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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.

Joyce Craig releases plan for ‘Emphasizing Education and Preparing our Students for the Future’

Manchester, N.H. – Manchester mayoral candidate Joyce Craig has released her “Emphasizing Education and Preparing our Students for the Future” plan, detailing the approach she would take as mayor to improve schools in the Queen City.

The quality of Manchester schools have declined significantly under Ted Gatsas.  In the 2009-10 NH Dept. of Education assessment, 64% of Manchester 3rd graders were reading at grade level. By 2016-17, only 28% of Manchester 3rd graders were reading at grade level.

Math comprehension rates have seen a similar decline under Gatsas. In 2009-10, 65% of Manchester 5th graders met grade-level standards in math. In 2016-17, that number had dropped to 22%. This problem is magnified by the fact that some Manchester students don’t have the textbooks or workbooks that teachers say they need to succeed in math.

Manchester students today have some of the lowest reading and math comprehension rates in the state, and these figures have become worse while Ted Gatsas has been mayor. This problem is compounded since Mayor Gatsas caused surrounding towns to leave the Manchester school district, costing the city approximately $15 million in revenue.

Joyce Craig’s approach involves working with parents, administrators, and teachers to emphasize literacy in early education, ensuring students’ safety, and starting a conversation about bringing students back to the Manchester school district.

Joyce Craig issued the following statement:

“The facts are clear that the education that the city of Manchester offers its students has declined over the past eight years. In the latest New Hampshire Department of Education assessment, only 28% of our 3rd graders are reading at grade level. These numbers are among the lowest of any school district in the state. This has to change.

“I believe in Manchester public schools and in our hardworking teachers. My plan focuses on improving outcomes for all students. I will engage our community in a discussion about how to put our children back on the right track and fully prepare them for the future. Ensuring a good school district is pivotal for attracting businesses and residents, driving economic development, and building a stronger Manchester.”

Emphasizing Education and Preparing our Students for the Future

Strong schools are critical for a thriving community and a growing economy. A good school district helps to attract and retain businesses and residents, drives economic development, provides opportunities for our children, and helps prevent crime and delinquency. There has never been a more pivotal moment to impact the direction of Manchester’s public schools than right now.

As Mayor, I will:

  • Ensure students and teachers have access to basic tools such as books, workbooks, online resources, and technology.
  • Provide Manchester teachers with on-going professional development opportunities to improve outcomes for students.
  • Modernize curriculum and course offerings in our schools to prepare students for the 21st century economy and the innovative industries and jobs in Manchester – establish process for evaluation of existing curriculum on regular basis.
  • Establish a Mayor’s Youth Employment Initiative to provide young people with career experience, training, internships, and opportunities in new careers.
  • Fight to ensure Manchester is receiving our fair share of state and federal funding – advocate for special education, adequacy funding and against downshifting from the state.
  • Update strategic plan and develop measurable goals and benchmarks for the district focused on improving student achievement.
  • Support and grow workforce ready educational opportunities at MST, Central, Memorial and West.
  • Repair broken relationships with the former sending towns, Hooksett, Auburn and Candia, and seek new relationships to bring students to Manchester. The city has lost over $15 million in revenue from sending towns since these students left the school district, which has increased the tax-burden for Manchester residents.
  • Work with our parents, administrators and teachers to emphasize literacy in early education to start foundation for success. Currently, only 28% of third graders in Manchester Public Schools are reading at grade level.
  • Engage in honest and open communication with parents about safety concerns in our schools and work to immediately implement solutions when problems are identified.
  • Foster trust and collaboration between the School Board and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
  • Work with city businesses, local colleges, non-profits, and community leaders to develop public/private partnerships and utilize all available resources to improve outcomes for students.
  • Reinstitute Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board and encourage student representation on the School Board.
  • Bring back the Gifted and Talented Program – educate parents about online resources/VLACs opportunities.
  • Ensure that students who utilize special education services are offered every opportunity to succeed. The Manchester School District has been repeatedly criticized by the NH Department of Education for failing to serve this population and the school district has settled well over $1 million in lawsuits brought against the district in the past two years alone.
  • Work with parents, educators and the school board to evaluate and implement policies to reduce class sizes.

Joyce Craig has now released comprehensive plans on all her priorities for Manchester: education, economic growth, city management, safety and the opioid crisis, and transparency. All of Joyce’s plans can be found at joycecraig.org/plans.

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Continued Growing Support For Public Schools By Parents In Newest Poll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Nashua Teachers Union Calls On Board For Action On Proposed Contract

NASHUA, NH August 28, 2017 – Over 1,000 teachers are waiting for a new contract, but they’re not going to have one before the school year begins. For the third contract in a row, Nashua’s teachers are beginning the school year without an employment contract in place to continue the one that is expiring on August 31. This year, however, the Nashua Teachers’ Union (NTU) seemed to be on the verge of an agreement with the Nashua Board of Education (BOE) when the Board suddenly went silent after a promising meeting on June 15. Last week, the BOE finally agreed to resume negotiations in mid-September – a full three months since the parties last met.

“We are entering our second school year in a row without a contract,” said NTU President Adam Marcoux. “The lack of productive communication from the Board is problematic. I have tried numerous times to engage in talks to move this process forward, only to be met with responses stating why they could not meet or with no response at all. The silence is deafening.”

The expiring one-year contract was approved toward the end of 2016 as a stop-gap measure to give both parties time to evaluate the current salary structure. Under last year’s contract, a joint Board and NTU Salary Committee was created to study the current salary structure and recommend how it could be improved to insure retention of highly experienced faculty, especially those who were being paid significantly less than teachers with similar experience in comparable districts around the state. That committee proposed a new salary schedule that would be based on education and actual years of teaching experience instead of continuing the unsatisfactory step method.

Five months of negotiations for a new contract began in January, followed by one month of mediation when an impasse was declared in May. On June 15, the NTU left the mediation meeting believing they were within hours of settling a new multi-year agreement. The parties agreed the BOE would meet to discuss the proposed changes in salary structure, and then negotiations would resume. Despite many requests to continue negotiations since June, the Board was unable to resume working with the teachers to secure a contract and ensure a smooth opening of the school year.

“We are trying to come to an agreement that is fair and equitable to our teachers while understanding the budgetary impact it has on the school district and the City,” said Marcoux.

Democratic Senators Demand Answers To Policy Changes To Civil Rights Protections In The Dept of Education

Shaheen, Hassan Join Senate Democrats to Call Out Secretary DeVos for Harmful Actions on Civil Rights Protections, Enforcement 

Betsy DeVos
Image by Gage Skidmore Feb 2017

Senators highlight numerous steps taken by Secretary DeVos to roll back civil rights enforcement and protections for students 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined 33 Senators today in sending a letter to Secretary DeVos citing major concerns with steps the U.S. Department of Education has taken under her leadership to diminish civil rights enforcement for students across the country. The Senators highlight a number of alarming steps Secretary DeVos has taken, including hosting events with anti-LGBTQ hate groups, proposing to slash the budget of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and scaling back OCR’s civil rights enforcements, among others.

Your testimony in front of Congress, your continued association with groups with records of supporting discrimination, and two memos written by the Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, have reemphasized longstanding concerns about your dedication to the idea that all students, no matter their race, religion, disability, country of origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have a right to receive an education free from discrimination,” wrote the Senators.

In the letter the Senators continued to press DeVos on her failure to protect transgender students.

“We are also extremely disappointed in the Department’s failure to take actions to protect transgender students.  More than a third of transgender students report being the subject of harassment or bullying in school,[5] sixty percent of transgender youth report being forced to use bathrooms inconsistent with their gender identity,[6] and half of transgender children have seriously contemplated suicide.[7] Despite these shocking statistics, on February 22, 2017, the Department withdrew joint guidance on transgender students’ rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”).

On March 10, six Senators wrote you expressing outrage at that decision and asking how you intend to enforce civil rights protections for transgender students. While you have not yet answered that letter, recent steps by the Department suggest you will not act to protect transgender students. In fact, the Department has already abandoned its defense of some students who have experienced discrimination or harassment by dismissing or closing at least two cases involving transgender students and withdrawing previous findings of discrimination against the school districts.[8] ” 

The Senators are also demanding answers to open cases and policy changes within the Department of Education.

In order to fully understand the impact of recent policy and civil rights investigatory and enforcement changes at the Department and the Office of Civil Rights, please provide the following information and documents by July 11, 2017:

  • A list of all open OCR cases involving a transgender student as of January 30, 2017, disaggregated by the nature of the complaint, and the current status of each of these cases.
  • A list of all open OCR cases involving sexual assault or sexual harassment as of January 30, 2017 and the current status of those cases.
  • A list of all cases OCR has closed or dismissed between January 1, 2017, and today, and the specific reason each case was closed.
  • A complete, un-redacted copy of the manual used by investigators.
  • An explanation of how the Department intends to ensure that OCR investigators are making determinations about transgender students’ rights based on binding legal precedent in their region. 
  • An answer as to whether the Department will continue to post all resolution agreements online.
  • Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, policy changes affecting civil rights enforcement by the Department.
  • Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, proposed budget cuts in OCR.
  • A list of all metrics that will be used by the Department to assess effectiveness of civil rights enforcement.

There is no more serious responsibility of the Department than to ensure consistent, vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and protections for all students.”

Due to the disturbing actions of the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has opened a multi-agency investigation into whether the Trump Administration’s proposed budgets, staffing cuts, and policy priorities have increased the risk of discrimination.

The full letter is attached below.

062717 - Betsy DeVos ED Office of Civil Rights (OCR)

Yesterday Was Big Day In Concord For The Future Of Education In NH

Senate Stops Edelblut’s Power Grab, House Kills Voucher Bill And Funds Full Day Kindergarten

Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Edelblut requested broad new authority to make unilateral decisions impacting the future of education in New Hampshire 

Concord, NH – The NH State Senate Education Committee voted 3-2 yesterday to reject an amendment requested by Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. The amendment to otherwise non-controversial bill HB 356 would have given the new Commissioner broad authority to make unilateral decisions impacting education in the Granite State.

Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins applauded the Senate’s actions:

“We applaud the Senate Education committee for rejecting the attempted power grab by Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. Much of the public opposition to Frank Edelblut’s nomination and confirmation highlighted concerns over how he would operate within the Department of Education, and actions like this confirm Governor Sununu and the Executive Council should have listened to their constituents. This amendment was not the routine organizational realignment Commissioner Edelblut tried to characterize it as but a naked power grab for political purposes. Since taking office Edelblut has consistently used his Commissioner status to act in a unilateral manner to try to implement the strongly held beliefs he downplayed during the confirmation process.”

Just two months into his position as Education Commissioner, Edelblut has already made waves for trying to re-open the Next Generation Science Standards that were just approved last year; he initially refused to come clean about making a donation to a school privatization lawsuit against the Department he now leads; he forwarded an internal job posting to one of his Free State Project friends and then sent that individual’s resume to the HR director (that individual is also on the Board of an off-shoot group organizing for New Hampshire to secede from the rest of the country); he is using his position to lobby for SB 193, school vouchers/privatization; and he tried to usurp the State Board of Education’s rule-making responsibilities by injecting himself between the State Board and JLCAR – all without informing the State Board.

The NH Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said the Senate made the right move:

“After promising to be ‘an implementation guy’ who wouldn’t create policy, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut went back on his word in an attempted agency power grab. Edelblut would have taken this massive increase in power to radically transform the education system in his distorted image and seriously damaged education for children in the Granite State.

Edelblut is anti-transgender rights, supports conversion therapy, and opposes full-day kindergarten on the basis of a crackpot theory that it would increase misdiagnoses of ADHD.  Most recently, Edelblut broadcast his views that climate change is mentioned too often in science classes, openly disagreeing with the state Board of Education, in an interview with NHPR. The Senate Education Committee’s vote rightly prevents Edelblut from implementing these destructive policies.”

On the other side of the Capitol, the House was making some big decisions as well.

Yesterday, the House Education Committee voted to retain SB 193, a bill that sought to establish taxpayer-funded vouchers for religious schools, private schools, and home school parents. The bill was defeated amidst backlash from concerned Superintendents, School Boards, teachers, and parents throughout New Hampshire.

Governor Sununu and former Governor Jeb Bush both penned op-eds in favor of exactly the type of legislation House Republicans retained today, supporting public money for private schools and home schoolers. The bill also appears to violate the New Hampshire Constitution. The Committee’s vote to retain SB 193 effectively kills its prospects for another year.

“No matter how quietly Governor Sununu tries to back away from this bill, the defeat of SB 193 is a big blow to his education agenda. Sununu’s own party effectively killed legislation that he campaigned on, and that he and former Governor Jeb Bush penned op-eds in favor of. Governor Sununu and his unqualified Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut are trying to reshape the education system in their image and Edelblut, a homeschool parent, would have been eligible to receive taxpayer dollars had this bill passed,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley.

“New Hampshire parents are breathing a sigh of relief with SB 193’s bipartisan retention. This ill-conceived bill would have cost taxpayers an additional $25 million dollars to remove students from our public schools. SB 193 would have violated the New Hampshire Constitution in the name of benefits for private and religious schools with no mandate to comply with education standards, decreased funding towards public schools, and limited options for families in rural towns,” added Buckley.

Lastly, The House Education Committee also moved forward on SB191 a bill to fund full day kindergarten for all New Hampshire children.

Governor Sununu who campaigned on Full Day Kindergarten surprised many when his budget only funded the program for a select few areas in the state.

SB191 would set aside $14 million to fund full day kindergarten for all students in New Hampshire.

Governor Sununu is said to be in support of SB191, but did not advocate for the to provide all children in NH access to full day kindergarten. The bill will move to the full house soon.

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 4-2-17: School Vouchers, Voter Suppression, And NHRS

In a final flurry of action, the NH Senate completed action on its bills this past week, setting the stage for the next round of activity at the State House. One of the bills passed by the Senate was SB3, which is another in a long line of attempts at voter suppression. With some newspapers continuing to give front-page coverage to claims of massive voter fraud in NH (even as the stories themselves admit there is no evidence to back such claims), NH Republicans voted to impose new restrictions upon individuals registering to vote. Under this proposed legislation, the applicant will need to fill out a cumbersome and lengthy registration form and provide proofs of residency far beyond what has previously been accepted in NH. The goal, of course, is to reduce same-day registration and reduce voting by college students by dissuading them from even trying to register or creating such long delays at polling places that they will walk away and not vote at all. All of this is done in the name of voter fraud claims repeatedly and definitively refuted by town officials, the NH Secretary of State, and every non-partisan election observer. Instead, as NH’s Granite State Progress puts it, the NH Senate has now (by a party-line vote), thrown NH voters under the “make-believe, magic bus” of those who continue to assert fraud but offer not one scintilla of evidence to back their claims. What a basis for making policy!

SB3 will now go to the NH House, where it will undergo further hearings before being brought to the floor for a vote. Given that there is a Republican majority in the House and that Governor Sununu has also put forward unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, this bad legislation is likely to pass.

Full-Day Kindergarten   One positive development out of the Senate this past week was passage of a bill to provide targeted aid for full-day kindergarten here in NH. The House Finance Committee cut full-day kindergarten from their proposed 2018-19 State budget, but passage of this bill by the Senate makes clear that targeted funding for full-day kindergarten will be a point of contention in upcoming budget battles over the next two months.

House Finance Committee The House did not meet this past week, but the House Finance Committee did take its final votes and has now presented a proposed 2018-19 budget for the State of New Hampshire. As noted above, the Republican majority on the committee voted to eliminate proposed targeted funding for full-day kindergarten, following the logic of House Speaker Shawn Jasper, who could not imagine how any 5 or 6-year old could sit in school for a full day. (Maybe I’m odd, but I know I managed it just fine back in 1963-64!) The other proposals concerning us in this proposed budget concern the NH Retirement System. First, the budget makes no change in the State’s contribution to retirement costs for school districts and towns & municipalities that joined the System with promises of State backing. Instead, the State contribution rate remains at zero, meaning the State continues to break its promises and instead, passes along all retirement cost increases to local taxpayers. Second, this budget forces retirees under age 65 to pay 14% more towards their health insurance (20% of premium cost) and requires those aged 65-67 to now pay at least 10% towards health insurance premiums. In essence, the proposed budget reneges on prior agreements for retirees, making clear once again that the State of NH (at least in this budget) is not to be trusted whatsoever.

The proposed House budget will now go to the floor on Wednesday April 5 and will be voted on either the 5th or 6th. There will be numerous amendments proposed by members of both parties, but in the end, unless there is a major split within the Republican majority, the proposed budget will pass. It will then move on to the Senate where an entirely new budget will likely be drawn up and eventually passed, which means the final version of the 2018-19 budget will be worked out in a committee of conference between the Senate and House in May and likely voted on in June. In sum, the process has only begun.

School Vouchers   Finally, SB193, the radical voucher bill will be considered by the House Education Committee in a hearing this coming Tuesday morning. Advocates of “school choice” will be out in force in support of this raid upon public revenues, and have already launched attacks upon AFT-NH, among others, for opposing this legislation. They imply that AFT-NH spends millions in lobbying against this sort of legislation, which of course, is pure fiction, and whatever AFT spends nationally on the issue is dwarfed by the money spent by ALEC, Americans for Prosperity and the all the various front organizations funded by corporate interests intent on privatizing and profiting from education. The sad truth here in NH is that SB193 will result in major property tax increases as public funds are drained from public education to pay for private schooling. The reality is that choice already exists—what does not exist is the use of public funds to support private choices. SB193 does that, giving public monies to schools that can cherry-pick their students, need not offer the services required for special needs students, and remain free many programmatic and support requirements that public schools must meet. What the advocates of SB193 seek is public money, not public regulation, accountability or transparency. As Mark Fernald perceptively noted in a recent editorial, “If we create a system that is truly competitive and fair—with every school receiving public money meeting the same standards—I think we would find that our public schools do very well, and that most private and charter schools would not be interested in participating.”

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

  1. A hearing before the House Education Committee has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 4th at 10:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. Please attend the hearing and show your opposition. If you do not wish to testify, you can sign a card showing your opposition.

    If you are unable to attend, 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#

  2. Contact your State Representative by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!

    Defeat SB 193           

There is no question when our members, partners, and other stakeholders stand up and register their opinions to lawmakers, we do make a difference! Thank you for all that you are doing every day to push back against legislation that is harmful to our state.

 

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 2-24-17: Payroll Deduction And The Expansion Of School Vouchers

February 24, 2017  

This week and next week the House will not be in session, due to school winter vacations, though the Senate is holding sessions and many committee hearings continue to be held. So, business continues to be done, though we are in a bit of a pause in the House, before the deluge of bills hits the floor on March 8 & 9. Due to the pause, and trying to closely monitor committee actions, this bulletin is intended to provide a snapshot of where we are and what lies ahead the next few weeks.

Right to Work So-called ‘right to work was defeated soundly on February 16th and also was indefinitely postponed. However, it is “not quite dead yet:” Yes, you read that correctly. The House version of so-called right to work (HB 520), is a virtual carbon copy of the Senate version decisively rejected by the House last week. However, there does need to be one more vote on the House bill. On either March 8 or 9, there will be a procedural vote on whether to take up HB 520 in the House. A 2/3 margin is needed to take up the bill, so it is unlikely to rise from the dead, but opponents of anti-worker, so-called ‘right to work’ legislation will need to be vigilant and in their seats, ready to vote to defeat the motion. AFT-NH is actively engaged with our fellow labor unions and community allies to close out this ugly chapter.

It is not too late to thank those legislators who stood with us to defeat right to work. To view the list, please click here. If you click on the name of the representative, the contact information is provided.

Payroll Deduction (HB 438) As you may already know, this proposal is a companion piece to so-called right to work, except it lacks even the flimsy veneer of ideological justification so often touted by advocates of so-called right-to-work. It is vindictive and an undisguised assault on the financial basis of labor organizations, their member dues. Under this legislation, no public employer will be allowed to deduct union dues from an employee’s wages, meaning the union must develop alternative means of collecting dues. Payroll deduction is a long-standing system that is negotiated in contracts, and must be authorized by individual union members. Yet unlike voluntary contributions to charities, apprenticeship funds, voluntary health insurance, or savings funds, all of which will continue to be allowed as voluntary deductions, union dues will be singled out and barred by law from payroll deduction. Why such a prohibition? To simply weaken the ability of unions to collect member dues, thereby weakening their financial foundations and ultimately, weakening the ability of labor unions to fight for their members, whether it be for better wages and benefits, workplace protections, or simply having a voice in the workplace. In essence, time for workers to return to the good old days, before labor unions, when the employer was unchallenged and the worker, to quote Frank Zappa, had to “do as you are told, until the rights to you are sold.”

The public hearing on this bill will be held on Wednesday, March 1, in front of the House Labor Committee, beginning at 10 am in LOB 305-307. If you are able to do so, please attend the hearing and register your opposition. You can also send an email to the entire House Labor Committee at

HouseLaborIndustrialandRehabilitativeServices@leg.state.nh.us

Education Legislation This week yielded up a mixed bag in regards to education-related legislation. A proposal (HB 505) to create a new, alternative body to authorize charter schools (thereby making it even easier to establish such schools) was retained by the Education Committee, meaning it will not come to the floor of the House in 2017 but could be addressed in 2018. That is a victory, at least in terms of delaying action. Another bill (HB 429), to strip the judiciary of any role in determining adequate education funding, was unanimously recommended to be killed by the House Legislative Administration Committee. Given the obvious and repeated failures of the Legislature in years past to adequately fund public education, this is a victory.

However, legislation to create a statewide education voucher system in NH continues to move forward. Last week, the House narrowly approved (along largely party lines) a bill (HB 647-FN) to establish a voucher system for use by parents of children with disabilities. While we all care deeply about such children, a voucher system that removes funding from the public schools and gives it to parents to use for private and/or religious education, is simply wrong for NH, weakening the public system and providing direct aid to schools that quite often do not need to meet the same stringent requirements and thresholds of traditional public schools. This bill now proceeds to House Finance (Division II) which will be conducting hearings on Feb. 28th and March 2nd. Stay tuned for specific actions on this bill as we determine the direction which will be taken from House Finance.

Meanwhile, in the Senate yesterday, SB 193-FN passed 13-10. This bill would establish a statewide voucher system for all students in NH, moving millions in taxpayer funds into private and religious schools. The impact on local communities is incalculable at this point, but these bills could easily be labeled as “Raise Your Local Property Tax” legislation. Traditional public school facilities would still need to be maintained, programs offered, and requirements met, but the funding would decrease while taxpayer dollars flow into private and religious schools. Needless to say, this is bad legislation, but is supported by Governor Chris Sununu as well as his new Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut. This bill is now referred to Senate Finance. Both SB 193 and HB 647 will reappear in late March.

There is also the so-called “Croydon” bill, SB 8-FN, which passed the Senate this week. This bill would allow a school board to contract with a private school if there is no public school in the student’s grade in its district. More diversion of tax dollars to private schools. This will proceed to Senate Finance. The topic of non-academic surveys was also addressed by the Senate in SB 43 which no student shall be required to participate in these surveys without written consent from the parent or guardian. The only exception to this would be the youth risk behavior survey developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, a parent could opt out on behalf of the student.

As a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition, we continue to monitor any bills affecting the NH Retirement System and your benefits. HB 413, which would require the State to pay 15% of the retirement obligation to local communities, is now in House Finance (Division I) and will have a public hearing on February 28th. This bill would provide much needed relief to local communities.

There is much else going on in Concord as we approach the “cross-over” when are bills are due to be voted on by the respective chamber and sent to the other body. We will keep you posted in those bills where there is need for immediate action. Breaking news first appears on our AFT New Hampshire page, so please have your friends, family and colleagues take a moment to like our page!

For those of you starting your February vacation, enjoy your time off and the warmer weather. Spring is around the corner.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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