomes will then be cited as evidence of the failings of public education by the proponents of vouchers, who will then shout more loudly for public funding to send students to schools now defined as providing an “adequate education” because they have begun to seek accreditation. And so the wheels turn, and public education, one of the signature historical accomplishments of New Hampshire and the United States, is slowly dismantled.

Your Action Needed Help us reverse this process. Please contact your State Representative (s) and tell them you support students with special needs and demand that they Vote No on HB 620 Conference Committee Report. Let’s start to turn the tide, and begin protecting and preserving that great equalizer and ladder to economic opportunity, the public school system.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

Attached is the bulletin in PDF form for printing and sharing

AFT-NH LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN June 18, 2017

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 6-9-17: School Vouchers And The NH Budget

Bow, NH – June 9, 2017

Slowly, ever slowly, the 2017 legislative session crawls towards its June 22 conclusion. Yesterday, the House and Senate both met in session, though for the House, it was certainly the shortest meeting of 2017, not even lasting one hour. The primary, in fact the only order of business, was to consider reports from the Senate. These are when the Senate has amended a bill that originated in and passed the House, and now it gets sent back to the House for further consideration. The choices are simple. First, the House can concur/accept the Senate’s amendment, meaning the bill is now passed and sent to the governor. The second choice is to simply non-concur/reject the Senate’s amendment and thereby kill the bill. The third option is to request a Committee of Conference, wherein the House and Senate each appoint conferees who meet and try to reach agreement on the bill. All Committees of Conference must finish their work by June 15, and then the House and Senate will vote on June 22 to accept or reject those Conference reports where agreement was reached. And that, folks, should be the end of the session, until the legislative process starts to wind up again in September.

The House quickly disposed of the bills acted upon by the Senate today, and now the Committees of Conference are organized and underway, with the most important being those dealing with the Senate’s budget proposal, the Senate’s version of the NH capital budget, and the so-called “trailer bill.” This last is often the most interesting, for it is here that statutory changes are made to accommodate the provisions of the State budget, but often other sorts of items have a tendency to “sneak in.” Everyone in the media will be closely watching what happens in these Committees of Conference over the next week. Many House Republicans want deeper budget cuts than Senate Republicans and larger cuts in business taxes, so the real battle will be an intra-party battle amongst Republicans. The minority Democrats are certainly not pleased with the Senate’s budget, and will look for openings to push their own agenda items (for example, limiting business tax cuts, more spending on opioid crisis, no punitive legislation directed at Planned Parenthood and limiting women’s health choices). So the battle will rage on, though largely in Committees of Conference and in behind-the-scenes negotiations, so we will just need to wait and see.

School Voucher Bill   With the House session ending very early, the House Education Committee used the free time to hold a work session on SB 193, the voucher bill. This bill would rob public education in order to fund private education via the use of vouchers or education savings accounts. The bill has been retained by the committee for 2017 but will need to be acted upon in 2018. Today, representatives from both parties raised the same concerns as before, focusing upon the lack of any accountability regarding effectiveness of private schools, the role played by public funding of religious schools, and the overall constitutionality of using public funds to pay for private education. Other issues raised included whether private schools could be required to accept students with special educational needs or conversely, whether such schools would be allowed to set their own academic standards for admission? And then there are the cost issues—what sorts of cost controls would exist regarding private schools, how would the decline in funding for public education be met (if one student in each grade leaves for private schooling, you can’t really cut any staff but the public school would lose significant funding). There is even the question of what happens if a parent enrolls their child in a private school, takes the money, and then at some point in the year, transfers their child back to the public school—what happens to the money expended? These and many other crucial questions still swirl around SB 193, but above all else, there is the question of “Choice for whom?” Who is privileged and in the best position to take advantage of this giveaway of taxpayer money? Is this fair? Did not sound like it when one Republican representative blurted out that monies spent on educating “black children and Latinos” could be put to better use funding the SB 193 giveaway.

In the end the Committee made no further progress and will take up SB 193 again in September 2017. For now, the bill remains a bad piece of legislation. If there are problems in public education, the legislature would make better use of its time trying to resolve those problems, rather than taking money from public education and showering it upon those best positioned to send their children to private schools. Not much fairness and equity there!

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President


The bulletin is also available in PDF if you would like to download and share.

AFT-NH LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN June 9, 2017

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 6-2-17: NH Budget, Edelblut-Croydon Bill, And Voting Rights

Bow, NH – June 2, 2017

Thursday, June 1, was a gorgeous day, easily the best weather we have had here in NH for some time. Clear skies by afternoon, warming temperatures, and no rain! In Representatives Hall in the NH State House, however, it proved to be a much drearier and depressing day, although not terribly surprising. On the final day to act on Senate bills, the Republican majority flexed their muscle and demonstrated anew that elections matter. Remember this, when your friends and co-workers tell you next year they are not bothering to vote because “it just doesn’t matter.” It does, and yesterday’s votes in the House prove it.

Edelblut-Croydon Bill   Over the course of seven hours, the Republicans in the House used their superior numbers to force through a number of objectionable bills. Headlining the parade were two bills which have garnered much attention here in this bulletin. SB 8, often termed the Croydon or the Edelblut bill, passed on what was nearly a straightforward party-line vote, and later in the day, the same party-line vote (with a few exceptions) led to passage of SB 3, the voter suppression bill. With regards to SB 8, proponents argued this was simply about giving students the best educational opportunities. What they never addressed were the glaring inequities, whereby private schools may now receive public funding but are under no requirement to accept all students. Those with special educational needs may continue to be excluded, as well as any other categories of students the school determines are not eligible for enrollment. In addition, the accountability of such schools is virtually non-existent, and the myriad requirements imposed on public schools by these same legislators are simply not applicable to private schools. Whether this legislation will withstand the inevitable court challenges remains to be seen, but what we witnessed yesterday was a major step forward towards privatization of public education, all done in the name of “choice.” The unanswered question of course is “Choice for whom?” Are such opportunities equally afforded to all? Can local districts take over the State’s responsibility to determine just what is an “adequate education?” These and many other serious questions remain.

Bad Day for Voting Rights   The second major piece of legislation was SB 3, which passed the House a bit later in the day. The debate was “full and robust,” according to one Republican speaker, with proponents denying that voter registration would be reduced by creating lengthy new forms for same-day registrants and threatening to send State, County or local officials to confirm your claimed domicile. Once again, they could not bring forward a single definitive example of voter fraud, but instead, resorted to citing how many voters in NH might also be registered to vote in another state. No surprise there—voter lists are only purged every few years, and when people move and register to vote in their new place of residence, they rarely inform voting officials in their previous town and state that they have moved. Think about it—when you last moved and registered to vote in your new town or city, weren’t you now registered in two places, at least for a year or two? But then, SB 3 would do nothing to solve this problem. In fact, SB 3 would require those who live in a domicile where they are not on the lease or mortgage to get proof of residence from the landlord or someone they live with, meaning their ability to vote is now dependent upon cooperation of a third party. Sound fair? Finally, in the most telling moment regarding SB 3, after the Republican majority passed the bill and characterized the debate as “full and robust,” that same majority refused to print the text of the debate in the permanent journal of the House, likely out of a concern that the resulting legal record would come back to haunt them in the future court cases and litigation that is certain to follow. Why give the courts the opportunity to determine legislative intent, when the proclaimed problems to be solved are either fictional or admittedly unresolved by the legislation?

Full-Day Kindergarten Funding   Finally, late in the day there was one bright spot, whereby a bipartisan majority soundly endorsed funding for full-day kindergarten. Now let’s be clear—this is still not full funding for full-day kindergarten. Instead of 50% funding at the paltry sum the State claims as covering an “adequate education,” this legislation moves the funding to just over 75% funding, meaning more monies flowing to towns, cities and school districts, but still not full funding. But, you take what you can get, and in this case, that meant also accepting provisions for legalizing keno in New Hampshire. Without the keno provision, the kindergarten funding would not pass, even though the two items are not related, so even many long-time opponents of casinos and expanded gambling swallowed hard and voted for the bill. Keno puts the kindergarten funding back into the Senate and eventually, a likely committee of conference to iron out House/Senate differences. If keno disappears from the final version of the bill, so be it, but at least increased funding for full-day kindergarten is still alive and kicking.

Budget Next Steps  The House will meet again next week for a brief session but both House and Senate are now really focused upon committees of conference to iron out differences on specific pieces of legislation, including the budget passed two days ago by the Senate. That budget uses conservative revenue estimates to justify limiting spending increases, although monies were found to increase funding for charter schools (no such increases for public schools) and for funding a full-time publicist/spokesperson for Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. The House will undoubtedly non-concur with the Senate’s budget next week on June 8, which means differences will be resolved in a committee of conference composed of select Senators and Representatives. If they could only smoke cigars in the State House or Legislative Office Building then we could truly say the budget will be worked out in a “smoke-filled room.”   Instead, the air will be clearer, but the results will still be murky.
In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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