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NH Passes Full Day Kindergarten, Sort Of

Yesterday, the Senate passed SB 191 also known as “Keno-garten” to partially fund full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire.

The bill would pay a portion of the costs ($1,100 of the $1,800 per pupil) to expand half-day kindergarten to full day with revenue generated through the state’s new Keno lottery.  There are no guarantees that Keno revenue will be enough to fund the program in the coming years and the bill still does not require all NH schools to expand kindergarten to a full day program.

The National Education Association of NH, representing thousands of educators across the state, explained the dilemma over SB 191 in their open letter urging legislators to support SB191.

“To be clear, SB 191 as amended by the Committee of Conference, is not perfect. NEA-New Hampshire has always, and will always continue, to advocate that full day kindergarten be funded in full in the same manner as all other grades. However, NEA-NH also recognizes sometimes you have to compromise in the process of getting to your ultimate goal.

SB 191 is just such a compromise. Yes, it does not guarantee full funding of kindergarten, and yes, the funding mechanism is not necessarily the one I would have chosen. But it is also the largest step New Hampshire has ever taken toward fully funding full day kindergarten that has occurred since I began teaching 18 years ago.

…New Hampshire’s current method of kindergarten funding puts an enormous burden on the 70% of New Hampshire municipalities (covering 80% of New Hampshire’s students) that have voluntarily elected to offer full day kindergarten. SB 191 will provide significant tax relief to those towns, and hopefully, encourage the remaining cities and towns to adopt full day kindergarten as well.

NEA-New Hampshire believes that all school districts should offer full day kindergarten. While passage of SB 191 does not accomplish that goal, it certainly puts New Hampshire much, much closer to reaching it than we ever have before.”

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn is disappointed that Republicans refused to adopt a fully funded, full day kindergarten program and vows to continue to push for a fully funded, mandatory full day kindergarten program.

“Senate Democrats have been leading advocates for Kindergarten, and for fully funding full-day Kindergarten, for many years — we know this issue well and we know what this means for our communities. Passing full funding for full-day Kindergarten should have been an easy task. Governor Sununu promised to support it during his campaign and full funding for full-day Kindergarten passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.”

“It’s disappointing that in the final hour, Governor Sununu and Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by removing full-day Kindergarten from the budget, abandoning full funding, and choosing to push a half-measure tied to Keno. Make no mistake, SB 191 does not fully fund full-day Kindergarten. But, Democrats will continue to lead the fight for full funding for full-day Kindergarten with no strings attached.”

NH Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley highlighted that newly elected Governor Chris Sununu campaigned heavily on expanding kindergarten and has “broken a key campaign promise.”

“The governor broke a key campaign promise today. Instead of the fully-funded full day kindergarten he pledged on the campaign trail, he offered a half-measure and turned a blind eye while Republicans gutted even that. Because of Sununu’s abject failure to lead, Democrats were forced to pick up the pieces and salvage what was left for the sake of our kids. Governor Sununu and the Republicans always seem to make common sense a complicated calculus. While Democratic leaders would simply pass fully-funded full day kindergarten, Republicans need to cut it in half, tie it to gambling measures, and beg their members to vote yes. Real reform requires real champions, and Republicans are anything but.”

After the bill passed NEA-New Hampshire praised its passage.

“NEA-New Hampshire applauds the passage of SB 191, and thanks Governor Sununu and the bi-partisan coalition of legislators for finally putting New Hampshire on the path to full day kindergarten,” said Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-NH. “The benefits of full-day kindergarten are clear. Those students that attend full-day kindergarten are better prepared to enter first grade, have a higher high school graduation rate and are more likely to go to college. Full day kindergarten is a sound educational investment and I am thrilled that the legislators in Concord have recognized that.”

Now that the bill has passed questions still remain about the constitutionality of the legislation.  Andru Volinsky, Executive Councilor, and the lead lawyer in the Claremont education funding case of 1997, told WMUR last week that the bill is unconstitutional.

… Senate Bill 191 fails to meet the standard set out in the landmark 1997 New Hampshire Supreme Court decision in the Claremont school funding case requiring the state to provide and fund a constitutionally adequate education to all students.

….The Claremont ruling did not specifically refer to kindergarten, but it did say that the state’s system of funding “elementary and secondary public education” at the time, almost entirely through property taxes, was unconstitutional.

“Full-day kindergarten is part of a constitutionally adequate education,” Volinsky said Friday. “And once you understand that concept, you understand that the state must pay for constitutional adequacy.”

Volinsky also said, by failing to fully fund, full day kindergarten local school districts who choose to expand kindergarten will be putting even more “burden on local taxpayers”.

For those that have already chosen to expand kindergarten programs, this bill is a step in the right direction but it does not go as far as it should. This bill will help the 70% of school districts that already offer full day kindergarten.

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

In Granite State Debate, Hassan the Clear Choice to Keep New Hampshire Moving Forward

 

Lamontagne Makes Desperate Last-Ditch Effort

to Hide His Radical Agenda

Maggie Hassan offered a clear vision for growing New Hampshire’s economy and creating jobs during tonight’s Granite State Debate, while Ovide Lamontagne made a last-ditch effort to mislead voters about his radical agenda, including not telling the truth about his opposition to statewide kindergarten, his support for teaching creationism in public schools, and his ideas for restricting a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.[Opposes kindergarten; supporting creationism; radical on women’s health]

Hassan’s innovation plan will provide technical assistance, tax credits and workforce training to help businesses grow and create jobs. As Governor, Hassan – who has been endorsed by Governor John Lynch – will balance the budget without a sales or an income tax.

“Maggie Hassan offered a clear and forward-looking vision for New Hampshire in tonight’s debate. She has a plan that moves New Hampshire forward by helping our businesses grow  and helping our families succeed,” said Matt Burgess, campaign manager for Hassan for Governor.

“The choice was as clear tonight as it has been in every debate: as governor, Maggie Hassan will keep New Hampshire moving forward, while Ovide Lamontagne’s radical agenda will take our state backwards,” Burgess said. “Ovide Lamontagne was clearly desperate tonight in his attempts to mislead voters about his radical agenda, but he can’t hide the fact that he truly believes in extreme ideas that will hurt middle-class families and New Hampshire’s economy.”

Hassan outlined her “Innovate NH” jobs plan, which focuses on building the best workforce in the country, providing tax credits to businesses, and giving businesses technical assistance to help them create jobs.  Hassan worked closely with Governor Lynch to balance the state budget, without an income or a sales tax, by making the tough decisions necessary to cut state spending during the height of the recession, leading to a surplus. As Governor, Hassan will veto an income or a sales tax.

Hassan’s forward-looking vision stood in stark contrast to Ovide Lamontagne, who desperately tried to mislead voters again and again about his radical ideas to eliminate the guarantee of statewide kindergarten, reject federal funding for public schools, pull the state out of Medicare, and restrict a women’s right to make her own health care decisions. And Lamontagne continued to repeat untrue attacks against Maggie’s fiscally responsible record of balancing the state’s budget. Ovide’s claim about the state deficit has been deemed “false” by PolitiFact NH[i] and his statements about spending increases under Maggie Hassan’s leadership have also been debunked by fact checkers.[ii]

During her time in the State Senate, Maggie Hassan worked with Governor Lynch to keep the unemployment rate low, maintain one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, and cut the high school drop rate in half while making the hard choices to cut spending, balancing the budget and leaving a surplus without an income or sales tax.

Hassan will continue moving New Hampshire forward on the path that Governor Lynch has set, and she has been endorsed by numerous organizations including the New Hampshire Police Association, New Hampshire Troopers’ Association, National Education Association New Hampshire, American Federation of Teachers New Hampshire, and many more.  She has also been endorsed by newspapers across the state, including the Concord Monitor, Keene Sentinel, Portsmouth Herald, and Nashua Telegraph, which also endorsed Republicans Mitt Romney and Charlie Bass.  The Telegraph praised Hassan’s “well-reasoned and bipartisan leadership” and expressed concern about Lamontagne’s “worrisome statements” on education, noting that his radical idea to end statewide kindergarten would mean “local school districts would be on the hook to pick up [the] costs, and that means higher property taxes.”[iii]

Ovide Lamontagne has said he would be a “radically different” governor than Gov. Lynch[iv], with extreme ideas that would eliminate statewide kindergarten[v], reject federal funds for local schools[vi] and ignore rising tuition costs caused by cuts to higher education.[vii] He supports plans to dismantle Medicare[viii], criminalize abortion and limit insurance coverage for birth control[ix], and defund Planned Parenthood, increasing costs for critical health care services for New Hampshire women and families.[x]


[i] http://www.politifact.com/new-hampshire/statements/2012/jul/29/new-boston-republican-committee/new-boston-gop-says-dems-left-deficit/
[ii] http://www.politifact.com/new-hampshire/statements/2012/oct/12/ovide-lamontagne/republican-lamontagne-paints-opponent-hassan-tax-a/
[iii] Maggie Hassan for Governor, Nashua Telegraph, 10/29/12
[iv] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkr_WSOovsk&feature=relmfu
[v] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxH9OfqFO2s&feature=player_embedded#
[vi] Ovide rejected federal money to help K-12 NH public schools raise educational standards [Concord Monitor, 8/9/2010] and has said he would do it again [WGIR, 7/24/2012]
[vii] Ovide has said tuition increases were not of “utmost concern” [WMUR, 9/6/2012]
[viii] Ovide supports Paul Ryan’s voucher program to end Medicare as we know it [NH Farm Bureau, 8/2012]; believes state legislature should opt-out of Medicare and run program itself [Union Leader, 2/10/2012]
[ix] Supports a “Human Life Amendment” that outlaws all abortion, and even some forms of birth control and fertility treatments [Cornerstone debate, 6/5/2010]
[x] Ovide supports Bill O’Brien’s decision to completely eliminate Planned Parenthood

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