4-14-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: NH Supreme Court On School Vouchers, NHRS, and more

AFT NH Legislative Update

EDUCATION TAX CREDITS –VOUCHER PROGRAM

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 16th in the voucher tax credit case. AFT-New Hampshire is asking the New Hampshire Supreme Court to uphold a lower-court decision overturning the Education Tax Credit Program that provides money to students attending religious schools:

“The New Hampshire Constitution prohibits public funds to religious institutions. The tax-credit law was really a subterfuge, a voucher-like effort in which public dollars eventually would find their way to private schools, most of which,in New Hampshire,are religious schools. Further, there is evidence from all over the country that these voucher-like programs don’t actually help children. If the Legislature genuinely is interested in helping, it should work with teachers on ensuring that public schools have the programs and services needed to help all students succeed, not just some.”

Click here to read brief: http://nh.aft.org/files/voucherbrief.pdf

THE FOLLOWING BILLS WILL BE VOTED ON BY THE FULL SENATE THIS COMING WEEK

HB 1398-FN, allowing the retirement system to make payments in lieu of payments to estates in certain circumstances.  AFT-NH has no position on this bill but is monitoring. Senator Watters states:

“This legislation allows the retirement system to make payments of $15,000 or less to the next of kin of deceased member of a beneficiary when no probate proceedings are pending. This legislation was requested by the NH Retirement System.”

HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school. The committee recommended Ought to Pass, Vote 5-0.  AFT-NH is asking that Senators not support the Senate Health, Education & Human Services committee recommended Ought To Pass but instead, support a recommendation of Inexpedient To Legislate. There has been no past problem for any student wishing to attend a charter school. Furthermore, the unintended consequence could negatively impact the public school by depleting a grade level of attendance or curriculum options.

HB 1587-FN-L, relative to the collection and disclosure of student data.The committee made the recommendation of Ought to Pass. AFT-NH supports the committee’s recommendation. We believe that this bill will help protect the privacy of students in New Hampshire.

THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HELD A HEARING ON THE FOLLOWING

HB 1624-FN, modernizing the juvenile justice system to ensure rehabilitation of juveniles and preservation of juvenile rights. AFT-NH is in support of this bill. This bill updates our current juvenile justice system by:

  • Raising the age at which youth are treated as adults in the justice system from 17 years to 18 years,
  • Improving procedures to determine competency of youth,
  • Clarifying a youth’s right to and waiver of legal counsel,
  • Determining the qualifications for legal counsel to defend youth,
  • Defining data to assess the effectiveness of current interventions and proposed changes.

To read more on this bill click here.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS

TUESDAY, APRIL 15

9:30 a.m. NH Supreme Court Oral Argument –voucher case

CHILDREN AND FAMILY LAW, Room 206, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 396, relative to child restraint practices.

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 355, relative to access to social media by educational institutions.

10:30 a.m. Rescheduled SB 414-FN, relative to Medicaid-funded services provided as a part of a
child’s individualized education program.
1:15 p.m. Presentation by the Department of Education: Perspectives on Accountability and
Assessment.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
10:00 a.m.  Regular meeting of Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Retirement.

HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Room 205, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 193-FN, (New Title) establishing a commission to study pathways to oral health
care in New Hampshire.

MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and
recommendation of the municipal budget committee to the governing body.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16

10:00 a.m. House in session

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
1:00 p.m. or 1 hour following House session:  Executive session on SB 395-FN, relative to the
retirement classification of the director of the division of forests and lands.

HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Room 205, LOB
1:00 p.m. Executive session on SB 193-FN, (New Title) establishing a commission to study
pathways to oral health care in New Hampshire.

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
1:30 p.m. Executive session on SB 207-FN, relative to paycheck equity.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
1:15 p.m. Full committee work session on SB 366-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table
gaming.

12:30 p.m. Big Money and Politics – New Hampshire is the highest per-capita recipient of outside special-interest money. Learn about the efforts to address this issue at the state level, understand the federal landscape and what you can do about it. This presentation, including a panel discussion led by the Coalition for Open Democracy and Americans for Campaign Reform, is part of New England College’s education series to take place at the college’s new Concord facility, 62 North Main Street. Walk south on North Main. Located on the clock tower side, near the Norway Bank, three minutes from the steps of the State House.

THURSDAY, APRIL 17

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on SB 120-FN, relative to political contributions and
expenditures and relative to reporting by political committees.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
9:30 a.m. Executive session on SB 366-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.

MONDAY, APRIL 21

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND OPEN ENROLLMENT LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (RSA 194-B:21), Room 100, State House:
11:30 a.m. Regular meeting. Presentation by Paul Leather, Deputy Commission Department of
Education on HB 435

THURSDAY, APRIL 24

STATE FEDERAL RELATIONS AND VETERANS AFFAIRS, Rooms 201-203, LOB
1:00 p.m. SB 307, establishing a committee to review Citizens United amendments to the United
States Constitution.

THURSDAY , MAY 1

STATE FEDERAL RELATIONS AND VETERANS AFFAIRS, Room 203, LOB
11:00 a.m. Executive session on SB 307, establishing a committee to review Citizens United
amendments to the United States Constitution.

Are ‘School Vouchers’ Being Used To Teach Anti-Union Propaganda?

Image of page 361

History has always been on of my favorite subjects – and as Edmond Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

What if the history you were being taught differed from what really happened?  That is exactly what is happening inside the book “America Land I Love.

This book is written for eight graders but the inaccuracies in the book are astounding.  I will start with an easy one.

Image of page 361

Image of page 361

Yes, the title of the chapter is the ‘Rise of Big Government’.  Did you also see what the subchapter title was?  That‘s right, it is called the ‘New Deal and the Rise of Socialism in America’.

“Those who don’t know history…” etc.  If you look at the actual numbers of members in the Socialist Party, the New Deal might have been what caused the movement’s decline.

Membership in the Socialist Party actually peaked – at a grand total of about 20,000 members – in the early 1930’s, just as Congress was beginning to pass “New Deal” programs.   These days, there are about 7,000 members in the two Socialist parties, and another 2,000 members in the Communist party.

Not exactly what I’d call a “rising” movement.  But of course, I’m not the one writing 8th grade textbooks.

Let’s see what they say about the New Deal.

Image of page 369

Image of page 369

Well, they’re right about a couple of things.  FDR did succeed at stabilizing our nation’s banking system; and it stayed relatively stable until the 1980s Savings and Loan crisis.   And federal government programs did put people to work.  Congress also created Social Security, the program that still keeps millions of seniors from falling into poverty.  The fact is, New Deal policies helped America recover from the Great Depression.

I especially like the part that says, “The idea that government can live beyond its means is called Keynesian Economics, the creed of ‘tax and spend’ politicians.”   This is supposed to be a history book, not the editorial column.

The book goes on to say that under FDR, the government “began to operate on a deficit.”   But the word “began” is really misleading.  In fact, our country has had varying levels of deficits and debt since it was founded.  Our founding fathers borrowed money to pay for the Revolutionary War.  Alexander Hamilton’s view: “The United States debt, foreign and domestic, was the price of liberty.”

What the book author does not tell you is that after the New Deal, after WWII, the federal government had a budget surplus.  In 1948, that budget surplus equaled 4% of the GDP.

It seems obvious that the author wanted to impart his own ideology about government onto the students.

Let’s look at what he is telling our children about labor unions.

Image of page 371

Image of page 371

Excuse me, but that is not what the Wagner Act is about.  The Wagner Act is about blocking employers from taking certain actions against employees who want to join or form a union.

Where is the part about how unions pushed for the 40-hour workweek, overtime, child labor laws, or all of the other things that unions helped accomplish?  I am sure it will all be explained on the next page.

Image of page 372

Image of page 372

Nope. The author portrayed a peaceful, non-violent protest as an act of violence against the employer and the employer’s property.  I wonder what the Reverend Martin Luther King would have said about this.

As my friend Chris used to say, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.  I think the book’s author took this motto to heart.

Is this what they’re teaching children in private and religious schools?  And now they want you to pay for it?

That’s right, they want you to pay for their children to attend private schools, or take lessons at home using a ‘school voucher’ from your tax dollars.

This week many organizations are coming together for ‘National School Choice Week’.  It is an annual attempt to convince people that school vouchers are about ‘freedom and choice.’

From my perspective, school vouchers are about who is going to foot the bill for children to receive ideological indoctrination that masquerades as “education.” Who pays for “education” like what’s in this book “America Land I Love”?

In New Hampshire, 85 students were granted “scholarships” to the tune of $235,000 in school vouchers to continue to attend private or home schools.

So: are your tax dollars paying for schools that teach children the ideology that government is bad, and that unions used violent actions to demand ‘higher wages and certain working conditions’?

Are your tax dollars paying for schools that reject proven scientific facts about the creation of our plant, evolution, climate change, and many more topics?

This is one of the reasons that the New Hampshire Supreme Court recently ruled that vouchers could not be used for private religious schools.

However, other states have yet to make that ruling, and are continuing to use vouchers to pay for private religious schools.

My perspective: If you want to teach your children something other than the truth, that’s your decision as a parent.  But I don’t want you using my tax dollars to pay for it.

* * * * * * *

Images from: America Land I Love In Christian Perspective, Second Edition; A Beka Book, copyright 2006, Pensacola Christian College. (http://www.abeka.com/ABekaOnline/BookDescription.aspx?sbn=97578)

New Hampshire Vouchers: The Choice Nobody Is Taking

NH Voucher

NH Voucher

Once a year, in effort somehow convince people that private charter schools are better than public schools, organizations like ‘Students First’ are pushing ‘National School Choice Week’.  This once a year event floods the media with stories about how school vouchers are working or that school vouchers are a better use of your tax dollars.  This is all complete hogwash.

The simple truth is that people are not choosing to change schools and the school vouchers program is more about getting taxpayers to pay for private religious schools.

After the red tide of Republican legislators took Concord (NH) by storm in the 2010 elections things quickly began to change. The GOP controlled legislature quickly passed their version of a school ‘voucher’ program, giving businesses a tax credit for scholarships to private schools, and slashed the state budget.

The voucher program has been in effect now for over a year so we should be able to see the thousands of people who were waiting in line to execute their ‘choice’.

Bill Duncan a local public school advocate queried the state to see exactly how many people in the Granite State applied for scholarships under the new program.  In a response from the Department of Education they stated, “the voucher program says that no more than 15 public school students will receive scholarships in the first year of the program.”

Only 15 public school students applied for the scholarship. I guess the voucher program is not as popular as the GOP tried to make people believe when they passed the bill.  The low number of applications could be due in part to the rejection by the NH Supreme Court that clearly stated that public funds could not go to religious schools.

In a recent blog post on Advancing New Hampshire’s Public Education, Bill Duncan said, “The voucher program is an embarrassment to the Republican legislative majority that passed the bill last year over the Governor’s veto.”

As they did here in New Hampshire, ALEC pushed a school voucher program right into Republican controlled Legislature.  States controlled by Republican Legislatures are pushing similar bills throughout the country.

“This movement is doing more than threaten the core of our traditional public school system,” said Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “It’s pushing a national policy agenda embraced by conservatives across states that are receptive to conservative ideas.” via States Redefining Public Schooling – NYTimes.com

Kansas and Idaho recently rejected the voucher credit program, despite opposition from the Republican Legislators.

It has become painfully obvious that some of the members of the NH Legislature are making the wrong choice.  They claim that the voucher program is about helping families who cannot afford to attend a private school with the financial assistance needed to attend the school of their choice.  The people of New Hampshire have made their choice, and they have chosen to stay in their local public schools.

Legislators do need to make a new choice, to properly fund our public schools.  The current trend to cut funding to ‘save money’ is harming our children.  At least once a month my children come home from school with a request letter for classroom supplies.  The school cannot afford to supply things like paper towels, cleaning supplies, and many other basic classroom needs.

One of my friends, who I will refer to as ‘Jane’, works in a school in one of the more affluent towns in New Hampshire.  Jane is an art teacher and as they start the second half of the year they are already out of black construction paper and glue sticks. Really, how can an art class that is out of construction paper and glue?

The week lets make the choice to do what is right for our children by calling our legislators and demanding better funding for our public education system.

NH Voucher Program Is A Monumental Failure

ANHPE Small Icon

Scholarship organization proposes only 15 scholarships for public school students under the voucher tax credit program

Lack of interest from public school families and from business results in a small voucher program

Portsmouth, NH – According to a New Hampshire Department of Education response to a right-to-know request from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a July 15, 2013 report on the voucher program says that no more than 15 public school students will receive scholarships in the first year of the program.  Since 70% of the scholarships must go to public school students, by ANHPE calculation, the maximum number of students receiving scholarships this year will be 21.

The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration has allocated less than $200,000 of the $3.4 million in voucher tax credits authorized for this year but, with a maximum of 21 students, the program will use significantly less of that tax credit authority.  Also, the Strafford County Superior Court has ruled that the program’s planned funding of religious schools is unconstitutional so only secular schools can participate.  And there are questions about program administration.

An expanded discussion of the issues faced by the program in light of the report is here.

In response to the report, Bill Duncan, of Advancing New Hampshire Public Education, said, “The lack of interest from public school families comes on the heals of the adverse court decision and the failure to gain business support.  The only active scholarship organization does not have the capacity to administer the program.  The voucher program is an embarrassment to the Republican legislative majority that passed the bill last year over the Governor’s veto.  Current senate Republicans who have refused to consider repeal are now tarnished by this embarrassing program.  They should put the voucher program out of its misery.”

Advancing New Hampshire Public Education is a group of parents, teachers and voters advocating for New Hampshire public schools.

NH School Voucher Bill Is Headed Back To Court.

ANHPE Small Icon

Lots of appeals in the voucher tax credit case, many based on the US Constitution and decisions in other states

Three appeals have been filed asking the New Hampshire Supreme Court to reverse the Strafford Superior Court decision that the New Hampshire voucher program is unconstitutional to the extent that it funds religious schools.  The State and the Network for Educational Opportunity, a scholarship organization, have each appealed the decision.  In addition, the Concord Christian Academy and its scholarship organization, the Giving Going Alliance, not parties to the case up to now, have requested to “intervene” in the case in order to make their own appeal.

There is a fourth appeal, ours, seeking to expand the Superior Court decision and strike down the law entirely.

The appeal documents themselves are linked below.  At this point, the documents consist primarily of forms submitted to the Supreme Court stating the questions the parties are requesting the court to decide.  The arguments themselves will be made a some future point.

The State has submitted a pro-forma appeal, listing 3 questions for the Court: whether all of the plaintiffs have the standing to challenge the law; whether the tax credit is actually ”public funds” or “money raised by taxation;” and, whether the voucher program is unconstitutional.  In other words, the State does not indicate what arguments it will make in support of these generic questions.  However, based on the arguments the State has made to date, the State’s arguments will rely heavily on the federal Constitution and decisions in other states, like Arizona and Indiana (starting on page 9)

NEO’s attorneys are more specific:

Standing: They seem to acknowledge that we, the plaintiffs, have standing under RSA 491 :22, which was amended by the last Legislature to give standing to “any taxpayer,” but they want to make the case that we do not have standing because the law itself is now unconstitutional.

Discriminates against Catholics: They will ask the New Hampshire Supreme Court to rule that the 1877 amendment that prevents funding of religious schools violates the First (free speech) Amendment and the Fourteenth (equal protection) Amendment of the federal Constitution because they feel it was intended to discriminate against Catholics.

Not public money: Alongside the State, they are appealing the central issue of the case, the Superior Court’s ruling that the tax credit is essentially “money raised by taxation.”

The “many hands” argument: They ask the Supreme Court to overturn the Superior Court decision because, even if the tax credit would enable parents to pay tuitions, it’s the parents who are paying, not the State because the money has passed through so many hands that, technically, no State money is going to religious schools.  (The State also made this argument, starting on page 17, based mainly on decisions in Arizona and Indiana.)

Discriminates against religious schools: They say that operating a tax credit program that would fund non-religious schools but not religious schools would violate many provisions of the federal Constitution because the program would discriminate against religious schools.

If the Concord Christian Academy and its Giving Going Alliance are granted intervenor status (Here is their request and our objection.  The other parties to the case have objected as well.), they want the New Hampshire Supreme Court to respond to four issues, all based on the federal, not the New Hampshire, Constitution.  They feel the Superior Court decision is wrong because:

It violates the First Amendment protections of free speech and the practice of religion.

It violates the Fourteenth Amendment by excluding students who wish to attend religious schools.

It violates the First Amendment because it requires the State to make “intrusive inquiries into and judgments concerning the “religious” content of instruction at private schools?”

And it asks the Supreme Court to decide whether the Superior Court decision creates an “unnecessary conflict with the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution?”

Our “cross-appeal,” as it is called, asks three key questions:

Severability: Can the funding of religious schools really be “severed” while the rest of the law is left in tact?

A person cannot be required to pay for religious education; and every person must have equal protection: Does the voucher law also violate Part I, Article 6, of the New Hampshire Constitution which says that “no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination” and that “every person, denomination or sect shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect, denomination or persuasion to another shall ever be established”? (The superior court did not rule on this.)

Taxation must be uniform and there is no legitimate public purpose: Does the Education Tax Credit Program also violate the provisions of the New Hampshire Constitution that require “uniform, equal, proportional, and non-discriminatory” taxation and prohibit tax exemptions that do not serve a public purpose? (The superior court also did not rule on this.)

No dates are yet set in the schedule for the Supreme Court to hear and decide the case.

Voucher vs. Poor Kids — It Should Be An Easy Choice

The opportunity gap in schools

The voucher debate is a waste of everyone’s time.  We should work on improving how New Hampshire public education works for poor kids (it already works pretty well for better-off kids) rather than engaging in a debate about privatizing our local public schools.

You don’t need a study to tell you that using public money to send a few kids to the unaccredited religious schools is not going to improve education for New Hampshire kids. The religious, often creationist, schools that dominate the voucher tax credit program are fine for the families that want them.  Many families, even those without much money, do find a way to send their kids. But private religious schools are not the basis of a strategy for helping thousands of New Hampshire kids escape poverty.  Regardless out the outcome of thecourt case challenging the constitutionality of tax credit funded vouchers, we should shut down this pathetic program and get back to the real question of how to help the kids.

Sean Reardon’s piece, “No Rich Child Left Behind’” in today’s New York Times, stands aside from the political debate and looks at what the numbers tell us about the performance of our schools over the last decades.  Here are some snippets:

Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students…

One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years….I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago….

…the proportion of students from upper-income families who earn a bachelor’s degree has increased by 18 percentage points over a 20-year period, while the completion rate of poor students has grown by only 4 points…

Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?….

The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact,…[t]he average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation….The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school….

It’s not clear what we should do about all this. Partly that’s because much of our public conversation about education is focused on the wrong culprits: we blame failing schools….

So how can we move toward a society in which educational success is not so strongly linked to family background?…[By] investing in developing high-quality child care and preschool that is available to poor and middle-class children. It also means recruiting and training a cadre of skilled preschool teachers and child care providers. These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.

The opportunity gap in schools Read it. You’ll be inspired.  Then call the hub of New Hampshire’s early childhood development movement, SparkNH, and ask director Laura Milliken to send a speaker to tell your group what’s happening in New Hampshire.

 

Reposted with permission from ANHPE, original link.

Constitutional advocates make the case against vouchers

Bill Duncan

DOVER, N.H. – During a hearing at Strafford County Superior Court Friday, lawyers for the plaintiffs opposed to state funding of religious schools said the ‘voucher’ law passed by the Republican-dominated legislature last year blatantly violated the state’s constitution.

Bill Duncan of New Castle, one of the plaintiffs in the case and the founder of Advancing New Hampshire Public Education, said lead plaintiff attorney Alex Luchenitser “made a strong and persuasive case. He focused on central fact of this case which we have maintained from the beginning – it’s unconstitutional for taxpayer money to fund religious education.”

Duncan, who watched the three-hour hearing before Judge John Lewis, added that “the legislature should have paid heed to the New Hampshire Constitution before they passed the voucher bill. They could have asked for a Supreme Court advisory opinion but they didn’t. They clearly didn’t care about adhering to the state constitution.”

Lewis heard arguments from both sides of the case Bill Duncan et al v. State of New Hampshire, which was filed in January and supported by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU New Hampshire. The lawsuit asks the court to strike down the Education Tax Credit program. The law went into effect Jan. 1 and allows businesses to reduce their tax liability in exchange for donations made to K-12 scholarship organizations. In one of the odd entanglements between policy and the law, while Gov. Maggie Hassan has asked that the voucher program be eliminated as part of her budget proposal, the state attorney general defended the law in court, along with Institute for Justice, representing one of the scholarship organizations.

Duncan rejected assertions that anti-voucher advocates were against educational opportunities for poor students or sought to undermine religious education. “This has never been about better educational opportunities for poor children or the value of religious education. We hear these claims and know better because this state has many programs to help poorer students. These baseless assertions ignore the Constitution and are smokescreens designed to hide the real agenda of voucher supporters – the eventual dismantling of public education through creeping privatization,” Duncan said.

Though lawmakers in the Senate voted down a House-passed measure to eliminate the voucher tax credit, Duncan believes that lawmakers should prepare to act quickly if the law is struck down. At a minimum, he said they should take notice of the current state of haphazard oversight by the Network for Educational Opportunity and reconsider their support of the voucher program.

4-15-13 AFT-NH Legislative Update By President Laura Hainey

aft sqaure

FULL SENATE VOTES ON APRIL 18TH

On the Senate consent calendar they will cast one vote for 23 bills if none are removed. One of these bills is HB 187, relative to cost items in negotiated agreements, with a 5-0 committee recommendation of ‘Ought To Pass.’  Remember this bill was submitted by retired AFT-NH member Marjorie Porter. This bill provides that the dollar amount agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement between a public employer and an employee organization shall not be modified by the legislative body of the public employer and that the agreed-upon amount is what the voters should vote on.

AFT-NH supports this bill; we believe that what is negotiated in good faith should go before the voters for a vote and not be sidelined by a few. We encourage the full Senate to pass this bill.

The Senate will be debating and voting on HB 370, repealing the education tax credit program. The Senate Health, Education & Human Services made the recommendation to defeat this bill by a 3 to 2 vote. AFT-NH does not support this recommendation and advocates that this recommendation be overturned and a recommendation of ‘Ought To Pass’ be made and supported.

If you have not taken action there is still time by clicking here. This tax credit program initiated in 2012 is an ill-disguised attempt to begin privatizing and dismantling our public education system in NH while weakening our good schools. We are justly proud of our schools in NH and these “vouchers” disguised as tax-credits will only harm public education.

HEARINGS THIS PAST WEEK

This past week the Senate Executive Departments and Administration, held a hearing on HB 364, relative to providing required notice concerning limitations on part-time employment for any retired member of the New Hampshire retirement system.  AFT-NH supports the passage of this bill.  HB364 shares the responsibility of understanding the rules and regulations for part-time work between the NH Retirement System, the employees, and the employers. This bill does not hold employers liable for employees who violate the regulations; all it asks of them is to provide written notice so that both they and their employees understand the limitations.

The House Executive Departments And Administration held a hearing on SB 132, establishing a committee to study police special details.  The charge of this committee is to study the use and efficacy of police special details, and alternatives which may be available to towns, cities, and the state. AFT-NH spoke in opposition to this bill. The NH Department of Transportation has already completed a study on this topic; click here to read the full report. AFT-NH believes this bill is unnecessary and could interfere with what has been negotiated at the local level. These discussions should happen at the local level with all stakeholders at the table.

SENATE COMMITTEE TOOK NO ACTION ON HB 142

The Senate Health, Education & Human Services still yet to make a recommendation on HB 142: relative to teacher evaluation systems. We have asked the Committee to keep this bill as is.  We especially do not want the Committee to follow the recommendation from the School Board Association, which wants to delete “support system” and make themselves the only ones whose approval is needed to adopt the system—thus leaving out the voice of the teachers.

As we have said many times, the best evaluation system is devised when each district works with all stakeholders as they develop, implement and modify an evaluation system which will meet the needs of the children of the community and is fair to our teachers. When something is imposed it is usually not well-received.

UPCOMING HEARINGS

On Tuesday, April 16th the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee will be hearing testimony on HB 260. This bill authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to provide voluntary services to a child who would otherwise be found to be a child in need of services under RSA 169-D. For more background information on this click here.

AFT-NH is supporting the efforts of the New Hampshire Child Alliance Network and ask the committee to make the recommendation of ‘Ought To Pass.’

This coming Tuesday, April 23rd the House Labor committee will hold a hearing on SB 100: AN ACT authorizing electronic payment of payroll. This bill will affect all public employees in New Hampshire. This bill will do the following:

  • Deletes the requirement that an employer who pays wages by electronic fund transfer offer employees the option of being paid by check.
  • Permits an employer to pay wages with a payroll card after offering employees the option of being paid by direct deposit.

AFT-NH is opposed to this bill.  We understand that many employees do receive their paycheck by direct deposit but there are many who prefer the paper check and they should still have this option.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

UPCOMING HEARINGS
MONDAY, APRIL 15

FINANCE, Room 103, SH
AGENCY PRESENTATIONS ON THE BUDGET AS PASSED BY THE HOUSE
1:00 p.m. N.H. Retirement System.

STATE RETIREE HEALTH PLAN COMMISSION (RSA 100-A:56), Room 302, LOB
1:00 p.m. Organizational meeting.

TUESDAY, APRIL 16

HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:30 a.m. HB 260-FN, relative to the children in need of services (CHINS) program.

CHILDREN AND FAMILY LAW, Room 206, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 129-FN, relative to court-ordered placements in shelter care facilities and at the Sununu Youth Services Center, relative to the children in need of services (CHINS) program, and establishing a committee to study programs for children in need.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
1:30 p.m. Executive session on
SB 132-FN, establishing a committee to study police special details.

JOINT COMMITTEE OF FINANCE AND WAYS AND MEANS, Representatives Hall
11:00 a.m. Executive session on
SB 44, relative to the disposal of controlled drugs by law enforcement officers.

LONG-RANGE CAPITAL PLANNING AND UTILIZATION (RSA 17-M), Room 201, LOB
2:00 p.m. Special meeting – Community College System of NH.

MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
1:00 p.m. Executive session on SB 2, relative to the calculation of the local tax cap.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17

HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Room 205, LOB
3:00 p.m. SB 166, relative to critical incident stress management and crisis intervention services.

THURSDAY, APRIL 18

10:00 A.M. SENATE SESSION

TUESDAY, APRIL 23

HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Room 205, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
SB 166, relative to critical incident stress management and crisis intervention services.

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
11:00 a.m. SB 100, authorizing electronic payment of payroll.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24

Please join a diverse selection of NH’s leading labor, environmental, social and citizen advocacy organizations on Wednesday, April 24th from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. in the State House Cafeteria for a Legislative Breakfast Briefing. Staff and key leaders will be on hand to discuss issue priorities and legislative briefings on cross-over bills. A light breakfast and drinks will be served.

10:00 a.m. House Session

 

An Update On School Vouchers From Bill Duncan (@ANHPE)

Bill Duncan

Now the Senate has two voucher repeal opportunities

The House yesterday passed its budget.  Item 58 says, “Repeals the education tax credit against the business profits tax and the business enterprise tax.”  That means that your advocacy with senators for voucher repeal does double duty.  You are asking them to support voucher repeal as a free standing bill, HB 370.  But if HB 370 fails, you are also giving your senators reasons to accept voucher repeal as part of the inevitable horsetrading that will happen in June on the budget.  So even if you are talking to a senator who will surely not vote for HB 370, be not deterred!  Make the many reasons for voucher repeal clear and know that those factors will carry weight when the time comes.

And what are those factors?  Many of the issues were discussed at the very successful Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee hearing, where supporters of voucher repeal greatly outnumbered supporters of vouchers.  Lack of business and public support has led to very low donations, even with a dollar-for-dollar subsidy from the tax credits.  Advocates blame that on the controversy but I say they brought it all on themselves.  Lack of oversight has made program administration an embarrassment.  And you must see Kathy Sullivan’s funny and hard hitting piece in the Union Leader about how bad the participating schools are.  Here is more fodder for discussion with your senator.

Funding for new charter schools is uncertain

There has been much coverage of the moratorium on new charter schools, leaving four new ones in an uncertain status.  Here is a good NHPR report summarizing the status.  And here is more background on the role of charters in New Hampshire.  The House Education Committee and the House Finance Committee have both established subcommittees that will review the role of charter schools in New Hampshire over the coming months.  The process is healthy and will enable New Hampshire to resume authorizing charter schools within a clear policy framework.

Final action on funding of new charters will now not be settled until the budget negotiations are complete in June.

New Hampshire’s pull-back is part of the national rethink on private school vouchers (@ANHPE)

Bill Duncan

As we move toward repealing the ill-conceived New Hampshire voucher program, a pseudonymous commenter toward the bottom of this Patch thread encapsulated the debate this way:

 All this focus on having “choices” makes me ask: why do taxpayers who are already providing a structure to educate every child in a given community need to also pay for additional choices based on nothing but the desire of the parent? I distinctly recall those who put this law in place two years ago telling us that churches and charities were the proper way to fund programs for “the poor.” Why is this different?

New Hampshire is one piece, but an important piece, of the national debate on privatization of public schools.  Here is today’s New York Times on the occasion of the Indiana Supreme Court decision upholding the state’s voucher program, reviewing the national state of play in the push for vouchers in Republican dominated states:

“This movement is doing more than threaten the core of our traditional public school system,” said Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “It’s pushing a national policy agenda embraced by conservatives across states that are receptive to conservative ideas.”via States Redefining Public Schooling – NYTimes.com

But public school privatization is trench warfare on a state-by-state basis.  Here is Kansas, turning back a voucher program, with each side making the familiar arguments:

 The Kansas House defeated legislation on Monday that would create a school choice scholarship program funded by corporate donations.

….
“We are sacrificing their future because we are protecting a system,” said Kelley, an Arkansas City Republican.

“What we’re really talking about is diverting public funds to private or parochial schools,” said Rep. Nile Dillmore, a Wichita Democrat opposed to the measure.

And, under the headline, “Idaho lawmakers dump private school tax credits:”

A Senate panel ended hopes of private and religious schools that were pushing for Idaho to extend a tax break to people who donate to scholarships meant to defray the cost of tuition.

“The donor is going to profit off making this donation at the cost of the public,” Hill said. “That’s just not fair.”

Private, religious school officials who flew to Boise from northern Idaho for Tuesday’s hearing argued these scholarships would boost school choice for more students who wanted an alternative to the traditional public school classroom, but didn’t hail from families with the financial means to foot the bill.

Vouchers advance in lopsided Republican legislatures and are defeated in more balanced legislatures.  We need to correct the errors our last Legislature.

Reposted from ANHPE Blog