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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley
AFT-NH, President


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

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

Image by Woodleywonderworks FLIKR CC

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

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

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

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

Educators were quick to disagree with Fordham’s research.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 5-28-17: The Future Of Education Funding And Voter Suppression

This will be a very brief bulletin since neither the Senate or House were in session this past week. Having said that, there was activity.

The Senate has now crafted and released its proposed State budget for the 2017-19 biennium. In an effort to win over some of the extreme right-wing Republicans whose votes scuttled the House version of the budget, Senate Republicans on the Finance Committee adopted very conservative revenue estimates as a means of justifying leaving many programs and initiatives unfunded or underfunded. Full funding of all-day kindergarten has been removed from the budget, and funding for battling the opioid crisis remains inadequate. Yet despite the supposed financial stringencies, the majority in the Senate have found monies to pay for a spokesperson for the Dept. of Education at an annual $83,500 salary (to speak at the behest of Commissioner Edelblut) and also to increase the funding for charter schools (as opposed to the traditional public schools which the vast majority of NH students attend).

House committees were also wrapping up business this past week. The Finance Committee voted to partially fund full-day kindergarten, so while the House and Senate are not in entire agreement, it appears New Hampshire will again need to wait at least two more years before possibly joining the vast majority of states that do support all-day kindergarten. Why rush?

Elsewhere the Election Law Committee narrowly recommended passage of SB3, the bill designed to eliminate non-existent voter fraud while striving to deter and suppress voter registration. In particular, the amended bill still retains lengthy and onerous voter registration forms as well as threats to check up on claimed domiciles of new registrants. Tactics like these have virtually nothing to do with preventing unproven voter fraud, but will serve to deter same-day registrants, who tend to be young, less wealthy, and are often college students. The vote may be close in the House, Please contact your House Representative and ask her/him to oppose SB 3 (voter suppression) before next Thursday to ask that they vote against SB3.

Finally, the Education Committee voted largely along party lines to recommend passage of the amended SB 8, known as the Croydon or Edelblut bill. This proposed legislation authorizes using public funds to send students to private schools, and is so poorly written, that one informed observer speculated a district could convert all its schools to charter schools and then collect both all State aid for public schooling AND State monies for charter schools. This legislation will assuredly face constitutional challenges, centering on use of public monies for private schools and also on the abdication by the State of any responsibility for ensuring an adequate education for all students. This is a bad piece of legislation, and AFT-NH again asks that you contact your State Representative and urge them to reject the Croydon/Edelblut bill.

As promised, this is a short bulletin this week. Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend, be safe, and remember to pause, reflect and honor those who have fallen while in service to our nation.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-28-17: Edeblut Watch, Vouchers, And Shame In The NH House

April 28, 2017  

On the surface, there was not much activity in the State House this past week, as the House did not meet in session, while the Senate met briefly and considered only a small number of bills. One quiet action taken by the Senate was to return back to the Committee on Education the so-called Croydon bill, HB 557. This bill would permit local school boards to use public funds to send students to private, non-sectarian schools, rather than funding a public school or agreeing to send students to a neighboring public school. For example, if a town lacks a public middle school, it can currently arrange to send students to a neighboring public middle school, but by the terms of HB557, the district could now use public funds to send students to private schools instead. Keep in mind, private schools do not wish to come under the regulatory burdens already imposed upon public schools, so there is no certainty that with this proposed legislation, that all students would be eligible or accepted, nor that the private school would meet all the same standards as public schools. In other words, it is another attempt to use public education funds for private benefit. Remember also that it was discovered that Education Commissioner Edelblut had donated to the town’s legal fund to fight the NH Department of Education. Read more about Edelblut donation to Croydon at Edelblut Contribution to Croydon. This was not discovered until after Edelblut was confirmed. The fate of the bill is not certain, as it may return to the Senate for a vote at some point during the month of May. We shall keep a watchful eye upon it.

Edelblut Watch The other major news out of the Senate was the defeat of Commissioner of Education Edelblut’s attempted power grab and consolidation of his control over the Department of Education. Edelblut, who repeatedly claimed in his confirmation hearings that he would be a mere administrator and not a policymaker as Commissioner, has acted in complete reversal of his claims. He vocally advocates vouchers and working with Senator Reagan, sought authority to reorganize the Department of Education and consolidate power in his hands, in terms of budgets and personnel. After a public hearing that occasionally turned rancorous, with Senator Reagan nearly badgering witnesses hostile to his pro-Edelblut stance, the Committee rejected the pro-Edelblut amendment and instead of handing him the keys to the entire department, voted to make small changes and authorize further study of the issue. This is what we in the Legislature term a polite form of legislative death, but the public needs to continue to weigh in and press the Senate to uphold the actions of the Education Committee. Rest assured, Commissioner Edelblut will be back, as he seeks to reshape the education landscape in New Hampshire by undermining public education.

Public Education Victories  The House did not meet in session this week, but on Tuesday, April 25, proponents of public education won two significant victories in the House Education Committee. Not only did the committee vote to support funding full-day kindergarten, but in a show of bipartisanship, nearly all members of the committee supported full-funding, not just funding aimed at targeted or poorer towns as was advocated by Governor Sununu. The bill now goes to the House floor for a vote this coming Thursday, and if it passes, will go to the Finance Committee to handle the funding and inclusion within the State budget. Following this action, the committee then voted overwhelmingly to “retain” SB193, the voucher bill that would decimate funding for public education, raise local property taxes, and funnel public funds to private and religious schools. By taking this action, the committee killed further consideration of vouchers for 2017, but we fully expect some slimmed-down version of SB193 to rear its ugly head in 2018, in an attempt to get some sort of voucher system established and get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent.” As I have noted before, it is always fascinating to observe how those who demand strict accountability and transparency when dealing with social programs aiding the less fortunate suddenly abandon any concerns about accountability or transparency when it comes to using public funds to help wealthier families send their children to private/sectarian schools or who choose to home-school. In those cases, a simple confidence that “parents always know best” is sufficient—no need for anything more!

Education Bills The House meets on May 4th and will consider SB 191-FN, the full-day kindergarten funding bill. The bill was amended by the House Education Committee to include funding for full-day kindergarten. House approval would be the next critical step before proceeding to House Finance. Two other education bills on the consent calendar are SB 45, regarding the state’s expectations concerning the teaching of civics and SB 101-FN, enrollment eligibility for career and technical education programs. SB 101-FN seeks to allow high school students after one year of high school, to enroll in these programs and establishes a statewide dual and concurrent enrollment system and allow 11th and 12th grade students to enroll in and complete post-secondary college credit in STEM courses.

Shameful   Finally, this week has seen another embarrassing moment for the NH House, with the outing of State Representative Robert Fisher as creator and contributor to a misogynistic and vile discussion site supposedly defending men’s rights. You can read the complete investigative report at the Daily Beast. A Republican state representative from Belknap, District 9 (Laconia and Belmont), Fisher’s contributions to public discourse apparently include claims that rape is not entirely bad, since the rapist may enjoy the act, women are intellectual inferiors to men, and the value of women essentially expires after age 30. Despite calls for his resignation from Gov. Sununu, Speaker Jasper, House Minority Leader Shurtleff, among others, as of today Fisher refuses to do so. So this is how one advocates for family values? Shame!

Your continued hard work on all of these important issues is critical to our successes. Thank you for your efforts.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-21-17: Protecting Public Schools From Edelblut’s Power Grab

In terms of public activity, this was a relatively quiet week at the State House, but be assured, wheels are turning. The House met in session yesterday for only two hours, passing a number of smaller or less important bills, while work continues on the big pieces of legislation. Probably the most noteworthy moment was the brief set of comments offered by Representative Kat Rogers in commemoration of the Columbine school shooting. Her remarks were brief, pointed, and applauded by many, but not all (you can imagine what ideological element of the House refused to honor her efforts). In similar fashion, the Senate also met and rendered decisions on a number of pieces of legislation, each important to certain constituencies but none of major, state-wide importance. The big issues and the controversial legislation is yet to come forth; likewise, work continues on the Senate’s budget proposal.

Protect Public Schools   The Senate will convene next week (April 27) while the House will not convene again until May 4, 2017. In the meantime, committee work continues. The House Education Committee held a working session on SB 193, the voucher bill, this week, and it was a rather contentious occasion. Much of the energy focused upon a potential amendment/rewrite of the bill being put together by supporters of vouchers and those who wish to starve the public schools of funding. Thus far, it does not appear they have solved either of two major problems—the fact that NH’s Constitution bars use of public monies to support religious schools, and the reality that vouchers will siphon money from public schools and thereby lead to higher local property taxes. The Attorney General’s office again warned of constitutional problems with SB193, and there was continuing discussion regarding the financial impact of this legislation. What hampered the committee, however, was the lack of any actual language or text of an amendment, meaning that member were debating and arguing over ideas lacking any specificity or detail. Voucher proponents have yet to reveal their grand plans to rescue SB193 and it now appears that time is running out. The committee will vote on SB193 and any amendments on April 25, recommending the House either pass or kill the bill. Don’t be surprised, however, if the committee decides to instead “retain” the bill, allowing it to be re-introduced in 2018 and providing time to work on the myriad problems bedeviling this bad piece of legislation.

Actions Needed   Let us be sure to maintain contact with members of the NH House Education Committee and ask them to defeat SB 193 in any form. You can contact the entire committee at the following address: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Also, please also take just a moment to tell your state representatives to vote NO to SB 193.  

More Edelblut  One strong advocate for SB193 is Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. To no one’s surprise, the man who claimed in his confirmation hearing that he would be a mere administrator and not a policy-maker is now out waving the voucher flag and slamming public schools. At the same time, he continues to push for legislation granting him broad powers over budgets and personnel in the Department of Education, so as to remake it into a State agency leading the fight for vouchers and privatization of education. Having no experience or interaction with public schools in his entire adult life, Edelblut unsurprisingly advocates what he knows best, homeschooling and private schools. What is fascinating is that while voucher advocates demand accountability and transparency for all those supposed cheaters using food stamps, they are ready to give millions to private and religious schools and home-schoolers, with nary a peep about accounting for how the money is spent or providing any transparency in the expenditure of public funds. The inconsistencies abound.

NH Department of Education   The Senate Education Committee heard the amendment from Sen. Reagan which is a power grab by Education Commissioner Edelblut to completely revamp the Department of Education. The Committee will meet next week on Tuesday, April 25th on HB 356 to consider this non-germane and rushed amendment. Senator David Watters has submitted a revision that would properly slow down this last minute amendment and have the matter studied thoroughly. And we learned this week that Governor Sununu will not reappoint State Board of Education Chair, Tom Raffio and instead has nominated conservative consultant, Drew Cline, who worked for the Union Leader for 14 years. Edelblut is working hard to consolidate power so he can move forward with his extreme agenda. We must keep a watchful eye on the actions at the Board of Education.

Voting Rights   Finally, there are two other legislative issues of note. SB 3, the voter suppression bill, has yet to come out of the House Election Law Committee, but action will soon be forthcoming. Don’t be surprised if the committee recommends passage to the full House, where we will assuredly hear more tales of ghostlike busloads of Massachusetts citizens crossing into New Hampshire, buying cigarettes and liquor, and then going to cast illegal ballots on election day.

NHRS- Double-Dipping   Lastly, the Senate is still considering the fate of HB 561, a bill to limit ‘double-dipping’ into the NH Retirement System by providing enforcement penalties for those who exceed hourly work limitations and establishing greater accountability by having towns and cities pay into the system when reclassifying positions as part-time or interim. The bill easily passed through the House but is facing opposition in the Senate, despite being supported by an odd coalition of organized labor and conservative legislators. Politics does indeed lead to strange bedfellows at times, and the wheels continue to turn!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT NH Legislative Bulletin 4-17-17: School Vouchers, Voter Suppression, and Edelblut’s Power Grab

In the aftermath of the House’s stunning failure to pass a budget (due to Republican intra-party feuding), the Senate becomes the focal point of attention, as it works to develop a budget proposal. Using Governor Sununu’s budget proposal as a starting point, the Senate will craft a budget and attach it as an amendment to a House bill. That amended bill will then be sent back to the House, which will of course reject the bill, forcing a committee of conference to hammer out the final details of the State’s 2017-18 biennial budget. So, much remains to be done, but much of it will occur behind the scenes, in negotiations between the Senate, the Governor, and the House. Stay tuned-this will not be finished until June 2017.

Voter Suppression Meanwhile, the legislative wheels continue to turn, though many House committees are now finishing up their work for the year, having held hearings on Senate bills and sent them on to the House floor for a vote. Two bills still awaiting final committee action are SB 3 (to restrict and limit voting rights in NH) and SB 193 (the voucher bill). The House Election Law committee held its hearing on SB 3 this past week, but has yet to vote on a recommendation for the House. In essence, this is a voter suppression bill, aimed at limiting voting by groups such as college students on the specious grounds of voter fraud in prior elections. You know, the mythical busloads of people coming over the border from Massachusetts to vote in NH. I live in a border town where my town moderator has labeled these tales as pure fiction. Nor is he alone—other town moderators and even the NH Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, have denied the occurrence of identifiable voter fraud. But in an age of “fake news,” we now are on the verge of making policy based not on proven facts, but on rumor, innuendo, and outright falsehoods.

SB 193-School Vouchers The other bill which bears close observation is SB 193, the education voucher bill. After being slammed in front of the House Education Committee by a parade of witnesses, including the head of the Finance Committee and a representative from the Attorney General’s office, the sponsors of the bill have retreated and are working feverishly to draw up an amendment to modify or even replace the entire bill. We will likely see the text of this amendment this coming Wednesday, when the House Education Committee holds a full committee work session on the bill. It is expected that sponsors will seek to limit the financial impact of the bill by capping the number of students who can be withdrawn from public schools and thereby obtain vouchers (formally known as education savings accounts funded by monies provided by the State and withdrawn from supporting public schools). Whatever the formula, the goal is to get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the edge of the tent,” meaning to start the program and then expand upon it in years to come. Many of the same Republican members of the House who voted to torpedo the House budget proposal are now working assiduously to try to render SB 193 palatable, although in any form it will reduce public funding of public schools and thereby raise local property taxes. This bill must be halted! Here is the AFT-NH HANDOUT VS. SB 193 Please take action to contact your representative and tell them NO to SB 193.

Edelblut Power Grab One final note. You make recall that in January we opposed the confirmation of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education, based on his complete lack of experience in public education. At his confirmation hearing, Edelblut repeatedly claimed he would be an administrator, not a policy-maker, merely carrying out the wishes of the legislature and the State Board of Education. Well, we now see his true colors emerging, for at Edelblut’s urging, an AMENDMENT has been offered in the Senate which would give Edelblut power to completely redraw the Department of Education, move personnel around as he wishes, and move monies between budgets and budget lines as he sees fit. This is a non-germane amendment offered to HB 356. In other words, a huge power boost for the “administrator” and a means by which he can easily shape educational policy and practice. Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who grilled Edelblut during his confirmation hearing, characterizes this as “an unprecedented, naked power grab by the commissioner.” Edelblut, known as a champion of home-schooling, charter schools, vouchers, and even creationism, is clearly seeking to expand his power and do so in a way (via legislative amendment) where there will likely be no public hearing or public input. We will be following this unfolding drama very closely.

Now is the time to remain focused as this is the time when we may see breaking news as all of the behind the scenes work is underway. Please be sure to like us on Facebook at AFT New Hampshire or follow us on Twitter @AFTNewHampshire to receive the latest news.

Please remember your actions do matter. One more letter and phone call could just make the difference. Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President


ACTIONS NEEDED

Your Action Needed Now   So, if you have not already done so, please join us in opposing SB193 by completing the two following actions:

  1. The House Education Committee has scheduled the committee vote for Tuesday, April 25th at 9:30am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. As noted above, it appears an amendment will be offered at a work session of the committee this Wednesday. No version of education savings accounts or vouchers should see the light of day here in NH. We still have plenty of time to reach out to committee members before they vote.

Please mail the full House Education Committee directly: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.

For more resources on this issue to assist you with writing a quick note, please visit our web site at: http://nh.aft.org/2017-nh-state-house-news#.

AND 

  1. Regardless of what happens in the Committee, SB 193 will be voted on by the full House after the committee vote. So let’s get ahead of this and contact your State Representative(s) by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!

Defeat SB 193       

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-8-17: Budget Failure And School Vouchers (Action Needed)

April 8, 2017

House Budget Fails   The deadline for the NH House to pass a state budget was April 6th. Despite having a 53-vote margin majority, the NH House Republicans failed to pass a budget to send to the NH Senate by the deadline for the first time in at least 50 years. The House met over two days and recessed on Thursday, April 6th with no budget. Speaker Shawn Jasper was unable to garner the votes of the republican caucus to approve a budget after the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House balked at the budget citing too much spending. The NH Senate begins the process of dealing with the budget. 

Town Elections The NH State Senate passed an amendment to HB 329 on Thursday that will give those towns who rescheduled their March 14th elections, due to the blizzard, an opportunity to have the local governing bodies (school board or selectmen) after a public hearing, ratify the results of the rescheduled elections. Minority leader State Senator Jeff Woodburn (D) has worked tirelessly on this issue since the chaos and confusion was launched on Election Day. Along with his colleague, Sen. Donna Soucy (D) and Majority leader Sen. Jeb Bradley (R), this solution was crafted to help the approximately 80 communities who needed to reschedule their elections. Unlike the failed attempt by House Speaker Shawn Jasper, there would not be the requirement of a town wide vote to ratify the results of the elections which include elected officials, bonds, budgets and collective bargaining agreements. The bill will now pass over to the NH House where one would hope it will be met with a quick passage so our towns and school districts can move forward with the work approved by local voters.

SB 193-School Vouchers (ACTION NEEDED!) The House Education Committee heard testimony this week on SB 193, the school voucher bill. I testified in strong opposition to the bill. I also presented thoughtful written testimony from the President of the Hillsboro-Deering Federation of Teachers’, AFT#2348, Alex Luhtjarv. The testimony by members of the public was overwhelmingly in opposition to this scheme to defund public schools.

House Education Committee member, Rep. Linda Tanner (D) provided a synopsis of the hearing which underscores that testimony included the impact of funding cuts to local school districts and the important role played by our public schools, “I was never so impressed or proud of the educators, citizens, parents, school board association, disabilities community, the principals association, the superintendents, AFT’s Doug Ley, and all the parents and retired teachers for their statements to our committee. You told stories about your schools, your communities, your families and how they might be effected by taking money from the public schools and sending those students and dollars to private and parochial schools with no accountability, no oversight, no representation from the people who are sending their money through taxation while leaving the public system to be poorly funded safety net. You told how schools especially in small communities are the center of the community and a source of pride and civic involvement.”

Again, we know that this is a bill driven by out of state interests and will divert necessary public tax dollars away from our public schools causing an increase in local property taxes and/or reduced services to the public school students. We must be heard on this bill and do everything in our power to stop this attack on public education. Here is an AFT-NH HANDOUT VS. SB 193 on why we oppose SB 193. Please feel free to share far and wide and ask others join in our campaign to save public schools. Over the next two weeks, we need to make certain our opposition is duly recorded with our representatives.

Your Action Needed Now   So, if you have not already done so, please join us in opposing SB193 by completing the two following actions:

  1. The House Education Committee has scheduled the committee vote for Tuesday, April 25th at 9:30am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. We still have plenty of time to reach out to committee members before they vote. You can email the full House Education Committee directly at HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. For more resources on this issue to assist you with writing a quick note, please visit our web site at: http://nh.aft.org/2017-nh-state-house-news#.

AND

  1. Regardless of what happens in the Committee, SB 193 will be voted on by the full House after the committee vote. So let’s get ahead of this and contact your State Representative(s) by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!

Defeat SB 193           

The NH House and Senate will both next convene on April 20th. In the meantime, let us be sure to keep up the great work by letting your elected officials know that you are engaged and care deeply about the issues they are considering.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-17-17: School Vouchers And Kindergarten Bills

March 27, 2017

 

After concluding business in a rush back on March 10, the NH House reconvened this past Thursday for a short session. The most notable action of the day concerned HB 647, the so-called voucher bill for children with disabilities. The bill had previously passed the House on policy grounds, but on Thursday, came to the floor with a strong, bi-partisan recommendation of “Inexpedient to Legislate” from the Finance Committee. Nevertheless, in what looks to have been a party-line vote (it was not a roll-call but a division vote, meaning only the totals are recorded, not individual votes) the bill was tabled rather than killed. The motion to table came from Republican leader Dick Hinch, who asked the House to table on grounds that voting to kill the bill would prejudice the fate of SB 193, the broader, full-scale education voucher bill. With a vote of 193-161 (closely resembling party numbers in the House) HB 647 was tabled. The bill itself is essentially dead for 2017 but can be revived in 2018, and may also make an appearance in the 2018-19 budget bill still under construction by the House Finance Committee.

School Voucher Bill   As for SB 193, the broad-based education voucher bill, it has been referred to the House Education Committee but no public hearings have as yet been scheduled. As we have stated before, SB 193 is a very dangerous piece of legislation and could have dire consequences for public education in New Hampshire, reducing funding and ultimately raising property taxes in towns and cities across New Hampshire. A fine piece by Mark Fernald, recently published in the Keene Sentinel and Nashua Telegraph, quite clearly makes the case for SB193 as legislation that will increase property taxes AND harm public education. According to Fernald, the immediate impact of SB 193 will be to drain $25 million in funds from public schools, and the eventual costs will range much higher. Nearly all the benefits of the bill will go to families in upper-income brackets, since the amount per student per voucher is merely a fraction of the cost of sending a student to private or charter schools. In other words, the only “choice” to be offered is for those who can already afford it, while the cost will be borne by the rest of us in higher property taxes to support our public schools. (The full piece by Mark Fernald can be accessed at Vouchers for the Wealthy). This is not a good or sensible approach to public education, and the costs must be made clear when the bill comes before the House Education Committee. In the meantime, we must also remain vigilant that this proposal is not dropped into the upcoming budget bill coming from House Finance Committee (a often-utilized method of hiding unpopular or controversial proposals). 

Action Needed   We are requesting that you reach out to your state representative(s) and ask them to vote no on SB 193. Here’s the link, Protect NH Public Schools, so you can take direct action and have your opinion heard. Please share far and wide! For more resources to help defeat vouchers, please visit our website at Defeat School Vouchers

Kindergarten   Speaking of the House Finance Committee and the upcoming budget bill, the Republican majority on the committee voted this past week to remove funding for full-day kindergarten. This was an initiative proposed by Governor Sununu, but it was made clear that in the eyes of House Republicans the governor knows very little regarding education. House Speaker Shawn Jasper, when questioned about the Finance Committee vote, replied that “The capacity of a 6-year-old to be attentive in a classroom for a full day is pretty much non-existent,” hence his opposition to State-funding towards full-day kindergarten. And so, New Hampshire remains adamant in its stance against full-day kindergarten, unless localities or individual parents & families wish to pay for it (as has been proposed by some in places such as Nashua).

The focus this week in the State House will be on the final construction of the House budget bills, which must be reported by March 30. What must be remembered is that the budget bill for 2018-19 can contain or include all sorts of policy initiatives, so long as they have a fiscal impact. Therefore, proposals such as HB 647, tabled by a House vote, are not yet dead, but may surreptiously re-appear in the House budget bill. So stay tuned.

In Memoriam   On a final sad note, we mourn the untimely passing of Senator Scott McGilvray. Only 51 years of age, Senator McGilvray had just been elected to the NH Senate in November 2016 after serving for many years as president of NEA-NH, and his passing is a major blow to Democrats in the NH Senate and to the labor movement in NH. Upon learning of the tragic news, I released the following statement on behalf of AFT-NH:

“AFT-NH is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of State Senator Scott McGilvray. On behalf of AFT-NH members, we express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of Scott McGilvray, and to our colleagues at NEA-NH.” 

“Scott dedicated his life to advocating for New Hampshire’s children, public education, educators and working families. He was a strong labor leader and his career was marked by public service at its finest culminating with his election to the NH State Senate this past fall.” 

“The passing of Senator McGilvray is a great loss to public education, the labor movement and the entire state of New Hampshire.  He was taken from us far too soon, and leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.” 

I wish you all good health as Spring slowly makes its way to NH, and let’s keep up the good fight!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-10-17: Updates On Labor Bills, Minimum Wage, and School Vouchers

 Once again, the NH House acted like so many of my students do, allowing work to pile up and waiting until the final hour to do the work that needs to be done. This week, the House met for two long days, and because it had not met the prior week, faced a deadline for acting on over 100 proposed pieces of legislation. Given how long some debates can take, never mind the time consumed in roll call votes and all kinds of maneuvering, it made for very long days. Near the end late on Thursday, tempers began to fray and the Republican majority used their power in an increasingly aggressive manner. When it was done, all legislation had been acted upon, and the House will not meet again for two weeks.

Labor Bills. In regards to issues of concern to the labor community and to working people in general, it was not a great week. On the bright side, right to work was finally put to rest for 2017-2018, when the House refused by a strong majority to take up the House version of so-called Right to Work legislation. So ends that saga for 2017-18 and we owe a great debt of thanks to all the representatives, especially our Republican friends, who stood with us under intense pressure and defeated this nefarious legislation, aimed solely at weakening the labor movement and its ability to speak out on behalf of working people across New Hampshire.

Minimum Wage Increase. The defeat of so-called Right to Work was good news. On a more disappointing or sour note, the House rejected a proposed increase to the minimum wage, once again protecting New Hampshire’s status as the only New England state (and one of only 18 states nationally by the end of 2017) to still adhere to the ridiculously low Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. Remember, when the minimum rises (and keep in mind, 70% of those who work for the minimum are above age 20 and not teenagers); the money is almost all spent locally, helping local businesses and boosting our state economy. And even if you and I don’t work for minimum, raising the floor puts upward pressure upon all wage levels, which benefits all working people. So it was disappointing that the increase was once again rejected on a relatively close, largely party-line vote.

Employment Bills. Other proposed labor legislation, including limitations on credit history checks and criminal background checks (all with necessary exemptions for certain occupations and businesses), failed to pass the Republican majority in the House. This same majority, however, made sure to maintain NH’s minimum marriage age for girls at age 13, refusing to raise it to age 18. Combine that with our low minimum wage, and you really have to start wondering just where it is we are living! The House also refused to acknowledge basic civil rights for the transgender population, turning an innocuous protection of basic rights into a ‘bathroom bill’ and in the process, legitimizing discrimination and possible harassment of members of the transgender community. Change is not easy, and the battles are long and hard, but these issues will not go away and should not be forgotten in the future.

Education. In the realm of education legislation, any proposals deemed to put any sort of restraints or accountability upon charter schools were rejected by the House. More dangerously, a bill passed allowing towns without a public school or missing certain grades (for example, have a grade school but no high school) to contract to use public funds to send students to private schools, including sectarian or religious schools. Like the voucher proposal working its way through the Senate, this sort of legislation aims to weaken public schools by eroding the public sector’s financial base. The result of these diversions of public funds is higher local taxes, which further inflames anger at public schools, or declining facilities, which are then pointed to as reasons why there needs to be “more competition,” as if public education is like choosing between fast-food burgers, chicken, or tacos. We are asking members and supporters to reach out personally to their legislators and request they oppose any form of vouchers and specifically Senate Bill 193 and HB 647. For more information on the proposed legislation, please visit our website at STOP SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NH.

NH Retirement System. Lastly, in regards to the NH Retirement System, the House defeated an effort to increase the retirement pension age and passed a bill to halt the raiding of pension fund monies to pay for fiscal analyses of said pension funds! These were good moments, but progress in this area was counterbalanced by passage of a whole series of bad legislation in the area of election law, all of which will have the effect of clamping down on students’ ability to vote as part of a wide assault on voting rights here in NH. So, good with the bad. HB 413FN which would have the state meet its obligation and pay 15% of the retirement costs back to local communities is scheduled before the House Finance Committee for Executive Session on Monday.

In Memoriam. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not pass along a sad note. We learned yesterday of the passing of Brian Costa, the Keene Chief of Police. Chief Costa came up through the ranks and was a good union man, serving in the Keene Police Officers Association, and later as president of the Keene Police Supervisors, both being AFT-NH locals. Even as chief, he never forgot his union roots and worked tirelessly on behalf of the men and women of the Keene Police as well as improving the safety and security of the entire Keene community. We will miss him dearly, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Legislative Bulletin next week due to the hiatus in House activity but will be on alert for breaking news.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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