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Nashua Teachers Union Recommends Jim Donchess for Mayor

Teachers Back Donchess for His Strong Commitment to Education
and Proven Record of Supporting Nashua’s Schools.

NASHUA—Today, the Nashua Teachers Union announced its endorsement of Jim Donchess in his campaign for Mayor, asking its members and their families and neighbors who reside in Nashua to support Donchess during his campaign and in the September 8th Primary Election.

The Nashua Teachers Union is made up of teachers in the Nashua school district, and is a municipal affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire (AFT-NH). AFT-NH Local 1044 President Bob Sherman, among numerous other educators, cited Donchess’ unwavering commitment to education.

“After reviewing all of the candidates who submitted their responses to the Teachers Union Committee on Political Education (COPE) questionnaire on education, the COPE Committee voted almost unanimously to support Jim. Given his longstanding record on and commitment to education in Nashua, we know that Jim is the right choice,” said AFT-NH Local 1044 President Bob Sherman.

“I’ve known Jim since our children were in elementary school together many years ago. His commitment to public education and learning has been the root of him as a citizen of Nashua and as a public servant. His support of education spans decades, and he is and has always been authentic and genuine in his commitment to our city,” says Nashua High School South teacher Judy Loftus. “In 2010, when he saw budget cuts that would have resulted in the loss of many teachers in Nashua, he and a group of citizens formed the organization Nashua Schools Back On Top. They advocated successfully to restore many of those cuts before the budget was finalized. We must elect Jim as Mayor to have a partner in City Hall who ensures that children and teachers in Nashua always have an advocate.”

“About a year ago Jim stopped by my house and we had a really in-depth conversation about education. I was, and have continued to be, very impressed by his outreach to Nashua residents and his commitment to children,” says Ledge Street Elementary School Teacher Sylvie Stewart. “Jim knows that the most beneficial way to improve Nashua is through working with educators to provide a high quality public-school education, one that meets the demands of all its children so that each child has the opportunity to thrive.”

“It’s an honor to have earned the support of Nashua’s teachers.  Education is the backbone of any community and when schools thrive, the community thrives and our economy thrives,” said Donchess. “Making children, teachers and education a priority in Nashua is key if we want our city to grow and succeed.”

About the American Federation of Teachers New Hampshire Local 1044

AFT-NH Local 1044 is the Municipal Affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire. AFT Local 1044 has nearly 1,500 members in Nashua, including teachers, para-educators, secretaries and food service employees.

New Report: High Pay Does Not Alway Mean Your Job Has Real Meaning

PayScale_ Most Meaningful Jobs [735 x 735]

Many people take great pride in their work, whether they are serving hamburgers or teaching our future generation.  However making lots of money does not always mean that you are happier with your career choice or that you feel you are helping to make the world a better place.

A new report from PayScale.com shows that the highest and most meaning full jobs, and conversely the highest paid and lowest meaningful jobs.

For example, with an average income of $35,000 a year, Directors of Religious Activities and Education ranked the highest in meaningful jobs with 98% agreeing that their jobs are making the world a better place.  The clergy are followed closely behind by; Firefighters ($43,500, 93% who find the job meaningful), primary school and pre-school educators ($32,000 – 35,000, 89% who find the job meaningful), and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors  ($35,000, 85% who find the job meaningful).

These are all great professions that are doing amazing work in their local communities.  Today it was announced by the Granite State Poll that the Heroin epidemic is one of the pressing issues facing Granite Staters right now.

Proving that money does not bring happiness and meaning to you job only 30% of advertising and promotional managers ($71,000) found their jobs meaningful.  37% of tax collectors and revenue agents ($80,500) found meaning in their jobs.  Shockingly only 40% of lawyers ($89,900) found meaning in their jobs.

The facts are hard to deny, sometimes the best jobs are not always the best paid. Take it from an unpaid blogger who devotes hours a day to help make our world a better place to live and work.

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

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

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

Supplies: 8×11 paper, ruler, flat surface

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

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

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

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

Pillow Fight – No explanation necessary here.

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

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

Supplies: good hiding spots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supplies: camera

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

Supplies: imagination, props or costumes from household items.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun!!

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

GROWING UP GRANITE

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

McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center

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

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

Story Land

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

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

Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park

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

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

Children’s Museum of New Hampshire

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

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

Mount Washington Valley Children’s Museum

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

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

The Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center

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

The Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center is an

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

Polar Caves

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

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

Charmingfare Farm

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

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

New Hampshire Fisher Cats Baseball

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

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

Kuster Announces Support for Legislation to Increase Access to Childcare During Roundtable Discussion with Salem Parents and Early Childhood Education Stakeholders

2015-07-17 Annie KusterSalem, NH – This morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) held a roundtable discussion with local stakeholders and staff at Salem Family Resources to discuss their work, and to announce her support for federal legislation to increase access to childcare and early childhood education. The discussion also provided Kuster with a chance to hear from parents, childcare providers, and advocates about how Congress can help support working families with young children, so their thoughts can be included in the Congresswoman’s forthcoming “Working Families Agenda.”

“All across the state, parents are hard at work earning a living for their families. But rising childcare costs are pushing many families over budget,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “We must ensure that we’re supporting working families, and increasing access both to childcare, and to early childhood education – which we all know is so important for developmental growth. During today’s roundtable, I got a chance to hear firsthand from Salem parents, educators, and other stakeholders about how Congress can best support our working families, and I was proud to announce my support for two bills that will help ease the burden on families with young children.”

During the roundtable, Congresswoman Kuster was joined by a number of participants from the early childhood education community to hear about the state of childcare across the district. Parents also shared challenges facing working families, and Kuster will take their feedback back to Washington and incorporate their thoughts into her Working Families Agenda. She also announced her support for two bills to help families better afford the cost of childcare: the Child Tax Credit Permanency Act of 2015 would adjust the Internal Revenue Code to give more families access to the Child Tax Credit and provide inflation adjustments to the $1,000 credit for calendar years after 2013, and the Child Care Access and Refundability Expansion Act of 2015, which would help ensure that middle class families qualify for a larger portion of the Child Tax Credit.

As many New Hampshire families make sacrifices and parents work multiple jobs to make ends meet, Congresswoman Kuster is committed to supporting these families and has long advocated for efforts to strengthen early childhood education. Later this year, she will release a Working Families Agenda, a blueprint that outlines steps Congress should take to support working families across the country. Kuster was proud to host this event, which continued an important dialogue with families in New Hampshire and gave parents a chance to share ideas on policies that could benefit children and their families for years to come.

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Shaheen Applauds Senate Passage of Elementary & Secondary Education Reform Bill

Legislation Includes Several Shaheen Provisions Supporting
STEM Education and Community Service Programming

Jeanne Shaheen STEM SpeechWashington, DC – This afternoon, Senator Jeanne Shaheen voted in favor of broad reforms to elementary and secondary education policy, known as The Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177). The Senate passed this legislation by a bipartisan vote of 81 to 17. This legislation reforms and updates many problematic policies that were put in place by the No Child Left Behind law passed in 2002.

“As a former teacher and governor, I know that it’s the teachers and administrators on the ground in our local school districts that know how best to address the education needs of their communities,” said Shaheen. “This legislation represents long overdue reforms to federal education policy by giving state governments and local school districts more control and flexibility in how they use federal funds as they work to support and improve their elementary, middle and high schools. I’m also very pleased that the legislation expands science, technology and math programs that will help create and encourage the next generation of American innovators.”

Several Shaheen priorities were added to the legislation, including an amendment that supports science, technology and math (STEM) after-school learning programs by making federal funding available under a new STEM education grant. The bill also includes a Shaheen provision that provides support for low-income students in innovative STEM activities, such as robotics competitions, as well as a provision that allows local school districts greater flexibility to use federal funds for programs that promote volunteerism and community service.

Ayotte Votes to Cut Million$ in Funding for NH School Districts

Senator Kelly AyotteConcord, N.H. – Kelly Ayotte is once again working against the interests of New Hampshire’s students and families, voting for an amendment to the Senate’s education reform bill that would cut $1.7 million in federal funds for the Manchester School District.

Ayotte’s vote would also cut $420,000 from the Nashua School District$207,000 from the Franklin School District$150,000 from the Conway School District, and $160,000 from the Berlin School District.

“Since going to Washington, Kelly Ayotte has put her special interest backers first, working to roll back Wall Street reform and protecting tax breaks for big oil companies and outsourcers, while also voting against the interests of New Hampshire’s students and families,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Press Secretary Aaron Jacobs. “Ayotte’s vote to cut $1.7 million in federal funds from the Manchester School District, and to cut hundreds of thousands more from Nashua, Franklin, Conway and Berlin, would lead to huge cuts to education funding, higher local property taxes, or both.”

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Read Kelly Ayotte Votes Against New Hampshire’s Best Interests In Budget here.

Granite State Rumblings: Hunger And Poverty Don’t Take A Vacation

I love summer! I especially love that I don’t ever have to turn on my oven during the summer. If it can’t be cooked on the barbecue, it isn’t in my recipe file during the summer months. And it seems that there are plenty of great recipes to choose from all summer long. Each meal is always accompanied by locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables and usually a dessert that has been created with farm fresh ingredients. Life is good!

But summertime can be a very difficult time for children who need to eat nutritious meals. Kids may be on vacation, but as a report from FRAC points out, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation.

Nearly 1 in 6 Low-Income Children Receive Summer Meals, Report Finds

Momentum Signals Progress and Outlines Path for Continued Growth

More low-income children are eating summer meals, according to a new report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) which showed more than 3.2 million children participated in the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2014. This represents a seven percent increase over the previous year, and demonstrates what can be done when the federal government, states, and communities make summer food a priority.

There was significant progress in 2014 in reaching a higher proportion of children in need. In its annual report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, FRAC measures the success of Summer Nutrition Programs at the national and state levels by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. By that measure, one in six children (16:100) who needed summer nutrition received it. In July 2013, the ratio was 15:100.

“Higher participation rates in summer food mean more low-income children get the fuel they need to thrive over the summer months,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “Congress can further this progress in this year’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization law by making strategic and thoughtful investments in the Summer Nutrition Programs that bolster their capacity to serve even more children.”

The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program over the summer period, provide free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits for children under 18. Not only do children benefit from the free meals, but they also benefit from the enrichment activities that keep them learning and engaged.

Leadership by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) contributed to this progress. The agency has prioritized summer meal growth by partnering with national organizations to increase the number of sponsors and sites and by providing hands-on assistance to states. As a result, the Summer Nutrition Programs served lunch to 3.2 million children on an average day in July 2014, an increase of more than 215,000, or 7.3 percent, from July 2013.

These gains pave the way for even more progress to be made. If every state had reached the goal of 40 children participating in Summer Nutrition in July 2014 for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2013-2014 school year, an additional 4.6 million children would have been fed each day, and states would have collected an additional $360 million in child nutrition funding in July alone.

“Participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs has continued to increase over the last three years and thousands more children are being reached as a result,” said Weill. “Working together, we can continue to build on this progress and move closer to a hunger-free summer for all children.”

About the report: The Food Research and Action Center’s annual summer report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, gives data for all states and looks at national trends. The report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. The regular school year is used as a measure because such a high proportion of low-income children eat school lunch on regular school days. FRAC measures national summer participation during the month of July, when typically all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to regular year school meals.

To find a summer meals site near you click on this link and follow the directions:
http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks

GROWING UP GRANITE

Those who know me well will tell you that I am passionate when it comes to the subject of poverty, especially child poverty. I am privileged to work for an organization that allows me to invest my time and energy in advocating for children who live in poverty, working on solutions to poverty and the programs that serve our most vulnerable population, and educating our elected officials and the public about the hazards of growing up in poverty.

Sometimes I go to bed wondering why this work has chosen me as there are many days that I feel burned out, frustrated and powerless. But then I see the smiling face of a child in a Head Start program when he proudly shows me how he has learned to write his name, or I listen to a mom who is struggling to find a job that will pay her enough to keep food on the table and a roof over the head of her children, and the fire ignites once again.

There are a lot of great people who work on this issue and so many other important issues. They proudly wear their orange badges in the Legislative Office Building and State House of New Hampshire. They sit in committee hearings, testify on bills, call and meet with legislators and the Governor’s office, meet and strategize with others who are working on the issues, and rally the troops.

Others do their work outside of the legislative process, working in the departments, agencies, and programs that serve children and families. Their dedication to those families and their willingness to share their knowledge with advocates and others is essential to the process.

While there is still work to do on a state budget before the end of the year, I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who advocate each and every day. I also want to thank all of you who have answered our requests to write letters, call your representatives, talk to your friends, co-workers, and neighbors and have gotten involved. We could not do our work without your assistance.

We also could not have done our jobs without the voices of those who have been willing to tell their personal stories. They are the true heroes. Their voices are important and necessary, as they speak with the knowledge and urgency that an advocate who has not walked a mile in their shoes can even hope to approximate.

It is our hope that the Governor and Legislators will work diligently and swiftly to carve out a budget agreement that is fair to all Granite State citizens and one that will move individuals and families forward. We also hope that the voices of those who rely upon all government supported programs will be heard in these meetings.

Last week Governor Hassan vetoed SB 169 and indicated that she will sign HB 219 when it reaches her desk. We thank the Governor for taking this reasonable and fair approach to legislation that will affect those who rely upon public assistance and use electronic benefit transfer cards in our state.

Governor Hassan’s Veto Message Regarding SB 169

Governor Maggie Hassan released the following message after vetoing SB 169:

“By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 10, 2015, I have vetoed Senate Bill 169, relative to the permissible uses of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards.

“Senate Bill 169 prohibits the use of cash received from electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards for the purpose of gambling and the purchase of tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets, firearms, and adult entertainment. While the sponsors and I agree that public assistance should not be used for these purposes, the approach taken by this legislation would be unenforceable, as retail clerks and sales associates would have no way of determining where an individual’s cash came from at the time of sale.  That is why I will sign the alternative – and workable – version of this legislation, House Bill 219.

“Senate Bill 169 could lead to retail clerks being in the uncomfortable position of policing potential abuse by trying to decide whether ‘someone looks like’ they receive assistance. That could lead to discrimination, as many of those who opposed the bill warned. The seniors, people with disabilities, and struggling families who receive cash public assistance sometimes have alternative sources of income, making it nearly impossible to determine the source of the cash that is being utilized for the purchase.

“House Bill 219 allows for a more enforceable approach to address the issue of potential public assistance fraud or abuse. House Bill 219 prevents use of EBT cards within body piercing or tattoo parlors, cigar stores and smoke shops, and marijuana dispensaries. These locations are exclusive to the product or service they provide, and thus preventing use of EBT cards in these establishments does not prevent someone from purchasing basic household items that these locations do not sell. House Bill 219 also requires an educational component for cash assistance recipients and retail establishments, something Senate Bill 169 fails to do. For these reasons, I will be signing into law House Bill 219 when it reaches my desk.

“Senate Bill 169 establishes an unenforceable precedent that could put our cashiers and retail clerks in the untenable position of determining the source of a customer’s cash in an attempt to police potential abuse, along with denying access to families who need and qualify for this financial support. I will be signing House Bill 219, which accomplishes this bill’s goals of protecting taxpayer dollars used in this critical program without creating an unenforceable regulation or the potential for discrimination. Therefore, I have vetoed Senate Bill 169.”

Public Schools Should Provide Free Public Transportation Too

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

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

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

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

They are joking right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Christie Flees To New Hampshire To Avoid His Major Problems In New Jersey

Chris Christie (Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

Chris Christie (Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

This week, Chris Christie announced his candidacy for President. Unfortunately, with a historic nine credit downgrades, and near last in the nation for job growth, things aren’t going so great back home in New Jersey and his constituents are not so happy about it. Let’s recap: 

And let’s not leave out Christie’s local papers blasting him with scathing editorials that detail his failed leadership and question why he’s running at all.

“Christie wants to expand economic opportunity to all? Then why did he increase taxes on the working poor, kill the state’s affordable housing efforts, and veto a minimum wage hike? He believes in compromise? Then why is Trenton locked in the same kind of partisan stalemate we see in Washington? He believes in leadership? Then why isn’t he doing something about the crumbling bridges, the worsening fiscal crisis, or the sputtering economy?…

And it’s not all Bridgegate, either. That started the descent, and exposed the dark underbelly of his brash style, and the craven culture of this administration. Christie’s collapse, at its core, is about more than all that. It is about the failure of governing in New Jersey.” Star-Ledger Editorial Board

“The greater problem, however, is his record: Even if Christie can outrun the opposition and the scandal, it’s difficult to grasp what he would run on.

While styling himself a pragmatic decider who gets stuff done, Christie has presided over a period of fiscal deterioration and economic stagnation. The budget he just signed required his lawyers to extricate him from the pension reforms he touted as a signature bipartisan achievement. The reversal was at stark odds with his proclamation Tuesday: ‘I mean what I say and I say what I mean.’” Philly Inquirer Editorial Board

NJ Advance Media commentator Brian Donohue explains why Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential bid is nothing but bad news for the state of New Jersey.
(Five ways Christie’s presidential run stinks for New Jersey Video by Brian Donohue and Bumper DeJesus | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

The people at YouGotSchooled2016 are back talking about how this years round of Presidential hopefuls faired in their home states especially on issues of education.

  • Public schools: It’s kind of weird that Chris Christie chose to announce he is running for president at a public school when he has slashed education funding by a billion dollars.
  • Higher education: New Jersey’s higher education funding fell from its peak of $2.33 billion in 2006 (pre Gov. Christie) to $1.93 billion in 2013, a 17 percent decline. Thanks, Gov. Christie.
  • Teachers: Aside from the cuts to public education, if you’re a teacher you better avoid Chris Christie all together, unless you want to get yelled at.

But of course, Christie blames the media instead of taking responsibility for his own failed leadership. 

“As Chris Christie continues his tour through New Hampshire, he’s abandoned his own state after years of failed leadership in pursuit of his political ambitions. Granite Staters won’t be fooled by his excuses. Chris Christie’s reckless abuse of power and helping his allies have done nothing but left middle class families in the dust,” said Lizzy Price, Communications Director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

The biggest warning of all came from one of the largest newspapers in New Jersey. “After 14 years of watching Christie, a warning: He lies,” wrote Tom Moran editorial board of the Star Ledger.

“Most Americans don’t know Chris Christie like I do, so it’s only natural to wonder what testimony I might offer after covering his every move for the last 14 years.”

‘…Don’t misunderstand me. They all lie, and I get that. But Christie does it with such audacity, and such frequency, that he stands out.”

“…But let’s start with my personal favorite. It dates back to the 2009 campaign, when the public workers unions asked him if he intended to cut their benefits. He told them their pensions were “sacred” to him.”

Chris Christie is a smooth politician that knows how to say what the people in the room want to hear. He is also a brash, overbearing, jerk who continually demeans reporters and people who challenge him on issues.  Christie’s failed leadership doesn’t make him fit to be president of my local PTA, never mind the President of the United States.

Granite State Rumblings: Proposed Changes Would Propel Head-Start Program

When Congress reauthorized Head Start in 2007, it directed the agency to review and revise its performance standards. The comment period ends in mid-August, and it could be months before final regulations are issued. Among the most significant revisions on the table:

Length of Day and Year

Current: Head Start programs must operate 128 days during a school year, for a minimum of 3.5 hours each day

Proposed Change: Head Start programs would operate 180 days during a school year, for at least 6 hours each day.

Revised Regulations

Current: There are more than 1,400 program performance standards, some of which are redundant or overly prescriptive, according to Head Start.

Proposed Change: The streamlined proposed standards have been simplified and better organized.

Strengthening Education

Current: The document that outlines what young children should know and be able to do was last revised in 2010.

Proposed Change: The new document, called the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework Ages Birth to Five, is based on the latest research on child development.

Comprehensive Services

Current: Head Start distinguishes itself from other early-childhood programs through its focus on physical and mental health services and family engagement.

Proposed Change: Head Start plans to maintain this focus, with attention on streamlining and better coordination.

Professional Development

Current: Professional development relies on “intermittent workshops and conferences” that don’t have an effect on long-term practice, according to Head Start.

Proposed Change: Many teachers would receive intensive coaching in best practices.

Local Flexibility

Current: Head Start providers had limited ability to modify a program to meet local needs.

Proposed Change: The new rules would increase opportunities for Head Start grantees to modify policies if they can show those modifications work best for their communities.

Source: Office of Head Start, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Here is a blog piece from the current edition of Education Week.

Head Start Proposals Draw Cheers, Cautions
By
Christina A. Samuels

Early-childhood advocates are praising a proposed top-to-bottom revision of the rules governing Head Start, the federally-funded program that serves a million children from low-income families and pregnant women and children nationwide, even as they raise questions about whether the budget resources would be available to bring those plans to fruition.

Head Start officials see the proposal, which was seven years in the making, as a way to cut the bureaucratic burden that has developed over the program’s 50 years in existence. They also want to incorporate the latest knowledge about what best prepares children for academic success as well as social and emotional health.

But the changes—the most noteworthy of which calls for increasing the length of a Head Start operation’s day and the number of days it must operate per year—would come with a hefty $1 billion price tag. Currently, a Head Start program must operate for at least 3.5 hours a day and 128 days a year; the proposed changes would increase that to at least 6 hours a day and 180 days per year.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal would increase Head Start’s funding to cover both the school day and year changes and to pay for other Head Start initiatives. But, the spending increase is far from guaranteed.

Head Start is currently funded for about $8.6 billion. The president’s fiscal 2016 budget requests $10.1 billion for the program.

“Congress is not in an additional funding mood,” said Laura Bornfreund, a deputy director of the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative, based in Washington. “What if Congress doesn’t make that appropriation? Are they going to take [program expansion] out? Are they going to make that optional? Are they going to ask centers to try to figure that out?”

Long in Coming

The proposed revisions, which were mandated by Congress when it reauthorized Head Start in 2007, were released just a month after the program celebrated the anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing the bill that created it as part of the War on Poverty.

By and large, the proposed changes appear to have met Head Start’s stated goals, say those who have examined the document outlining them, which was released June 18 and is open for a month of public comment.

“They have remodeled Head Start, but they’ve still done a good job of honoring the stuff that Head Start cares about—the work with families, the parent engagement, the comprehensive services. I think they did a really good job of strengthening the classroom experience for students,” said Joel Ryan, the executive director of a Head Start advocacy group for programs based in Washington state.

Ms. Bornfreund agreed that extending the length of the Head Start school day and year is “an important change to have in there, but definitely the funding and the support for programs is needed to make that shift well. Just adding a few more hours just doesn’t mean there’s going to be high-quality learning going on.”

Head Start officials say they are prepared to phase in some requirements if the rules are made final before the money to implement them is available. The final rule can end up with flexibility for Head Start providers to take a year to phase the other major requirements, such as extending the school year and day.

One element of Head Start that has not been touched is the requirement for low-performing grantees to compete for continued funding.

Department on Board

The funding question has not dimmed the enthusiasm from Head Start officials over the proposed revisions. In the proposed rules themselves, and in accompanying summaries and webinars aimed at providers, they acknowledged that the program had gotten too prescriptive, making it difficult for Head Start providers to focus on the issues that are most meaningful for children.

“We certainly know that some of you are saying, ‘It’s about time you got these out,’” Head Start Deputy Director Ann Linehan said in an webinar for Head Start grantees to announce the proposed rules.

“In this case, procrastination served us well, because it gave us time to really read all the results of the research,” she said. “This set of proposed rules really reflects the best.”

Along with the proposed rules changes, Head Start also revised a document that explains what children should know and be able to do from birth to 5 years old. What is now called the “Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework” was last revised in 2010, and only focused on children ages 3-5.

In an interview with Education Week, Head Start Director Blanca Enriquez said this new document will help programs align their curricula so that they’re best preparing children for school. And, unlike the other proposed changes, the framework does not have to go through a public comment process.

‘Supergrantees’

Another less-noticed change has to do with the authority so-called “supergrantees” have to manage their “delegate agencies.” Some large agencies, such as the Los Angeles County Office of Education or the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, contract with smaller agencies that actually provide the direct services to children.

Currently, if a grantee moves to terminate a contract with a delegate agency, Head Start rules require a number of different steps and appeals processes that involve federal officials. The proposed rules would cut the federal government’s role in that element of delegate management.

Noting another change that has flown under the radar, Monica Ortiz, the executive director of the Maryland Head Start Association, noted that the proposal would eliminate a requirement that Head Start programs have parent committees. There are other committees that have parent involvement, such as policy councils, but Ms. Ortiz said the new rules would need to ensure that a broad cross-section of parents still have an opportunity to be involved in the program.

“How do you ensure your policy council is fully representative of the full group of your parents?” she asked.

But the proposed changes to the lengths of the Head Start day and school year have garnered the most attention among grantees. Early educators refer to the length of time children spend in the classroom as “dosage,” and officials said that Head Start’s current minimums are just too low for the high-needs population that Head Start serves—especially considering that Head Start also provides other services, such as health and developmental screenings.

“If we really want our teachers to focus on the comprehensive services, they really need a full day,” said Ms. Enriquez, the director of Head Start.

However, the proposal raises multiple questions about how grantees will find space and staffing to carry out this work. Currently, only 57 percent of Head Start preschoolers receive services for 6 hours or more a day, and only 31 percent receive services for 180 or more days.

While some parents might welcome a longer day, Mr. Ryan, with the Washington State Head Start Association, said he was not sure if a longer day should be mandated for all programs. Other changes could also increase preschool quality, he said, such as reducing student-teacher ratios. The proposal would maintain the current ratio of one teacher and one teacher-assistant for 20 children ages 4-5. For 3-year-olds, the ratio would remain, as it is now, 17 children to one teacher and one teaching assistant.

“The teachers I work with will pretty consistently say … they’d be happy to put more money into increasing the dosage, but the first thing they’d do is decrease the class size,” Mr. Ryan said.

GROWING UP GRANITE

From our friends at NH Voices for Health, is this regarding the Supreme Court’s decision last week in King v. Burwell:

Today, millions of people can breathe a huge sigh of relief. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in states with federally-facilitated marketplaces, like New Hampshire, consumers are eligible for tax credits to help them pay for their health insurance premiums. More than nine million Americans rely on these tax credits, including over 45,000 New Hampshire consumers, in order to be able to afford the cost of insurance.

“We are pleased at the outcome of today’s Supreme Court ruling, which preserves the ability for New Hampshire residents to access affordable coverage,” said Tom Bunnell, policy consultant for NH Voices for Health. “The justices followed well-established legal doctrine in concluding that subsidies are available in states that have federally-facilitated Marketplaces.”

“In addition, the ruling ensures that New Hampshire can move forward with its unique and innovative version of Medicaid Expansion, and transition the NH Health Protection Program enrollees to the private Marketplace in January of 2016,” Bunnell said.

For Granite Staters with plans on the Marketplace, the 2016 Open Enrollment period begins November 1, 2015. Five insurance carriers will offer a record 81 health plans – up from 60 plans in 2015.

Today’s decision is a win for all New Hampshire residents who can continue to rely on New Hampshire’s stable and increasingly competitive private insurance market for high quality, low cost, accessible health care. Thank you for all you do to continue making access to affordable care here

in New Hampshire possible.

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