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Republicans Are The Reason Our Public Schools Are Hurting

Jeb Bush on Education

The Republican Primary is always fun to watch as the candidates try to outdo each other the issues. Recently it was what to do about the problems facing our public school systems.

Our public education system is in rough shape and the majority of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Republican politicians who are starving our schools for money, forcing more and more standardized testing, and funneling our tax dollars to for-profit private and religious schools.

When you add all of these programs together it creates a disastrous ticking time bomb of epic failure.

The problems continue to feed themselves. It begins with cuts to the budget that lead to cuts teacher pay. This results in good teachers leaving the district and then bringing in new inexperienced teachers to replace them.

Then they test every student over and over, and reward high performing schools and make more cuts to low performing schools. (Can you see the problem yet?)

Then they give our tax dollars to traveling medicine men, selling snake oil to fix all of our problems by opening charter schools, stealing more money from struggling schools. Some of these schools take millions in federal, state, and local budgets to build new schools and then file for bankruptcy before they even open their doors.

Then they have to make more cuts to teachers and para-professionals starting the austerity cycle all over again.

The American Federation of Teachers thought it would be good to inform all of you of what a few of the Presidential candidates are saying our teachers and our schools.

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Our children deserve better than a schools system that is all test and drill. We need more arts, more music, more science, and more teachers. We need pay our teachers better so that we can retain the best teachers with the pay they deserve. We need to fund our schools properly and stop forcing cuts to staff and services. We need to stop this cycle of austerity that is strangling our public schools.  Our children deserve better!

 

Avard and Groh endorse Arnold for Mayor of Manchester

ARNOLD MAYORAL BID RECEIVES BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT

FROM MANCHESTER SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS

patrick-arnold-3Manchester, New Hampshire – Today, the Patrick Arnold for Mayor campaign picked up two additional endorsements from the Manchester School Board – Dr. John Avard, a Republican from ward 10, and Theo Groh, a Democrat, from ward 3.

“Our city has suffered long enough under failed leadership,” says Avard. “We’re in a downward spiral and we can either continue into the abyss, or stop it and turn things around. That’s why I’m supporting Patrick Arnold to be our new leader in the corner office at City Hall,” Avard continued.

“I’m proud of the support our campaign has earned across party lines. The challenges we face as a city are not Democratic or Republican problems, and there’s more that unites us than divides us in Manchester,” says Arnold. “It’s one thing to work together, yet another thing to get the results our city needs. As mayor, I look forward to doing both,” Arnold continued.

The endorsements come less than twelve hours after Avard led the Manchester School Board in a vote of no confidence in Mayor Ted Gatsas.

Avard and Groh join several of their colleagues in supporting Arnold’s call for authentic change at City Hall. At-large School Board member Kathy Staub, and School Board members Amy Bradley of ward 4, Katie Desrochers of ward 11, and Connie Van Houten of ward 12 have all previously endorsed Arnold’s 2015 mayoral bid.

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Patrick Arnold is a candidate for mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire. Arnold served as a Manchester Alderman from 2009 until 2014. In 2013, he was the Democratic candidate for mayor against Mayor Ted Gatsas, the Republican incumbent. Less than 500 voters separated Manchester from new executive leadership in 2013. In March 2014, the Manchester Board of Aldermen unanimously confirmed Arnold’s appointment to the city’s Conduct Committee. An attorney by trade, Arnold earned his law degree at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. He and his wife, Kathy, have a daughter, Abigail.

Joyce Craig Statement on ‘No Confidence’ Vote by Manchester School Committee

Joyce Craig MayorMANCHESTER – Alderman Joyce Craig has released the following statement on the Manchester Board of School Committee’s vote of ‘no confidence’ in Mayor Gatsas:

“Last night, the Board of School Committee overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Mayor’s ability to improve our schools,” said Craig. “For six years the Mayor has bullied his way through these School Board meetings to the detriment of our students, teachers, and taxpayers.  During his tenure, we have lost teachers, our class sizes are still high, we lost the sending towns of Auburn, Hooksett, and Candia, and now our school year begins in a few weeks and teachers will return to their classrooms without a contract in place for the third year in a row.  As the mother of three children in the Manchester public school system, I am nervous about what to expect in the fall. Because of Mayor Gatsas’s veto, I fear class sizes will again be higher than state standards and that our students will suffer as a result.

“Our city deserves better, and as Mayor I look forward to working collaboratively with the School Board to explore options to improve our city’s education while saving taxpayer dollars.  We have great colleges and universities in Manchester, and I will work to form public/private partnerships and develop programs that can benefit all Manchester students.  We also must rebuild our broken relationships, and I will actively work to reopen the dialogue with our sending towns of Hooksett and Candia and bring these students back to our schools.  And finally, we must be open to opportunities to improve our schools, and I will always put the needs of our students and taxpayers first and will approve this fiscally responsible compromise.

“We have many opportunities to improve our schools, and I will be the leader who will build consensus to move our district forward.  The School Board has lost faith in the Mayor’s ability to advance our city’s education.  The Mayor’s confrontational attitude has also alienated many state officials and our city continually loses out on new opportunities to advance and grow.  We need a problem solver and consensus builder to truly move our city forward, and that is why I am running for mayor of Manchester.”

Joyce Craig currently serves as the Ward 1 Alderman and is a candidate for mayor of Manchester.

Arnold Calls for Gatsas to Step Aside, School Board Votes No Confidence in Gatsas

patrick-arnold-3Manchester, New Hampshire –  Last night, in public comments to the Manchester School Board, mayoral candidate and former Alderman Patrick Arnold called Mayor Gatsas’ recent veto of a proposed teachers’ contract “absurd” and urged Gatsas to step aside.

“Mayor Gatsas, work with those elected by the voters, or step aside for someone who will,” Arnold said before a city hall chamber packed with concerned parents and educators broke into applause.

Later in the evening, the Manchester School Board took a vote of no confidence in Mayor Ted Gatsas. “Tonight’s vote of no confidence further demonstrates that Ted Gatsas has lost a mandate to lead this city,” says Arnold in response to the vote. “People of this city deserve strong leadership to move beyond business as usual, and the clock has run out on Ted Gatsas’ failed leadership.”

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Patrick Arnold is a candidate for mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire. Arnold served as a Manchester Alderman from 2009 until 2014. In 2013, he was the Democratic candidate for mayor against Mayor Ted Gatsas, the Republican incumbent. Less than 500 voters separated Manchester from a new mayor in 2013. In March 2014, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously confirmed Arnold’s appointment to the city’s Conduct Committee. An attorney by trade, Arnold earned his law degree at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. He and his wife, Kathy, have a daughter, Abigail.

PCCC, Demos Applaud Hillary Clinton’s New College Compact

 (image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

(image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

“Hillary Clinton’s plan is very big and ambitious — leading to debt-free college and increased economic opportunity for millions of Americans. The center of gravity on higher education has shifted from tinkering with interest rates to making college debt free — and Clinton’s bold proposal is emblematic of the rising economic populist tide in American politics.”

— Adam Green, co-founder, Progressive Change Campaign Committee

“With the plan, millions of America’s working families will have access to debt-free public college at both two- and four-year institutions.”

— Tamara Draut, Senior Vice President of Policy and Research, Demos

MSNBC: Clinton’s sweeping new debt-free college plan

by Alexander Seitz-Wald

It’s one of the issues Clinton hears about most on the campaign trail. And at a campaign event in New Hampshire Monday, the former secretary of state will unveil sweeping proposed reforms.

Clinton’s so-called “New College Compact,” detailed in three fact sheets shared with reporters, is the most detailed and expensive plan she has unveiled so far on her 2016 presidential campaign. “Students will be able to attend an in-state public university to get a 4-year degree without ever having to take out a loan for tuition,” one fact sheet claims.

While the tax hike and other issues would likely run into opposition in Congress, Clinton’s campaign wants to cast a marker with the plan. Politically, the effort could energize young voters, who were critical to President Obama’s victory over Clinton in the 2008 primary and then to both his general election wins.

Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has been one of the groups leading the effort for debt-free college, praised the plan. “Hillary Clinton’s plan is very big and ambitious – leading to debt-free college and increased economic opportunity for millions of Americans,” said Green, who has sometimes been critical of Clinton in the past.”

“The center of gravity on higher education has shifted from tinkering with interest rates to making college debt free – and Clinton’s bold proposal is emblematic of the rising economic populist tide in American politics,” he added. …

Politicians have to deal with the issue, said Mark Huelsman, a senior policy fellow at Demos, the New York-based liberal think tank that has been the intellectual driving force behind the idea of debt-free college.

“The benchmark for us has always been that any plan provides a pathway to debt free college or a pathway for a majority of students to graduate without taking on debt. That’s been a galvanizing issue for progressives,” he said. “Unfortunately, voters are responding to their pocketbooks. We like to point out that student debt was not the norm for most students until the 1990s, really. If you wanted a bachelor’s degree for most of our history, you didn’t have to take on debt to do so. Now it’s basically a requirement. And with college becoming more important in the labor market, not less, there’s a lot of anxiety about it.”

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Hillary Clinton Proposes Debt-Free Tuition at Public Colleges

by Laura Meckler and Josh Mitchell

Hillary Clinton is proposing an expansive program aimed at enabling students to attend public colleges and universities without taking on loans for tuition, her attempt to address a source of anxiety for American families while advancing one of the left’s most sweeping new ideas.

The plan—dubbed the “New College Compact” and estimated to cost $350 billion over 10 years—would fundamentally reshape the federal government’s role in higher education by offering new federal money, but with strings attached. …

The Clinton campaign views this proposal as a centerpiece of its domestic agenda, akin in importance to health care in 2008, and it is her most expensive proposal so far. The campaign said it would pay for it by limiting deductions for upper-income tax filers, which President Barack Obama has repeatedly proposed without success. …

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has worked to make college affordability a top issue, said he was excited by the plan and sees it as helping to shift the debate over higher education from adjusting interest rates to trying to make college debt free. “Hillary Clinton’s plan is very big and ambitious, leading to debt-free college and increased economic opportunity for millions of Americans,” he said.

Granite State Rumblings: Some Great Ideas For Spending Time With Your Kids This Summer

Well, here we are nearly at the end of July and there is still about a month left of school vacation for the kids. If you are running out of money and ideas to keep them entertained, here is a list of fifteen no or low cost ideas.

Make Paper Planes – Look up great new layouts or teach your child the classic folds of   paper planes.

Supplies: 8×11 paper, ruler, flat surface

Build a Fort – Every child loves to pretend to be in the wild west or camping out. Capture that creativity and build a fort as a hide out or camp site inside.

Supplies: sheets, pillows, blankets, tables, etc.

Picnic – Load up a basket or backpack with all the fixings for your lunch or dinner and a blanket. Head out to your local park or even your front lawn and have a fun meal.

Supplies: lunch or dinner food, blanket, flashlight (if at night), bug spray/sunscreen

Pillow Fight – No explanation necessary here.

Supplies: big fluffy pillows (make sure they do not have buttons on them)

Hide and Seek – If your kiddo is too old for classic hide and seek, try out the night version “Ghosts in the grave yard” and allow them to play outside at night (with parent supervision of course).

Supplies: good hiding spots

Bake Cookies – Find a recipe that uses any of the baking goods you have around home or purchase a log of dough from your local super market. Let your child help with the measuring and mixing.

Supplies: cookie dough (homemade or store bought), oven, cookie cutters, icing, etc.

Visit the Library – Look for new books to read, or create a scavenger hunt for different books on animals (picture lists for the little ones).

Supplies: library card, car (unless you live within walking distance)

Scrapbook – Give your child some old photographs they love to make special scrapbook pages you can add to your own scrapbooks.

Supplies: old pictures, craft paper, glue, sparkles, etc.

Origami – This ancient art form is fun for kids of all ages.

Supplies: origami paper or really thin paper (easy to make small folds)

Make S’mores – Everyone loves to enjoy this treat. What makes it even better is it is easy for kids to make!

Supplies: gram crackers, chocolate bars (like Hershey’s), marshmallows.

Finger Painting – Allow your kids to go wild with paint. We recommend doing this craft outdoors.

Supplies: kid friendly paint, trash bags (to layout under where the little one will be painting), large pieces of paper

Treasure Hunts – This is an easy way to occupy your child long enough to get some chores done around the house (maybe even a way to get them involved in the chores).

Supplies: hidden treasure (something like a favorite toy), a piece of paper with a “treasure map”

Camp at Home – Pitch a tent your living room or yard and allow the kids to enjoy the fun of camping without the hassle of a vacation.

Supplies: tent, sleeping bags, blankets/pillows, flashlight

Photography – Set your child up with your old digital camera or a disposable camera with a few shots left from your last vacation.

Supplies: camera

Create a Play or Musical – Have your kids come up with an original play or musical and act it out for you at the end of a days practice.

Supplies: imagination, props or costumes from household items.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun!!

Thursday, July 23, 1:45pm – 2:45pm, Jeb Bush Gorham Town Hall Meeting, 20 Park St, Gorham, NH 03581

GROWING UP GRANITE

Here’s a list of some of my grandkid tested Granite State attractions. They do have admission fees. Listed in no particular order of preference.

McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center

2 Institute Drive, Concord, NH 03301 Phone: 603-271-7827

The planetarium serves as a living memorial to Christa McAuliffe. The shows blend computer generated effects, video, slides and music into an awe-inspiring experience. Take a trip to the stars and beyond at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. In March 2009, the name of this educational center changed to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, in memory of Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut in space, who was from Derry, NH.

Story Land

850 Route 16, Glen, NH 03838 Phone: 603-383-4293

Story Land is the children’s theme park where fantasy lives! With wonderfully themed rides, lively shows, friendly storybook characters, unique play areas, and so much more, there’s a smile and adventure around every corner. Whether it’s a family tradition or a family first, a visit to Story Land creates memories to last a lifetime.

Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park

570 Ocean Boulevard, Rye, NH 03870 Phone: 603-436-8043

The Seacoast Science Center is located on the last undeveloped stretch of New Hampshire coastline. Cultural and natural history exhibits for the entire family. Visitors can touch and learn about tide pool animals in the indoor tide pool touch tank and learn about the seven habitats found on the 350-acre park.

Children’s Museum of New Hampshire

6 Washington Street, Dover, NH 03820 Phone: 603-436-3853

This hands-on arts and sciences museum offers many engaging exhibits, including a dinosaur dig, a throne room, a kaleidoscope exhibit, a yellow submarine, a post office, a music matrix and more. It’s an interactive delight for all the senses!

Mount Washington Valley Children’s Museum

2936 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, NH 03860 Phone: 603-356-2992

Come for hours of fun and entertainment in our educational safe environment where parents and children 0-9 can explore our wide variety of exhibitions where we encourage children and parents to interact and learn thru play! The Mount Washington Valley Children’s Museum nurtures the natural curiosity of all children and the adults in their lives and encourages shared discovery through exhibits and programs that inspire exploration.

The Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center

2779 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, NH 03860 Phone: 603-356-2137

The Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center is an

interactive science museum that brings the wonder of the atmosphere right to your fingertips! Explore the science of climate and weather through fun, interactive exhibits like our air cannon, flow tank and wind room. With hands-on exhibits and lessons for all levels of experience, the Weather Discovery Center is appropriate for all ages.

Polar Caves

705 New Hampshire Rte. 25, Rumney, NH 03266 Phone: 603-536-1888

An amazing series of caves and passages formed by the falling of massive boulders nearly 50,000 years ago as the third continental glacier moved southward over New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Explore the Rock Garden, a jumble of glacially deposited granite boulders, and take a self-guided tour of the caves. Also, pan for stones. Buy a bag of Mining or Fossils rough and use our Sluice to wash away the dirt to uncover gems and minerals. Also, The Klondike Mine: Klondike Mine is designed for younger ages but can be fun for the whole family. Enter one of our three mines, once inside use your light and start our family scavenger hunt for minerals and other hidden gems.

Charmingfare Farm

774 High Street, Candia, NH 03034 Phone: 603-483-5623

Visit the largest collection of agricultural animals and North American wildlife in New Hampshire. A visit to this 180-acre farm is affordable, educational, and exciting for children and adults. The farm is home to more than 200 animals consisting of 30 different species. Encounter wolves, lynx, fishers, reindeer, river otters and more. The barnyard offers traditional farm animals, hands-on petting, pony rides, and horse-drawn hayrides.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats Baseball

Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, 169 S. Commercial Street, Manchester  603-641-2005

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are proud to serve the entire state of New Hampshire. Through extensive community outreach programs, affordable pricing and a first class entertainment experience at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, the Fisher Cats have become New Hampshire’s premier outdoor entertainment destination.

Senator Shaheen Takes To The Senate Floor To Champion STEM Education And Closing The Wage Gap

(WASHINGTON, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today spoke on the Senate floor about provisions she included in education reform legislation to support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). She also spoke about a screening and discussion she hosted last night of CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap about the need to close the gender gap in tech jobs. Video can be found here. 

Shaheen’s amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act supports STEM after-school learning programs by making federal funding available under a new STEM education grant program.  The bill also includes a Shaheen provision that provides support for low-income students in innovative STEM activities, such as robotics competitions.  These provisions are drawn from two bills introduced by Senator Shaheen earlier this year: the Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program Act and the Supporting Afterschool STEM Act. 

Shaheen has made promoting STEM education one of her top priorities in the Senate and is a recognized leader by STEM Connector in their 100 Women in STEM publication. Shaheen helped launch and co-chairs the Senate STEM Caucus and has been a longtime supporter of efforts that promote programs like FIRST Robotics since her days as New Hampshire’s governor. 

Public Schools Should Provide Free Public Transportation Too

Let me start by stating the simple fact that I feel we can all agree on. Public education is the foundation of a strong community, a vibrant educated workforce, and a healthy economy.  Education is also the best way for people lift themselves out of poverty. To reach their own version of the American Dream everyone needs to have a solid educational foundation.

So why are some schools trying to make it harder for low-income families to have access to quality public schools?

school-bus1Take for example what one Indiana school district is threatening to do:

“Franklin Township, Ind., an Indianapolis suburb facing a $16 million deficit, opted to terminate its school bus services.”

They are joking right?

Sadly not.  The Governing.com article goes on to say:

“The move prompted a lawsuit from parents that would eventually make its way to the state Supreme Court, but it also led the Indiana General Assembly to pass a law allowing districts to end busing after issuing three years’ notice.”

The cost cutting measure was first proposed to alleviate running over their mandatory tax caps put in place in 2010.

Then the township tried to charge a fee to ride the bus, which is more common than I expected, but that too was rejected by the State Legislature as they pass additional laws against it.

“The township even tried imposing student fees to fund bus service, but the legislature outlawed that with a 2012 law that prohibited charges for transportation but allowed them for athletics and other activities.”

So far, “three districts have issued their notice of intent to do so, but none in the weeks following the court’s decision in March.” One of those districts Beech Grove has a a poverty rate of over 50%.

Thankfully the township pass a funding referendum to fund the bus services for now, but for how long?

Eliminating school transportation is a truly dangerous path for cities and towns to be taking.  What will happen to the kids whose families do not have transportation of their own? How will they get their children to school?  Will parents be forced to walk their children miles each way, in god only know what kind of weather, taking hours out of their day to get their kids to school?

This is a very slippery slope that Indiana is teetering on.  Working families face countless problems and how their children are going to get to and from school safely, should not be one of them.

Granite State Rumblings: The Strong Start For America’s Children Act

On May 19th a bill to expand quality preschool programs was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate and House. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act was originally introduced in 2013. The 2015 bill was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, with co-sponsorship from 19 other members of her party. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.).

At the heart of Strong Start for America’s Children is a groundbreaking, 10-year federal-state partnership to boost quality early learning, something that Murray called “one of the smartest investments we can make” in strong schools and our nation.

“As a former preschool teacher, I’ve seen firsthand the transformation that early learning can inspire in a child,” Murray said. “Investing in our youngest learners is critical for children and their families,” and the bill will help families and communities nationwide “gain access to early learning programs and provide their children with the strong educational opportunities that will pay dividends in our future economic growth.”

As Stephanie Schmit outlined in a post for CLASP; both bills would establish a partnership between state and federal governments to equip states to improve and expand high-quality, full-day preschool programs for four-year-olds with the goal of increasing school readiness. Specifically, the Act would advance high-quality, comprehensive early care and education access for young children across the country by:

  • Setting clear expectations for high-quality services, including high staff qualifications and developmentally appropriate and evidence-based curricula and learning environments in high-quality preschool.
  • Providing critical supports to increase the educational attainment of the early childhood workforce.
  • Addressing the needs of low-income working families by allowing schools, Head Start, and child care settings to apply for funds to offer pre-kindergarten, as well as establishing expectations for the provision of full-day services and comprehensive health services.
  • Providing for additional partnerships between Early Head Start and child care programs to ensure that more vulnerable infants, toddlers, and their families have access to the comprehensive early education and family support services that are the hallmark of Head Start.
  • Building on existing state structures by providing funding to help states expand access and improve the quality of existing state pre-kindergarten programs. Because a variety of early education settings are needed to meet the needs of different families, schools, Head Start programs, and community-based child care can compete for resources to provide quality care in communities that need it. States will also have the flexibility to use funds for quality improvements and to serve infants and toddlers.

High-quality early education experiences are widely recognized as key to preparing young children for school success and improving the lifetime employment and earnings of low-income children. It’s now up to members of Congress to move this legislation forward. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act would be transformational for children, families and early childhood systems. It would expand access to high-quality child care and early education services for the youngest, most vulnerable, low-income children and families in the country—providing the strong start that all children need.

Expanding high-quality early childhood education is an issue where Americans from both sides of the political aisle see eye-to-eye. And voters have expressed their overwhelming, bipartisan support for increased federal action, according to a poll by the First Five Years Fund last year.

ml615This bill has the support of more than 70 organizations across the country, including Every Child Matters.

Business leaders, the law enforcement community, brain scientists and economists all agree that early learning is one of the strongest investments we can make as a society.

The Strong Start for America’s Children Act is a critical investment that would provide short-term and long-term economic benefits for states and communities across the nation. We strongly urge Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to come together to pass this important legislation.

Sources: The First Five Years Fund, CLASP, American Federation of Teachers

GROWING UP GRANITE

The following is a piece from NH Public Radio’s weeklong series, The First Decade.

Full-Day Kindergarten Closes Achievement Gap, Yet N.H. Lags Way Behind In Adopting It
By SAM EVANS-BROWN

Kindergarten is a year of transition. Kids are learning how to listen, follow directions, sit still… but while they are making that transition, there’s a lot of mandatory wiggling.

In Mr. Woody’s morning kindergarten class, in Plainfield, a class of students blows off some steam while doing a “wiggle dance.” A stereo plays a children’s song that Mr. Woody sings along to, and the kids giggle and flail.

Mark Woodcock is something of a legend in this town. He’s been at it so long that several of the students in this class are children of his former students. “I am on my second generation here, yes. If I get to the third someone please show me the door, I’ve been too long at the party,” he says laughing.

His half-day program starts with morning circle. The kids take attendance, record the weather, and sharpen their math skills and number sense by counting their days at school. They have library time, they do a lesson on the lifecycle of a frog, they have snack and a bit of free play. To cap it all off, they read a story, also frog-themed.

And then that’s it.

Their three hours are up. The kids run outside to play while they wait for their parents to arrive.

“With three hours, it’s real hard. It’s very stressful,” says Woodcock, “I’m at the point where come May I’m looking at some students and I’m thinking ‘They’re going to first grade! I feel like maybe I haven’t done my job!’”

But that’s about to change.

“I’m over the moon excited about next year. I can balance all of it now, because I have the time now. They can get math and language arts in one day,” he explains, “It also gives me the chance now with a longer day to bring in parts that I’ve dropped off, some of the science, some of the social studies.”

The town of Plainfield voted to go to full-day kindergarten this year. The effort followed a letter-writing campaign led by parent Suzanne Spencer-Rendahl, whose daughter went through half-day kindergarten. At the time, her working schedule made half-day something of a nightmare.

“I had to take her all the way – because there’s not many child-care options in the town – so I would have to take her to Lebanon, drop her off for after-care, and then go to work,” Spencer-Rendahl remembers.

NH Lags Behind In Full-Day K

Plainfield is just the latest district to opt for full-day, and one of nine districts this fall. Next year, there will be more than 90 schools that have chosen to expand their half-day programs.

But compared to the rest of the nation, New Hampshire lags.

A report from Education Week found New Hampshire was second-to-last for attendance at full-day kindergarten. Just 55 percent of kindergarten aged New Hampshire students are in full day programs, compared to 75 percent nationwide. This is in part due to the fact that the state offers funding only for half-day programs, but it’s likely also in part because New Hampshire was the last state to mandate public kindergarten.

Plainfield is not a rich town, but that doesn’t seem to hurt its chances for expanding kindergarten. An analysis done by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies for NHPR finds that districts with high child poverty are more likely to have full-day programs. It found no connection to enrollment trends, property values in towns, or rural versus urban schools.

While many working parents clamor for a longer day, parents as a whole are not a unified block.

“I feel really conflicted about it,” says Emily Twarog who stays home to care for her kids in Plainfield. She baby sits for two others after kindergarten lets out, and says she values the time for unstructured play that her kids get in the afternoon.

“They go to school for a lot of years, and I just enjoy having them home as long as I can,” she says. Twarog says she notices a kind of fatigue in her kids when they are done with class, and thinks a full-day would be too much.

But not every kid is going to a never-ending play-date after school, many parents can’t afford a babysitter or an aftercare program.

“They cost money, so not all kids can get into those programs,” says Mark Woodcock, “and some may be going home with grandparents and they have a quieter day than say kids that are going to another program after me.”

How Much School Is Too Much School?

Chloe Gibbs, a researcher at the University of Virginia, says this question launched her career.

“I really thought it was an open question, do five-year olds really get benefit from being in a classroom for that many hours or are we really keeping them too long past a certain point?” says Gibbs.

But after more than a decade of asking that question, Gibbs says the answer is clear: kids who go to full-day kindergarten do better on tests for years afterward, though other students tend to begin to catch up by fourth grade.

“The effect I find on average is about an additional three, three-and-a-half months of schooling effect,” says Gibbs. That benefit is even higher for kids who come into school with low literacy skills.

Gibbs says full day kindergarten has a bigger impact than smaller class sizes and participation in Head Start programs and it generally costs less.

It seems, in New Hampshire, that’s part of what is convincing towns to extend the day.

Pembroke was one of the first schools in the state to go full-day.

The daily schedule hanging on the wall in Trois Montana’s kindergarten classroom  has more than twice as many classes on it than the one in Plainfield, including separate times for reading, writing, and math. Sitting for an interview during her lunch hour in tiny little chairs at a tiny little table, Montana says she can’t imagine trying to cram her curriculum into a half-day.

“I mean we’ve even seen it where in first grade, they get 8-10 new students from other towns, and most of those kids have had a half-day program and they end up being the low ten percent of the first graders,” she says.

She explains that even those kids that qualify for federally funded Title I programs, which benefit low-income students see a boost. “Those newer kids that came from other towns that had a half-day they’re actually lower than our title kids, so our title kids look incredible! Every single year we see that.”

Keeping up with the Joneses

Pembroke’s kindergarten even attracts parents from neighboring towns who don’t actually live there. Families will sometimes claim they live with a grand-parent or a friend with a Pembroke address to get their kids into a full day program.

That’s certainly what Mr. Woody, the kindergarten teacher up in Plainfield, is hoping for… though he’d like folks to get into to his class through the traditional route.

“Well, we’re hoping we’re going to put together the best dog-gone kindergarten program in the whole Upper Valley, and people are going to be driving down to Plainfield buying up houses left and right, and we’re going to be busting at the seams!” he says, flipping into full kindergarten teacher performance mode.

Some of those families may soon get full-day kindergarten in their own towns. Since 1999, about five schools a year have been expanding their programs, even without funding from the state.

And as towns increasingly find their neighbors have gone to full-day, pressure from parents to keep up with Joneses could be what pushes New Hampshire schools to keep up with the national trend.

5-20-15 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Restoring Budget Cuts In The Senate

AFT NH Legislative Update

The Senate has had several hearings and meetings regarding their work on the state budget. When they held a public hearing several hundred citizens of New Hampshire showed up and spoke. Many expressed concern over the lack of funding in the House budget and its many cuts to programs needed by our most vulnerable citizens.

The Senate seems to have worked through much of what they want to do even before convening the Finance Committee meetings.  They have started with many noncontroversial items.

Again, I must repeat that we know that in New Hampshire we have few revenue sources and we have a regressive tax system, meaning that citizens who have the least to spare pay the most. To read more on this click here. AFT-NH supports incremental, common-sense reforms designed to make NH’s existing tax system fairer and to produce the revenue needed to preserve the public services essential to NH’s residents, businesses, and visitors.  All of this is vital to our shared economic success.

Once I know more on what the Senate is recommending I will send out an update.

This past Thursday the full Senate passed HB 507: relative to teacher personally identifiable data. This bill adds provisions relating to the protection of teacher personally identifiable data and adds in language that no school shall record in any way a school classroom for any purpose without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student. AFT-NH is very pleased that both chambers have passed this bill and we ask that the governor signs this bill into law.

The full Senate will be voting on HB 323: relative to the administration of the statewide assessment program. AFT-NH believes that this will allow for some district flexibility with regards to state wide assessment. We have seen an over-emphasis on high stake testing across the country and think New Hampshire is moving in the right direction.

AFT-NH believes that assessments should support teaching and learning, and that they should be aligned with curriculum rather than narrow it.  Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn. Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.  Development and implementation of such tests must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.

Further, AFT-NH believes that assessments should support teaching and learning. They must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

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UPCOMING HEARINGS

Wednesday, May 20

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
9:00 a.m. EXECUTIVE SESSION ON PENDING LEGISLATION

Thursday, May 21

10 am Senate in Session

JUDICIARY, Room 208, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on CACR 5, relating to legal actions. Providing that taxpayers have standing to bring actions against the government.

Friday, May 22

In recognition of your support, the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Association cordially invites you to the 23rd Annual New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony. The ceremony will be held on Friday, May 22, 2015, beginning promptly at 10:00 a.m., on the Memorial Site in front of the Legislative Office Building. The ceremony will proceed rain or shine. Refreshments will be served immediately the ceremony. Please do not hesitate to contact Major Kevin Jordan of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at 602-271-3128 if you have any questions.

Thursday, May 23

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
3:00 p.m. EXECUTIVE SESSION ON PENDING LEGISLATION

Tuesday, May 26

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on retained bills
HB 527, establishing guidelines for school districts relative to the use of school resource officers,
HB 538-FN-L, relative to the implementation of new statewide education annual assessments,
HB 581-FN, requiring schools to continue the education of a child during the child’s suspension or expulsion, and
HB 243, changing the definitions of “focus school” and “priority school” in the school performance and accountability law.
1:00 p.m. Continued subcommittee work session on retained bills
HB 218-FN, relative to additional funding for third grade proficiency in mathematics,
HB 549-FN-A-L, allowing school building aid grants for certain authorized projects,
HB 242, relative to the statewide improvement and assessment program, and
HB 231, relative to applications for school building aid.

Monday, June 1

TASK FORCE ON WORK AND FAMILY (RSA 276-B:2, I), Room 207, LOB
1:15 p.m. Regular meeting.

Wednesday, June 3

10 am House in Session

Thursday, June 4

10 am House in Session

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