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

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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.

Continued Growing Support For Public Schools By Parents In Newest Poll

Parents Agree: We Need More Investment In Public Schools Not More “Choice”

Today, the American Federation of Teachers released the results of a new nationwide poll of parents that shows growing support for expanding public schools. The poll also shows that parents want to see more investment in local public schools over more “choice” in schools.

The survey, conducted by Hart Research Associates for the AFT, consisted of interviews with 1,200 public school parents in major U.S. cities including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and San Francisco.

“We wanted to know what parents are thinking,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a recent phone interview unveiling the poll. “These results match what I hear from parents and communities across the country.”

Weingarten continued, “There is zero ambiguity when it comes to what parents want for their children’s education: safe and welcoming, well-funded neighborhood public schools that help children develop their knowledge and skills and ensure equal opportunity for all kids. Parents deeply support the public schools their children attend and are happy with the job public schools are doing. And while we will never be satisfied until every public school is a place parents want to send their children, educators want to work, and kids are engaged and happy, these results confirm the sentiment we’ve seen in other recent polls that show support for public education continuing to rise.”

Parents believe in public schools. 73% of the parents polled stated that the public school their child attends provides them with a “good-to-excellent education.” Only 7% of the parents rated their schools as “not-so-good to poor.”

A good education system is the foundation for a strong economy and a healthy society. Parents understand that a strong educational foundation is the best way help their children succeed. The majority of parents polled agreed that, “public schools do more to expand opportunities for low income and minority students.” That is also why 79% of parents believe that their public school is helping their child to “reach their full potential.”

Over the past few decades, public schools have come under attack. Opponents use national standardized tests as the baseline for how well a school is functioning. Schools that did not preform well in these tests, see their budgets decreased and programs cut, which leads to lower test scores and poor performance in successive years.

The use of standardized testing has become the major driving factor in educational reform conversations.   However parents disagree with this notion. 61% of parents believe that “too much emphasis” is being placed on the results of standardized testing.

What is really concerning to parents is cuts to school budgets, increases in class sizes, and cuts to teachers and staff.

Contrary to what many right-wing politicians tell you, parents do not want more “choice” or “vouchers” to send children to private schools. Only 20% of the parents surveyed said we should open more charter schools and provide more vouchers to private schools. The overwhelming majority, 60% of parents strongly agreed “we should focus on ensuring that every child has access to a good public school in their community.”

“This poll confirms what we are hearing from parents and educators here in Florida,” said Christine Bramuchi, Co-Founder and Director of Operations of the Alliance for Public Schools. “Even with a robust charter and voucher program here in Florida, parents overwhelming support their local public schools.”

According to the poll, parents are unified in what they believe is best for their children.

  • 93-94% of parents say they want to reduce class sizes especially in early grades, extra resources for struggling neighborhood schools, and to expand career vocational or technical training.
  • 90-91% of parents say they want curriculums that include music and arts, health and nutrition services through local schools, and to hold charter schools accountable for their performance like public schools.
  • 84-89% or parents say they want more afterschool programs, expanded mentoring programs, high quality preschool for 3 and 4 year olds, additional pay for teachers who work in hard to staff schools. They agree that public schools should be a “community hub” where students and their families can partake in extra enrichment programs.
  • 68% oppose taking money from public schools to increase spending on charter schools and voucher programs.

Weingarten explained that the results of this poll are definitive and that the parents are saying loud and clear, “Stop defunding our schools.”

It is also very clear whom parents trust when it comes to the education of their children, teachers.   By a 79-21% margin, parents agree that teachers have the right ideas when it comes to public schools. Less than half of the parents trust their governor, their local mayor or town official, or their state legislatures when it comes to their children’s education.

Rounding out the bottom of the list, with a dismal 33% support, is President Donald Trump and his Secretary of Education, Besty DeVos.

DeVos is wildly unpopular with parents. Nearly 75% of the parents polled knew about DeVos and her position as Secretary of Education. Of those familiar with DeVos, 44% disapproved of her job performance as Secretary of Education while only 23% actually approved of her performance.

“It’s striking that the agenda being pushed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to defund public education and divert resources to vouchers and other privatization schemes—even when they are cloaked as ‘choice’—is completely at odds with parents’ educational priorities. This is true across every race, political persuasion and area of the country. These results should serve as a clarion call to policymakers to stop defunding our schools and instead deliver on the priorities parents want, to reclaim the promise of public education for all children,” Weingarten added.

The results are the latest in a series of polls released this summer and fall on people’s priorities for public education. Gallup released a survey last week showing support for public schools was up by 7 points compared with 2012. PDK’s annual poll showed deep support for public schools and investments in wraparound services, such as mental health services and after-school programs, and resources to prepare students for successful lives and careers; it also showed strong opposition to funding vouchers for religious schools. And an Education Next poll showed public support for charter schools fell by 12 percentage points over the past year.


All of the data and polling results can be found at AFT.org

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.

#DefendDACA: Labor Celebrates DACA’s 5th Anniversary And Calls On Trump To Extend Program

“The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs provide work authorization to more than 1 million people, preventing workplace exploitation and protecting their freedom to join together in a union. We are all stronger when working people have the status to assert their rights on the job and stand together against a rigged system to change the rules of the economy,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“DACA and TPS holders are members of our families, our unions and our communities who have made positive contributions to our society for many years. We will not allow them to lose their rights and status. We will stand with them in the fight to defend these programs as a necessary part of our long-term struggle to ensure that all working people have rights at work and the freedom to negotiate together for fair pay and conditions,” Trumka added.

Geraldine Vessagne

“TPS has allowed me to provide for my five children, including two back home, and three born here. But this isn’t just about me. Over 50,000 Haitian nationals working in the U.S. have this protected status. We are the engine of Florida’s hospitality industry, much of which greatly depends on our labor,” said Gerdine Vessagne, a housekeeper at Fontainebleau Resort in Miami Beach, FL and a UNITE HERE member.

“If TPS is removed, I will not be able to have a place to live, I will not be able to feed my children. I do not know what will happen to my children here in the United States. Nothing I have, none of my papers, would be valid. I will lose my job, lose my license. I will lose everything.” Vessagne added.

Maria Elena Durazo Unite HERE Vice President

“The American hospitality industry runs because of the women and men on DACA and TPS working in it,” said Maria Elena Durazo, UNITE HERE General Vice President. “These immigrants prove their value to this country every day, and many have been living in and contributing to America for more than a decade. These men and women have deep roots in this country, and are long time employees, spouses, parents, neighbors, and community members. Losing DACA and TPS would destroy both their families and the hotel industry that is built on their work. We must extend TPS and protect DACA – for our sisters and brothers working under them, for their family, and for the health of the American economy.”

Reyna Sorto

Having a protected immigration status provides workers the strength to speak out against employer oppression.

“Employers exploit immigrant workers because they think our fear will keep us silent from speaking out against abuses, even though TPS is not permanent, it does provide a level of protection that can give a worker strength to speak truth to power and denounce exploitative working conditions,” said IUPAT member Reyna Sorto

DACA members are everywhere, including our public school system. Areli Zarate, is a DACA recipient, a High School Spanish Teacher in Austin, Texas, and an AFT member.

Areli Zarate

“DACA allowed me the opportunity to come out of the shadows and lose the fear of deportation. I have a social security number and work permit which gives me the opportunity to follow my dream and teach. I am about to begin my fourth year of teaching with a big heart filled with love and passion for my profession. I am dedicated to my students and it’s hard to see myself doing something else. Yet, every time I have to renew my DACA I am reminded that my status is temporary. I am currently pending a decision on my renewal and I am praying to God that I will be allowed to teach for another 2 years until my next renewal.”

Karen Reyes

Karen Reyes is another DACA recipient and AFT teacher in Austin, TX.

“DACA made me visible. It made me realize that those opportunities that I thought were not for me – were now possible. DACA made it possible for me to be able to find a job in teaching. It made it possible to be able to earn money to be help out my mom while she went through numerous health issues. DACA made it possible for me to teach children who are deaf and hard of hearing. I am able to help these students and families on their journey to being able to communicate and achieve their dreams. It made it possible for me to be more vocal for those who still don’t think they have a voice.”

For five years DACA has proven to be a successful program that has help nearly a million immigrants who came to this country as children. We cannot let President Trump destroy the DACA.

Join the fight to #DefendDACA.

40,000 Educators In Puerto Rico Vote To Join The American Federation of Teachers

AMPR and AFT Affiliate to Combat Austerity and Fight for Public Education and Economic Opportunity for the People of Puerto Rico

‘Tu Lucha es Mi Lucha’ – Trial Affiliation Agreement Will Boost Resources in Fight to Rebuild the Island’s Economy

SAN JUAN— Working people around the world understand they must join together to fight back against austerity politics that is bankrupting cities, states, provinces, and countries across the globe.

Right now, the Puerto Rican people are facing down a $70 billion debt crisis that has gutted the economy and wrought a devastating impact on public education, leading to 60,000 fewer students in the school system and tens of thousands of people leaving the island. The crisis has caused the closure of 164 neighborhood public schools and the stripping of benefits and retirement security from teachers and public employees. Teacher salaries in Puerto Rico have been stagnant, as hedge funds and an unelected control board have tried, and failed, to solve the crisis on their backs and the backs of the most vulnerable.

Today, Puerto Rican educators voted to join forces with one of the most powerful education unions in the United States, the American Federation of Teachers.

The Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the union representing more than 40,000 Puerto Rican educators, AMPR-Local Sindical, and the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers signed a historic affiliation agreement today that will strengthen their joint fight against austerity and privatization and for public education and economic opportunity for the people of Puerto Rico.

AMPR President Aida Diaz said: “Teachers are teachers no matter where they work, and we should be treated as professionals and respected by the government and the public as a vital and necessary resource. Every country wants to improve its economic and social situation, but in Puerto Rico teachers haven’t been treated fairly. For years we have been left behind and denied Social Security, as other professionals have seen improvements to their working conditions, salaries and benefits. With the AFT, we can work hand in hand to improve our working conditions and reclaim all that has been denied to us. In the end, the education system will only improve when teachers are treated as the professionals we are.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “An attack on teachers anywhere is an attack on teachers everywhere. AMPR has been battling against austerity and privatization in Puerto Rico and the everyday consequences for the island’s people. With this affiliation, the 1.6 million members of the AFT join in that fight.

“The people of Puerto Rico didn’t cause this crisis, but they’re forced to shoulder most of the burden because of the actions of hedge funders and irresponsible government deals. The toll has been severe—nearly 60 percent of Puerto Rican children now live in poverty, a rate three times as high as the mainland.

“Our shared values—a strong and equitable economy, great public schools, good healthcare, a strong and vibrant democracy, and the elimination of hate and bigotry—drove us to form this partnership, and we will harness those values to mobilize our members to win.”

Grichelle Toledo, Secretary-General of AMPR-Local Sindical, said: “We believe that this is a great opportunity to join our voices with the voices of 1.6 million AFT members. Both active teachers and retirees will benefit from this affiliation, and we will have a stronger voice in education and politics on the mainland and in Puerto Rico.”

Evelyn DeJesus, a vice president of the AFT’s New York City affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers, said: “I’m a Nuyorican, born in New York with Puerto Rican heritage and roots. For me, this is a very emotional day, and I am honored and excited to be here in this moment in time. We’re here to support and give voice to the children and educators of Puerto Rico. I have been proud to work with AMPR on professional development and training, and we are committed to this partnership for the next three years.”

Prior to the agreement, the AFT and AMPR worked together for months to oppose the PROMESA control board’s attacks on public education and to expose the role of hedge funds in the crisis. Joint trainings have been held to improve communications and member engagement. Separately, the AFT has been assisting AMPR with Puerto Rico bankruptcy issues.

AMPR will be chartered as a state federation of the AFT, with AMPR-Local Sindical, the AMPR’s collective bargaining agent, chartered as an AFT local. The trial affiliation agreement is for three years.

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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