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Granite State Rumbling: Every Child Matters NH’s Goals For 2017

Now that the elections and Thanksgiving are in our rearview mirror, our attention turns to the holidays of December and the hope of what a new year will bring.

2016 has been a long year for the advocates, organizations, and agencies across the state and across the country who have worked tirelessly to ensure that basic needs are met for our most vulnerable populations. It has been an even longer and much harder year for the children and families who continue to feel the effects of a shredded safety net and an opiate crisis that shows no mercy on those who are afflicted with the disease and the innocent victims caught in the current.

We have watched more of our children slip into poverty, go to bed hungry, and wonder where that bed is going to be tomorrow night. And as December’s cold winds blow through the state we now fear for those who have no place warm to escape them.

The Thanksgiving break afforded me the time to spend time with loved ones, eat some great desserts, watch some football, and reflect on the feelings of frustration and anger I have felt lately. I have regrouped and am now ready to get back to work. That work means playing offense instead of playing defense (stealing some football terminology).

We have gotten pretty good at playing defense when it comes to addressing the difficult challenges that face our state. The primary obstacle we face is not related to a lack of goodwill, but rather to the fundamental way we understand the nature of the problems we face. More times than not, we merely respond to symptoms of a given problem [defense] and don’t pay adequate attention to the problem that is producing the symptoms [offense]. All of which puts the cart before the horse and keeps us from truly moving forward.

Take, for instance, the growing issue of child poverty. When we think about helping those in need (“giving back to those less fortunate,” as the popular adage goes), many of us usually focus on acts of charitable giving. After all it is the season of giving. In the malls we find Christmas trees with cards on them asking for a gift for a child in need. At the grocery store are pre-packaged groceries that we can purchase for a family in need. Charity in its many forms tries to help people who are in need, which is certainly important and worthy of our best efforts.

But even more important is figuring out why people are in need in the first place, and then working toward alleviating the root causes of such need (it’s one thing to give food to a person who is hungry, but it’s another thing entirely to eliminate the reasons they are hungry in the first place). While we can of course celebrate acts of charity that take place in our community, the ultimate goal isn’t simply about responding to symptoms, but abolishing the problems that produce the symptoms.

So, don’t you think that at a time when we see the income gap widening, ninety-five percent of the recovery gains since 2009 going to the top 1%, over ¼ of all jobs in the U.S. paying below poverty wages, and child well-being indicators falling in our state, now is the right time for all of us to rally around a set of common goals that will strengthen families and put them on a course leading to economic security?

Take a look at Every Child Matters’ 5 priority areas in the section below. Is there an area that catches your attention? Give us a call or send us an e-mail and we’ll give you some ideas about how you can help advocate. Your voice is especially important now.  

Many New Hampshire kids are doing fine – but many are not.

1. Equal Opportunity:  Children remain more likely to be poor than any other age group, with more than one in ten in poverty in New Hampshire in 2015 (10.7 percent), and the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to grow.

2. Family and Work:  The Census Bureau data shows that in 58 percent of poor New Hampshire families, at least one person worked, although not always full time or year-round. Even when work and other income helps people to live up to twice the poverty line (up to $37,742 for a family of three), most people recognize that making ends meet is not that easy for those this near poverty. One in five Granite Staters are trying to get by with incomes this low. 

The average cost in New Hampshire for an infant in a child care center is more than $11,800 a year for an infant and for a 4-year-old, it’s more than $21,250.

3. Access to Education:  New Hampshire currently does not have a state-funded preschool program. Only 4 percent of 3-year-olds and 6 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in a public preschool program. A year of tuition for an instate student at the University of New Hampshire costs $16,017 plus room, board, books and incidentals $27,000+. The maximum Pell grant award covers only $5,775.

4. Children’s Healthcare:  12,000 New Hampshire children were without health insurance in 2014 and 94,153 children in New Hampshire were enrolled in Medicaid in 2014, increasing 15.1% from 2013. 

5. Children’s Safety: In 2014, New Hampshire had 15,184 total referrals for child abuse and neglect. Of those, 9,289 reports were referred for investigation.

In 2014, there were 646 victims of abuse or neglect in New Hampshire, a rate of 2.4 per 1,000 children, decreasing 21.4% from 2013. Of these children, 79.1% were neglected, 8.7% were physically abused, and 15.5% were sexually abused.

Equal Opportunity. Individual outcomes will always vary. But when every child gets a fair shot at success, America’s families, communities and the economy as a whole will benefit. Lifting children from poverty and removing discrimination or other barriers to development and achievement are a key government function. As noted by the eminent researcher and author Robert Putnam, denial of equal opportunity is a dagger to the heart of the American Dream.

Family and Work. Stagnant incomes and workplace practices that pit being a parent against being a provider strain families and harm kids. Working and having a family shouldn’t be so hard. Paid sick and family medical leave, access to affordable childcare and better incomes can help provide the economic security and flexibility that parents need to build their careers and support their families

Access to Education.  Research demonstrates that 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs between the ages of zero and five. Yet little is invested at the federal level in early childhood education. All kids should have access to high-quality preschool regardless of parental income or where they live. Later in life, a teenager willing to work hard in college to get skills needed for success should not be blocked due to race and should not be burdened with a level of debt more crushing than that endured by any previous generation.

Children’s Healthcare.  More children have access to health care than ever due to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) and children’s protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While not perfect, these laws prohibit insurance company discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions, require insurance companies to cover child preventive care, and help ensure families won’t go broke when their child gets sick. Proposed policy changes must detail how children’s protections will be maintained or enhanced.

Children’s Safety. Every child needs a safe environment in their home, school and neighborhood. Preventing child abuse and neglect, as well as minimizing gun violence, a leading killer of children and teens, are top priorities for voters.

Granite State Rumblings: Strengthening Head Start Programs

school-bus-thoseguys119-flikr-cc

Head Start School Bus (Image by THOSEGUYS119 FLIKR CC)

Head Start programs are undergoing major requirement revisions for the first time since 1975. Announced on September 1st the Obama administration’s proposals include expanding Head Start to a full day for everyone, raising professional development and curriculum standards, and beefing up services for children with disabilities or who still need to learn English.

“Today we’re unveiling some of the most significant improvements we’ve ever made to Head Start,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, who herself attended the early childhood education program as a child in West Virginia. “The new standards strengthen educational practices and are based on the best research about how children learn and develop.”

Head Start, which targets low-income families, enrolls nearly 1 million children every year, and has served more than 33 million children since its inception in 1965. These new standards are the largest revision of the program since 1975 according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the biggest changes included in the overhaul is the requirement that Head Start centers offer childcare for a full day over the course of a full school year, which will be phased in over the next five years. Currently Head Start preschool programs are required to operate at least 128 days a year and offer at least a 3.5 hour day. 

A second major focus of the new standards is to solidify the critical role of parents in the program, which has been a long-standing cornerstone of the Head Start program. 

The new Head Start Program Performance Standards are effective as of November 7, 2016. However, in order to afford grantees a reasonable period of time to implement certain provisions that have changed significantly from previous standards, the final rule allows programs additional time to comply with some specific provisions.

Here are some of the highlights of the new requirements from the Administration for Children and Families at HHS:

  • Education services which focus on effective teaching practices and key areas of child development, using stronger curriculum requirements and child assessment data, to ensure effective teaching in Head Start, so that children are academically and socially competent. 
  • Reduce bureaucratic burden on programs by cutting the current 1,400 Head Start regulatory standards by approximately 30 percent. This will improve regulatory clarity and transparency by eliminating unnecessary and duplicative rules while setting high standards that will drive program performance. This will allow programs to focus on outcomes over process and plans. 
  • Over time, programs will serve Head Start preschoolers for a full school day and a full school year, which is based on research and evidence that shows that students who spend more time in high quality early learning programs learn more and are better prepared for kindergarten. 
  • Programs will create a system of evidence-based, individualized professional development that builds teacher skills and core competencies which includes the use of targeted intensive mentoring and coaching. 
  • Produce higher returns on taxpayer investment. When children start school ready to succeed, they benefit and the entire nation benefits. High quality Head Start programs have demonstrated outcomes that are just as strong as, if not stronger than, the best public pre-k programs in the country. Research has shown that comprehensive services – physical and mental health and family engagement – are critical to promoting children’s school readiness and to reaping the economic return on investment in early childhood.

The release is especially timely, since the findings of two research reports published in August found long-term gains for Head Start graduates. For example, a study from the Hamilton Project says Head Start participation increased the probability that children would later graduate from high school and attend college. What’s more, there was evidence for social-emotional growth in such areas as self-control and self-esteem. You can download the full report from the website for The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative of the Brookings Institution. 


NHStepUp2016

Nashua Teachers Contract Stalls, Union Calls For Collaboration

Nashua Teachers Union calls on the Nashua Board of Education to work together and create a fair agreement that is best for the students, teachers and the entire community.

ntu-logoNASHUA, N.H.– The President of the Nashua Teachers’ Union called on the Board of Education today to choose collaboration and cooperation over contentiousness, saying swift completion of a new, fair agreement would help stabilize the teaching force and enable the district to better attract and retain teachers – and serve students.

“We are at a crossroads,” said NTU President Adam Marcoux of the agreement that expired on August 31. “We can choose to go in the direction of collaboration and cooperation, and working together on a fair agreement that reflects the challenges and demands of our profession.  Or, we can go the other way. The NTU believes it’s better for parents and students – and our entire community – to work together than to have a bitter, divisive fight. We invite the board to join with us and move forward.”

Marcoux noted the district filled about 100 teaching vacancies since the end of June. The vast majority of teachers leaving, he said, chose not to return to Nashua because salaries and benefits lag behind what other education professionals are paid in neighboring communities.

“Competitive salaries are essential if Nashua is going to attract the best teachers to serve students – and, once hired, keep teaching here. A revolving door benefits no one.  The NTU is looking to the Board to negotiate a fair agreement that enables the district to move forward, and is not a penny more – nor a penny less – than taxpayers can afford,” Marcoux added. “Salaries across the board must reflect the knowledge, skills and dedication that Nashua’s teachers bring to their classrooms every day, and which enable us to continue to deliver a first-rate public education to all students.” 

Marcoux said he is hopeful that talks, which resume with a mediation session on September 13, will be productive and result in a swift settlement. He said teachers are frustrated at the fourth expired contract in five years, and the lack of progress so far on a new deal.  He said the NTU’s membership voted recently to resign from district committees on September 14 if no deal is struck, but would continue to write letters of recommendations for students; serve as club advisors; and continue volunteering their personal time to help the districts most precious resource – its students.

“There is considerable frustration among the membership with the way this Board is currently handling negotiations, but that frustration won’t impact our work on behalf of students,” Marcoux said. “We hope the board can get itself together and work productively this week to ensure our September 13 mediation session is successful.”

Andru Volinsky Wins Another Landmark Case For Adequate Funding Of Our Public Schools

NH Supreme Court Confirms That A Cap On Adequacy Grants To Public Schools Is Unconstitutional 

Since New Hampshire’s landmark school funding decision in 1993, known as the Claremont Decision, state and local municipalities have been battling over adequate funding for our public schools.

In the 2009-2010 legislative session, the legislature instituted a cap on how much the state would increase school funding to cities and towns. This cap meant that after a few years rapidly growing cities like Dover were no longer receiving adequate funding based on the number of students enrolled in the district.  Dover says the cap resulted in a loss of over $14 million dollars over the last seven years.

Andru Volinsky fullAndru Volinsky, who was lead council in the Claremont Decision, took Dover’s case to the State Supreme Court. Yesterday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court confirmed that the cap on education funding to public schools was unconstitutional.

“The importance of the case goes well beyond the payment of $1.5 million to city of Dover taxpayers and another $10 million to about 40 other communities,” said Andru Volinsky.  “The state Legislature sought to ignore the constitutional mandate to fairly fund schools as their predecessors did 25 years ago in the Claremont School Funding case.  The decision reaffirms that the constitutional requirement to fairly fund schools remains a state responsibility that the courts will carefully oversee.’

“Legislative indifference to the needs of school children and local property tax payers did not carry the day even though that is what the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, as intervenors, wanted to protect,” Volinsky added.  

After the ruling was sent out, Governor Maggie Hassan had this to say:

“When this case was originally filed last year, I agreed with the Attorney General’s determination that the funding levels for certain school districts in Fiscal Year 2016 were not legally defensible. The Superior Court’s decision today reaffirms the validity of concerns raised by communities about school funding levels as well as the Attorney General’s original determination.” 

“Meeting our obligations to local school districts is critical to ensuring the strong public education system necessary to helping our students develop the skills needed for success in the innovation economy. With a strengthening economy and a strong revenue surplus, I supported legislation earlier this year that would have addressed the concerns raised by communities, and I continue to be disappointed that the legislature did not come together to do the right thing for our students by fully funding adequacy in these districts. I continue to call on the legislature to meet our state’s obligation to pay these districts the money they are owed under the law, and my door is open to legislative leadership from both parties to discuss a way forward,” concluded Hassan. 

Senator David Watters of Dover introduced legislation in 2013 that recognized the injustice of the adequacy cap and raised the limit.  He introduced legislation in 2015 and 2016 to lift the cap completely, while working successfully to eliminate the cap in FY18

Image from 2014 of Senator David Watters (D-Dover)

Image from 2014 of Senator David Watters (D-Dover)

“I applaud the decision of the Superior Court and urge Senate President Morse and Speaker Jasper to forgo appeal and provide the funding as quickly as possible. It is far past time for the State to fulfill its constitutional duty to fund education adequacy fairly and fully,” said Watters 

 “With this ruling, Dover and students in other communities will no longer be shortchanged. I agree with the Governor: funding be provided immediately. If legislation is needed to provide the funding, I am prepared to introduce a bill as early as the Senate veto session on September 29,” Watters added. 

Senator Watters has worked closely with Mayor Weston, the Dover City Council, and the Dover School Board to fight for Dover’s funding. Senator Watters remarked: “Mayor Weston and city officials have fought tirelessly for our schools, and I am glad that our teamwork has culminated in this victory.”

Volinsky echoed Sen, Watters sentiment by adding, “The City of Dover, Mayor Weston and the members of the City Council, the Dover School Board, Sen. David Watters, and the Dover delegation to the House are all to be commended for their courage in challenging this latest effort to circumvent constitutional responsibilities and downshift to local communities the state’s duty to fairly fund education.”

Featured image of Dover City Hall by Alexius Horatius CC 2.0

Local Education Leaders Endorse Jeanne Dietsch In NH Senate District 9 Primary

District 9 State Senate candidate Jeanne Dietsch and State Rep. Ivy Vann burned the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) “pledge” in front of Peterborough’s historic Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall on Grove Street on August 3rd.

District 9 State Senate candidate Jeanne Dietsch and State Rep. Ivy Vann burned the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) “pledge” in front of Peterborough’s historic Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall on Grove Street on August 3rd.

Educators tout Dietsch’s commitment to quality education for all children, keeping the state’s promises to students and teachers 

Peterborough, NH—The Jeanne Dietsch for NH Senate campaign released endorsements this morning from education leaders who have worked in the local schools and live in Senate District 9.

Said Dietsch, “If we want to build companies with good-paying jobs, if we want young people to live in New Hampshire, we must provide educational excellence, which requires that we fulfill our responsibilities to our teachers and our students. I will work to ensure that our teachers have the freedom and the resources to actually teach, not just prep their students for standardized tests. And I’ll work to ensure that our students are challenged, empowered and equipped to pursue their dreams in the 21st Century.”

Local education leaders endorsing Dietsch gave these statements explaining their support:

May Clark, former Chairperson, ConVal School Board, Dublin:

“Jeanne Dietsch served with me for three years on the ConVal School Board during the time that I was the chairperson. She was then, as she is now, level-headed, energetic, and committed to making the best decisions to further the quality of education for all of our children. Jeanne was an asset to the School Board in those days, and I know she will be an effective leader in the New Hampshire state Senate.”

Greg Scerbinski, ConVal High School economics teacher for 34 years and former ConVal Education Association president, Peterborough:

“As a retired teacher and lifelong member of NEA-NH, I’ll be voting for Jeanne Dietsch for state Senate in District 9 because I know Jeanne will fight for good schools and for keeping the state’s promises to our students and our teachers. She’ll work to restore teachers’ freedom to actually teach, give our youth a top-notch education, restore state aid to schools to help lower property taxes and honor the commitments the state has made to retired educators. I’ve known Jeanne for over 20 years, and I know she’ll be there for us.”

Mary Lou O’Neil, School to Career Coordinator at ConVal High School, Hancock:

“As the School To Career Coordinator at ConVal High School for nearly 20 years, I know we need to find jobs for our graduates and we need more young people to ‘stay, work and play’ in NH. Jeanne gets that – and that’s important to me – and to the economic development of our region. Of all the candidates running for NH state Senate, I’m supporting Jeanne because she has a vision for how to keep and attract young families and entrepreneurial people who will start home-grown New Hampshire-based businesses. As a successful business person herself, Jeanne knows how to help start-ups thrive here while protecting New Hampshire’s quality of life. Her business background will also be a big plus in the general election. In short, I believe in Jeanne’s vision for how to reinvigorate the local economy, I respect her business expertise, and I admire the passion and energy she is bringing to her campaign for the NH state Senate.” 

Dietsch is running for state Senate in District 9, which includes Bedford, Dublin, Greenfield, Fitzwilliam, Hancock, Jaffrey, Lyndeborough, Mont Vernon, New Boston, Peterborough, Richmond, Sharon, Temple and Troy. Her website is www.JeanneDietsch.org.

Mark Connolly Releases Education Policy Plan

CONCORD — Today, Mark Connolly, Democratic candidate for Governor, released his education policy plan, which prioritizes equality of opportunity and access, sensible funding mechanisms, and collaborative engagement with the private sector. 

The plan includes four policy areas: providing students with a world-class education, building a funding system that works, promoting collaborative engagement, and ensuring college affordability. Connolly will lead a conference call to discuss his vision for education in the Granite State, with special guest Dana Hilliard, Mayor of Somersworth and Principal of Somersworth Middle School.

I know firsthand that education makes a difference in every child’s life. As Governor, giving every New Hampshire student the same opportunities I had in the classroom will be my top priority. 

Access to quality public education, with strong teachers and caring mentors, made all the difference in my life. Without a public school teacher who stood up for me and encouraged me to realize my full potential, I would never have been driven to excel in high school, attend and graduate college and business school, and build a successful career in the public and private sectors. 

Studies estimate 68 percent of New Hampshire jobs will require education beyond high school by 2020; based on current trends, it’s unlikely New Hampshire will be able to keep up. To grow our economy and create the opportunity every Granite Stater deserves—the ability to live, work, and raise a family of their own right here in New Hampshire—we must address this disparity now.

The Community College System of New Hampshire has created the “65×25” initiative to help ensure that, by 2025, 65 percent of Granite Staters in the workforce have some form of post-secondary education.

As Governor, I will work to give every Granite Stater a world-class education—starting with our youngest students and continuing through graduation—to make sure that every student has career-ready skills to fill the innovation-economy jobs being created all across New Hampshire.

Connolly’s education plan is available below and online at MarkConnollyNH.com/Education

Provide Students with a World-Class Education

Our children deserve a world-class education, starting in early childhood and continuing through graduation, complete with career-ready skills. They’re not just competing with students from Massachusetts, North Carolina, and California for jobs anymore—they’re competing with students in Singapore, Shanghai, and Taipei, too. That means we need to innovate when it comes to how we approach education. 

  1. Reaching young people early in life is critical to ensuring their future success. We need to further implement early-childhood education programs across New Hampshire and fully fund universal kindergarten in every community in our state.
  2. Our focus on education must evolve to provide a workforce for our business community. As New Hampshire’s innovation economy grows, we need to prioritize Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Design, and Math (STEAM) programs in our schools to give our young people the opportunity to pursue the careers of the future right here in New Hampshire. 
  3. Students succeed when they have great teachers. We must do more to attract and retain top-tier educators in our public schools, including paying them a quality salary, offer the training they need to succeed and the resources they need in the classroom, and guaranteeing them a safe and secure retirement.

Build a Funding System That Works

For decades, our government has failed to properly fund public education. The current stabilization-and-cap formula just doesn’t work. That’s why, as Governor, I will focus on reworking the state’s contribution to public education. 

  1. New Hampshire’s education-funding formula cannot turn into a political calculation. We need to target aid to the communities that need it most, and we must ensure that students are not left behind due to geography. Every New Hampshire student deserves the same opportunities to succeed, no matter where they live.
  2. School-building aid needs to be incorporated into our education funding formula to maintain our valuable facilities. Students cannot succeed in crumbling schools and outdated structures.
  3. Resources must go where they’re needed most: into the classroom. We should consider consolidating some administrative responsibilities across school districts in order to reduce costs elsewhere.

 Promote Collaborative Engagement

We must also ensure New Hampshire’s newest and most innovative businesses have the talent pool they need. I call it collaborative engagement: matching the needs of businesses with education. By offering career-ready standards, we can prepare a new generation of students for 21st-century professions right here in New Hampshire. 

  1. New Hampshire needs to better measure what’s actually learned, both in and out of school. Our educational system should measure more than time in the classroom, and it’s time we moved beyond ideological debates about standardized testing and start moving toward solutions that allow our graduates to compete on a global scale.
  2. Students should be encouraged to pursue career-ready skills. Competency-based education should be a priority of our education system, not an afterthought, and the state should increase support to programs like New Hampshire Scholars and WorkReadyNH, which provide students opportunities to develop career-ready skills while still enrolled in school.
  3. Investment in collaborative engagement is the way toward the future. New Hampshire’s business community must actively engage with our education system and provide resources to allow students to pursue internships, mentorships, apprenticeships, and vocational trades while in high school.
  4. New Hampshire should promote more STEM and STEAM opportunities. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation estimates there are more than 700 STEM-related efforts across New Hampshire. As Governor, I will convene a STEM Leadership Council to ensure these efforts are coordinated with agreed-upon goals and measured benchmarks.

Ensure High School Graduates Can Afford Higher Education

We are a stronger state when our high school and college students stay in New Hampshire after graduation. But, all too often, our graduates leave the state to pursue a higher education, a career, or both—and they don’t come back. Our growing innovation economy requires an educated workforce, and we must reverse this alarming trend if New Hampshire is to succeed. 

  1. More New Hampshire students should be prepared for a great career in the Granite State. Expand certificate, dual-admission, and college-credit attainment programs in high school—so we can ensure our children are both college- and career-ready and equipped to compete with their peers in every other state as well as around the globe.
  2. Synergy between community and four-year colleges will help keep students local. Further aligning the Community College System of New Hampshire with the University System of New Hampshire would allow students to seamlessly transfer credits earned towards a four-year degree—helping them reach their potential in the world of higher education without having to leave the Granite State.
  3. Change begins with properly funding higher education. As Governor, I would restore funding to the University System of New Hampshire to the pre-2011 level of $104 million.

Van Ostern says Sununu’s Pledge to “Gut the Board of Education” is “The Sort of Insult and Threat You’d Expect from Donald Trump”

At Debate last week, Sununu said, “I’m Going To Gut The Board Of Education”

Teacher calls threat “offensive” and School Board member says it’s “totally irresponsible”

Colin Van Ostern

Colin Van Ostern announces his run for Governor of New Hampshire in Manchester, New Hampshire on Thursday, October 8, 2015.
Copyright 2015 Rob Strong

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Yesterday, educators and education advocates joined Democratic candidate for Governor, Colin Van Ostern in a conference call, where they condemned Chris Sununu for pledging to “Gut the Board of Education” at last week’s Republican gubernatorial debate.

“We need to invest in education, not ‘gut’ education in our state,” said Colin Van Ostern, Democratic candidate for Governor. “Chris Sununu’s rhetoric is as bad as Ted Gatsas’s record. We’ve seen what happens when that sort of a threat gets put into practice, that’s the attitude Ted Gatsas had as Mayor in Manchester. We’ve seen budgets slashed, class sizes ‘swollen’ and surrounding towns going out of the school district. Now, unfortunately Chris Sununu is trying to out-Gatsas Ted Gatsas.  […] This is the sort of insult and threat that you’d expect from Donald Trump.  A Governor needs to bring people together to solve problems, not tear them apart and insult them. As Governor, I will work with teachers, parents and education leaders to make sure every kid has the chance at a world-class education.”

New Hampshire educators also offered a stern rebuke of Chris Sununu’s remark, including Karen Ladd who has worked very closely with New Hampshire’s Board of Education to deliver innovative and award-winning curriculum to her students at Sanborn High School.

“Chris Sununu’s words are offensive and they treat educators and education leaders like enemies. I was deeply offended – as a teacher and as a taxpayer,” said Karen Ladd, an art teacher at Sanborn High School in Kingston. “New Hampshire has some of the best schools in the country and by cooperating with education leaders at the state school board, we’re decreasing reliance on standardized tests and other states look to NH as a model for what we are doing.”

She added that the Board “has had a profound impact on my ability to provide the best educational opportunities for my own students. Having the Board of Education available to help monitor and coordinate our efforts, to provide this education regardless of zip codes and where students are in the state, really ensures that I can spend more time working with my students and design an engaging curriculum. Frankly, we need a Governor that will support this joint effort, not undermine it.”

“The very thought that somebody could say that we should gut the Board of Ed is just totally irresponsible,” added Leslie Want, a Manchester School Board member who represents Ward 4.

Kuster Hosts College Affordability Forum at ConVal Regional High School

(May 3, 2016 ǀ Rep. Kuster with ConVal High School students following her forum today.)

(May 3, 2016 ǀ Rep. Kuster with ConVal High School students following her forum today.)


Peterborough, NH
 – This morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) hosted a forum at ConVal Regional High School with students, administrators, and community members to discuss the importance of increasing college affordability. The forum gave students and parents a chance to engage with a panel of key stakeholders in the higher education arena, and discuss initiatives aimed at increasing access and reducing the costs of postsecondary education. 

“Everyone knows that a good education is the key to success. Yet far too many families in the Granite State and across the country simply cannot afford to send their children to college, or to fund any postsecondary studies,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “In the land of opportunity, that’s simply not right. That’s why I’ve been working on a number of initiatives to reduce the cost of college, and I’ve held a series of forums at colleges and high schools across the state to bring together stakeholders and families to discuss how we can work collaboratively to ensure families have the support they need to help their children access higher education. I thank all the participants in today’s forum for contributing to a robust discussion about higher education costs, and I look forward to bringing their thoughts and comments back to Washington with me, where I will continue to push for measures on the federal level to increase college affordability.”

Students and parents were invited to attend today’s open forum at ConVal High School, where they were encouraged to share their thoughts about how the federal government can help reduce education costs for Granite State families. Kuster was joined at the forum by a number of local education stakeholders who are also working towards this mutual goal: Tori Berube, the Vice President of College Planning and Engagement at the NH Higher Education Assistance Foundation; Tom Raffio, the Chair of the NH State Board of Education; Mark Rubinstein, the President of the Granite State College; Lizbeth Gonzalez, the Vice President for Student and Community Affairs at Nashua Community College; Karen Shedin, the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Rivier University; and a number of counselors and educators from ConVal Regional High School. During the forum, participants and audience members discussed a number of topics, including college and career readiness, financial aid and grant funding, college planning resources, and dual enrollment programs, among others. 

Kuster has long fought to ensure that all Granite State students can access the college education and job training necessary to further their careers, including through the critical role she played in creating New Hampshire’s UNIQUE College Savings Program. During today’s forum, she outlined current steps she is taking in Congress to help parents save for their children’s education, and measures she is supporting to ensure students are prepared for college, including her support for the recent reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which rectifies many of the flawed provisions implemented under the No Child Left Behind Act. Kuster successfully fought Tea Party attempts to allow student loan interest rates to double back in 2012, and she is currently pushing for legislation that would allow students and their families to refinance their loans at a lower rate. Kuster has held a number of college affordability forums at high schools and colleges across the state, and she works to help students and their families learn about resources that can help them send their children to college.

Granite State Rumblings: Helping Children Through Extended Illnesses and Importance Of Reading Everyday

One of the hardest things for a family to go through is a child’s extended illness. It does not matter how old the child is, or how severe the illness, when your kid is not well, the world seems to be off its axis.

The longer the illness lingers and the more severe it is can bring great stress to the primary caregiver, family relationships, and the ability to rationalize. All you want is for the pain to stop, the medications to do their job, and the smile on your child’s face to return. Time seems to move more slowly and days and nights become one.

If the child needs to be hospitalized it can be a difficult time for him or her no matter their age. Illness and hospital stays are both stressful. They disrupt a child’s life and can interfere with normal development.

While they are in the hospital, children may miss their friends and family. They may be bored, and they may be afraid. They may not understand why they are in the hospital, or they may have false beliefs about what is happening to them.

Many hospitals now have on staff as part of their multi-disciplinary health care team someone who is known as a Child Life Specialist. I first heard of this position when a former intern asked me to write a recommendation to include with her application to the program.

Since then, I have seen the amazing work they do while Spidey has been in and out of Boston Children’s Hospital the last four months due to complications from a perforated appendix. I also have high praise and much admiration for the doctors, nurses, and other members of his medical team. His care has been extraordinary. He will overcome this and flag football, fishing, and Fisher Cats games will be back on our agenda.

I hope that you never have to spend a prolonged amount of time in a hospital with your child or grandchild, but if you do, please be sure to ask for the Child Life Specialist to pay a visit.

Here is information about the Child Life Specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital:

Child Life Specialists enhance a patient’s emotional, social and cognitive growth during a hospital stay, giving special consideration to each child’s family, culture and stage of development.

Using developmental interventions and play, they help patients and families adjust to and understand the hospital and their medical situation.

Child Life Specialists:

  • Help patients develop ways to cope with fear, anxiety, separation and adjustment to the hospital experience
  • Provide consultation to the health care team regarding developmental and psycho-social issues
  • Provide preparation and individualized support before and after medical procedures
  • Facilitate developmentally appropriate play, including medical play, at the bedside, in activity rooms and in clinic areas
  • Initiate tutoring services

As professionals trained to work with children in medical settings, each Specialist holds a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the areas of child life, child development, special education or recreational therapy. Many Child Life Specialists are also professionally certified and affiliated with the National Child Life Council.

Child Life Specialists are also available to help families with questions that may arise about a child’s behavior and adjustment to home or school after they have been in the hospital. We offer:

  • “Back-to-school” programs, on referral, following a patient’s extended hospital stay
  • Resources tailored to meet your child’s needs
  • Suggestions to ease transition and recovery

Visit Activities for Patients for more information about activities provided by Child Life Specialists.

Mother reading to children (Neeta Lind Flikr)GROWING UP GRANITE

Have you seen those bumper stickers that say, Read Aloud to a Child Every Day? Does reading aloud to a child really matter?

YES!

And here is why:

Reading aloud helps children acquire early language skills.

  • Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to literacy acquisition.  Among other things, reading aloud builds word-sound awareness in children, a potent predictor of reading success.
  • “Children who fall seriously behind in the growth of critical early reading skills have fewer opportunities to practice reading. Evidence suggests that these lost practice opportunities make it extremely difficult for children who remain poor readers during the first three years of elementary school to ever acquire average levels of reading fluency.” Torgeson, J. Avoiding the Devastating Downward Spiral, American Educator. (2004)
  • Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Reading aloud stimulates language development even before a child can talk. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child’s vocabulary at age 3. The landmark Hart-Risley study on language development documented that children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers before the age of 4. Hart, B. Risley, T. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children (1995), Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Reading aloud helps children develop positive associations with books and reading.

  • The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life.
  • Reading aloud is a proven technique to help children cope during times of stress or tragedy.
  • Reading aloud is a good way to help a child acclimate to new experiences. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition. For instance, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows her that her anxiety is normal.

Reading aloud helps children build a stronger foundation for school success.

  • “What happens during the first months and years of life matters, a lot, not because this period of development provides an indelible blueprint for adult well-being, but because it sets either a sturdy or fragile stage for what follows.” J.S. Shonkoff & D. Phillips, Eds., From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000), Washington D.C.; National Research Council & The Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press.
  • Once children start school, difficulty with reading contributes to school failure, which can increase the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy – all of which can perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.
  • Reading aloud in the early years exposes children to story and print knowledge as well as rare words and ideas not often found in day-to-day conversations or screen time.
  • Reading aloud gives children the opportunity to practice listening – a crucial skill for kindergarten and beyond.
  • Reading aloud to a child gives them the basics of how to read a book. Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading.
  • Reading aloud helps them develop more logical thinking skills. Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is their ability to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgment. As your toddler or preschooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his own world, he’ll become more excited about the stories you share.

Reading aloud is, according to the landmark 1985 report “Becoming a Nation of Readers,” “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.”

Despite this advice, however, some educators and many parents don’t read aloud to children from a young age and thus fail to nurture avid and skilled readers. Indeed, this is especially true for children in low-income families. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, only 48 percent of families below the poverty level read to their preschoolers each day, compared with 64 percent of families whose incomes were at or above the poverty level. Children from low-income families are also less likely to have exposure to print materials.

So now that Spring is in the air and Summer is right around the corner have some fun, free time with your child. Visit the library and get some books.

Then in addition to the usual reading places—a couch, an overstuffed armchair, a child’s bed—consider less traditional ones:

  • Outside under a shady tree, in a sandbox or a hammock, or at a nearby park.
  • Toss a sheet over a clothesline or table to create a reading hideaway.
  • Keep a book in the glove compartment of your car for long road trips or traffic delays.
  • Spread a blanket on the floor for an indoor reading picnic.
  • Use your imagination. Almost every room in your house offers exciting reading possibilities.

Happy reading!

Senator David Watters Applauds Senate Passage of Legislation to Help Finance Pre-Kindergarten Education

CONCORD- Today, the NH Senate approved an innovative “pay for success” financing program for pre-kindergarten education. After the Senate passage of SB 503, Senator David Watters (D- Dover) released the following comments:

“I applaud my Senate colleagues for supporting this innovative approach to financing pre-kindergarten education,” said Senator Watters. “New Hampshire is one of a few states in the country that does not provide early childhood education, but SB 503 gives our communities an alternative way to finance this education without putting the burden on the local school districts.” 

Through SB 503’s “pay for success” model, funding for pre-kindergarten education would come from private investors who would then be reimbursed by the state if the program results in improved third grade reading levels or reduces the cost of special education remedial services. The payments will only be made if savings exceed the costs of the program. The first “pay for success” program was established in Utah in 2013 and has proven effective at reducing the cost of special education services and saving the school districts money. The total savings in the first year of the Utah program was $281,550.

“SB 503 is a ‘New Hampshire’ solution to improving education for our children by creating a partnership between our educators and private investors. I thank my Senate colleagues for their support, as this legislation is critical to expanding access to quality education to our children.”

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