The 2015 session of the NH State legislature is underway and as always, there are many bills to follow and monitor. Some legislative proposals will garner our support but others will earn our enmity and opposition as we defend the interests of our members and of working people in New Hampshire. As we review proposed bills, we will determine our support or opposition based upon the basic legislative objectives listed below:
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning.
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure that teachers and school staff are well-prepared, are supported, have manageable class sizes, and have time to collaborate so they can meet the individual needs of every child.
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight to make sure our children have an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and physical education
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight for universal access to secure retirement plans into which the state of NH and its cities and towns pay their required yearly contributions.
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure all workers are covered by retirement plans that provide consistent and adequate income to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure earned retirement benefits are fully funded and safeguarded from market volatility or changes in employers’ economic situations.
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight for first-rate public services that support communities and keep them safe, healthy and vibrant.
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure public employees are well-prepared and supported so they can provide the high-quality services our communities depend on.
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight for collective bargaining laws in the state of NH and will work to defeat any and all legislation that either erodes or repeals NH’s collective bargaining laws for public employees.
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight for 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, and vital to our shared economic success.
Charter Schools Accountability
- AFT-NH will stand up and fight for laws and regulations requiring full transparency in how charter schools operate and making them directly and openly accountable to the public for student performance and their admissions and enrollment policies. We need stronger policies mandating respect and support for teacher and staff voices in school policy and program, identification of potential conflicts of interest via disclosure requirements, and the use of public funds in the same rigorous manner required in our public schools.
So far this session the House Education Committee heard testimony on HB 116: relative to the renomination of teachers. This bill reduces from 5 to 3 consecutive years of teaching required for a teacher to be entitled to notification and a hearing if the teacher is not reappointed. This bill would falls under our objective of “AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure that teachers and school staff are well-prepared, are supported, have manageable class sizes, and have time to collaborate so they can meet the individual needs of every child.”
AFT-NH believes that all teachers deserve due process when being non-renewed. Due process is the right to a legitimate reason, or “just cause,” before a teacher can be fired and requires a notice and an impartial just cause hearing before termination. We are asking to be treated fairly and without prejudice.
A Red Issue Alert went out this week about the above bill and if you have not taken action there is still time by clicking here.
They are also many bills moving through both chambers in regards to Common Core and state assessments. These bills would fall under the objective of; “AFT-NH will stand up and fight to make sure our children have an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and physical education.”
If these Standards and assessments are to work we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing the Standards:
- There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice,
- We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class,
- We must provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
- We need to ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
- We must communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students,
- We must develop best practices and strategies along with coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply,
- We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments,
- We need to make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers,
- We must be certain that assessments are aligned to Standards indicating mastery of concepts,
- We need to have professional development and training in the Standards, and
- We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.
With regards to assessments, AFT-NH believes in assessments that support teaching and learning, and that are 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. Assessments should not be designed to deliver sanctions that undermine students, teachers and schools. 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 designed to support teaching and learning 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 itself.
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on SB 1 reducing the rate of the business profits tax.This bill would fall under AFT-NH’s objective to “stand up and fight for 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, and vital to our shared economic success.” AFT-NH has concerns with this bill. We have heard over and over that there is a $30 million shortfall in this current budget. With a hole of $30 million why would you cut roughly another $30 million in this biennium budget? How will this amount be made up or where in the budget will cuts be made?
Keep in mind that the state of New Hampshire already underfunds catastrophic special education aid to district by capping it at 72%. With this cap of 72% the state has downshifted roughly $8 million onto communities. There has been a moratorium on Building aid which has hindered many districts from complete upgrades, making repairs to buildings or building new schools. Remember: 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.
Lastly, what are the assurances that by reducing the business profits tax jobs would be created? I see this as only leading to reductions in the public services that all citizens of New Hampshire rely upon.