Kuster Rejects Extreme Ryan Budget

Calls for Both Parties to Work Together to Pass Common Sense Budget 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – This afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement on her vote to reject Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget, and calls on Democrats and Republicans to come together to pass a common sense budget that protects the interests of New Hampshire’s middle class:

“Since taking office, I have called on both Democrats and Republicans to work together to pass a common sense budget plan that will cut wasteful spending while also protecting our seniors and middle class families. We must work together to create a smart budget proposal that will help grow our economy and support job creation throughout the nation. This is in the best interest of all our constituents, regardless of their party or where they’re from.

“That’s why I was extremely disappointed by Chairman Paul Ryan’s unflinchingly extreme budget, which would only protect the interests of millionaires and special interests. Among other things, his irresponsible proposal would slash funding for Pell grants, forcing our children to go deeper into debt just to attend college;  it proposes recklessly turning Medicare into a voucher program, which would prove devastating for our nation’s seniors; and it would cut nutrition assistance for low-income families by an astounding $125 billion dollars. This budget proposal lets down the hardworking American families who rely on us to develop a responsible plan for Congressional spending, and I was proud to vote against it this afternoon.

“Moving forward, I call on Democrats and Republicans to come together to develop a  budget proposal that makes sense for our constituents, so we can move our nation forward, protect our middle class, and support the job creation our country needs to revitalize the economy. I look forward to working with members of both parties to realize that goal.”

3-23-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Retirement, False Claims against Public Employees, and More

AFT NH Legislative UpdateWe are now entering the final week prior to “crossover” on Thursday, March 27.  The House will be in session Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while the Senate will be in session on Thursday. Each will have to finish up on all their own bills by Thursday, after which they begin taking up those bills sent from the other chamber.

AFT-NH thanks the representatives that stood with us by voting to defeat:

  • HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and establishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid.
  • HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms.

We would have liked HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils to have been defeated as well but the House referred this bill to interim study.

HB 1122, (New Title) relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property was tabled (which AFT-NH supported),  because HB 1565-FN, establishing the crime of filing false lien or encumbrance against a public servant will be voted on this week with a recommendation from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee of ‘Ought to Pass As Amended’.

As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property. Unless you go to the Register of Deeds in your county and fill out paperwork to be notified of such actions, you would never know this lien existed until you wanted to sell your home. It could take up to a year to clear this up and could be very costly.

THIS WEEK THE HOUSE WILL BE VOTING ON THE FOLLOWING BILLS:

CONSENT CALENDAR

The Finance committee recommended ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’ on HB 1105-FN-L, relative to aid to school districts for costs of special education. AFT-NH asks that this recommendation be overturned and a motion of Ought To Pass be brought forward. AFT-NH supports this bill because it lifts the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully funds it. With this cap of 72% the state has downshifted roughly $8 million to communities. Catastrophic aid is a state fund that helps local district with exorbitant special education costs for our severely disabled children.

The Finance recommended ‘Ought to Pass’ on HB 1494-FN,relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees. AFT-NH supports this recommendation. We were originally opposed to this bill as it was a policy overreach by the NHRS, but Rep. Goley’s amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.

PART I OF THE CALENDAR

AFT-NH is in support of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

COMMON CORE AND THE SMARTER BALANCE STATE ASSESSMENT

There are several bills that will be voted on that are related to the Common Core and the Smarter Balance state assessment. I think it bears repeating where AFT-NH stands:

AFT-NH knows that a Recent AFT Poll found that 75 Percent of teachers support the Common Core standards, but it also found that they have not had enough time to understand them, put them into practice or discuss them with colleagues.

If these standards are to work we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing the Standards:

  • There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice.
  • We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class,
  • Provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
  • Ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
  • Communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students, AND
  • Develop best practices and strategies alone with coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply.
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments, AND
  • Make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers.
  • Assessments need to be aligned to Standards indicating mastery of concepts,
  • Professional development and training in the Standards need to be offered, AND
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.

We also know that:

States and districts must work with teachers to develop a high quality curriculum and professional development programming, provide teachers with the time needed to try out new methods of teaching to the standards in their classrooms, commit financial resources to ensure success, and engage parents and the community.

When assessing students, we need to make sure these tests inform teaching, not impede teaching and learning. All children deserve a rich, meaningful public education that prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and challenges that await them as they become contributing members of a democratic society.  Growing our nation’s future citizens and workers is a serious undertaking that calls for a thoughtful focus on teaching and learning. Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, the growing fixation on high-stakes testing has undermined that focus, putting at grave risk our students’ learning and their ability to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy and fulfill their personal goals.

We believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and that are aligned with curriculum rather than narrow it.  Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn. Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.  Development and implementation of such tests must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.  Because each district is at different stages in their teacher/staff development and student curriculum changes that meet Common Core Standards and the assessment of their students, the Department of Education should waive the Smarter Balance testing deadline for at least another two years.

Further, we believe that assessments designed to support teaching and learning must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

PART II OF THE CALENDAR

The Finance committee recommended ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’ on HB 1114: which establishes a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. AFT-NH is in support of this bill and would like the committee recommendation to be overturned and a recommendation of Ought To Pass be brought forward. It puts a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many district have not been able to afford to complete upgrades, repairs or build new building because of the cost. Keep in mind 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

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

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS WEEK OF MONDAY, MARCH 24

TUESDAY, MARCH 25
10:00 a.m. House in Session

Senate COMMERCE, Room 101, LOB
1:15 p.m. HB 1404, relative to payroll cards.
1:35 p.m. HB 1405, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions.
1:55 p.m. HB 1407, relative to privacy in the workplace.
2:15 p.m. HB 1188, relative to paycheck equity.

Senate HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. HB 1132-FN, relative to school building security.

9:20 a.m. HB 1260-FN-L, relative to communication of the cost of services provided under the children in need of services (CHINS) program to parents.
9:40 a.m. HB 1113, requiring school districts to distribute a concussion and head injury information sheet to student-athletes and establishing a definition for head injury.
10:20 a.m. HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school.
EXECUTIVE SESSION

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
9:15 a.m. HB 1137-FN, relative to annulment of certain obstruction of justice crimes and relative to the crime of escape.
9:30 a.m. HB 1533-FN, requiring a warrant to search information in a portable electronic device.
9:45 a.m. HB 1144, establishing a committee to study information included in arrest records and access to information on the disposition of criminal cases.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26
10:00 a.m. House in Session

Senate EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 100, SH
10:00 a.m. HB 1102, relative to membership of the police standards and training council.
10:20 a.m. HB 1222, prohibiting commercial use of the law enforcement and fallen firefighters memorials.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

THURSDAY, MARCH 27
10:00 a.m. House in Session

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 1
House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
11:30 a.m. SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and recommendation of the municipal budget committee to the governing body.

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
10:30 a.m. HB 1435, requiring law enforcement officials to disclose specific information relating to a police checkpoint.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2

House ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 120-FN, relative to political contributions and expenditures and relative to reporting by political committees.
11:00 a.m. SB 183-FN, (New Title) relative to identification of voters, processing absentee ballots, and voluntary political expenditure limitations.

House JUDICIARY, Room 208, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 262-FN, revising the form for “summons instead of arrest” and prohibiting attachments in small claims actions.

THURSDAY, APRIL 3

House FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
11:15 a.m. SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

House FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:30 p.m. Work session on SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

THURSDAY, APRIL 10
House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 343, relative to the duties of the statewide education improvement and assessment program legislative oversight committee and repealing the school administrative unit legislative oversight committee.
11:00 a.m. SB 350, relative to the transfer of adequacy aid calculation data from the department of education to the department of revenue administration.
1:15 p.m. SB 348, establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools.

3-17-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: School Building Aid Bill, Retirement, Charter Schools, and More

AFT NH Legislative Update

Both the House and Senate are finishing work on their bills prior to the crossover deadline of March 27th (after which bills from one chamber can no longer cross-over to the other chamber for consideration).  The House will be meeting on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the next two weeks to finish up on bills and the Senate will be meeting Thursday the 27th to finish up. Then we start all over again with the House holding committee hearings on passed Senate bills and the Senate holding committee hearings on passed House bills.

This coming Wednesday and Thursday the House will be considering the following bills:

CONSENT CALENDAR

The Finance committee made the recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate‘ on HB 1114: which establishes a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. AFT-NH asks that this be taken off the consent calendar and the recommendation be overturned and a recommendation of ‘Ought To Pass’  be presented. AFT-NH supports this bill for it puts a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many districts have not been able to afford upgrades, repairs or build new buildings because of the cost. Keep in mind 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

REGULAR CALENDAR PART II

AFT-NH supports the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s recommendation of ‘Ought to Pass as amended’ on HB 1565-FN, establishing the crime of filing false lien or encumbrance against a public servant. As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property. Unless you go to the Register of Deeds in your county and fill out paperwork to be notified of such actions, you would never know this lien existed until you wanted to sell your home. It could take up to a year to clear this up and could be very costly.

AFT-NH supports the Executive Departments and Administration Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and establishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid. This bill is unnecessary for there is already a process in place for recouping overpayments, and this puts the entire onus on the employee, penalizing them when the error is more likely to be made on the other end.

AFT-NH is in support of the Executive Departments and Administration Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms. AFT-NH knows that this bill gives unprecedented authority to the executive director of the NHRS to apply punishments at his/her discretion to the employee, when part-time work reporting is both an employer and employee responsibility. To put all the onus on the employee is wrong.

AFT-NH would have like the Finance committee to recommend ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  and not ‘Referred Interim Study’ on HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils. Keep in mind that Charter Schools:

  • Do not accept all children that walk through their doors,
  • They entire teaching staff are not certified,
  • They do not take on all the responsibility of educating special education students but they  rely on the child’s local school system to offer services,
  • They do not take on the responsibility of transporting the students to school.
  • They do not have to follow all the laws and rules that current public schools follow.

Also remembers when a charter school opens, your local tax dollars, taken from your local school district budget, must pay for services for special education students attending the charter school.  If a charter school opens in your community your tax dollars are going to transport any student that lives in your community attending the charter school.  All of this is mandated by State law, and in a time when budgets are tight charter schools seem to be coming back and asking for more and more. And you have no say in the matter unless our local elected state leaders stand up and say “No more!”

AFT-NH is in support of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

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 HEARING FOR THE WEEK OF MARCH 17, 2014

TUESDAY, MARCH 18

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Room 204, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on
HB 1122-FN, (New Title) relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property, –this is the same as HB 1565 which AFT-NH supports

RULES, Room 303, LOB
2:30 p.m. Regular meeting

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:30 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1415-FN, establishing a robotics education fund in the department of education,

HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:30 a.m. Executive Session May Follow

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19

10:00 a.m. House in session

PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS, Room 102, LOB
10:30 a.m. HB 297, relative to the management of trust funds and capital reserve funds and pertaining to library trustees.

THURSDAY, MARCH 20

10:00 a.m. House in session

Senators Fight to Protect Medicare for Seniors

Senator Warren (image by Department of Labor)

Senator Warren (image by Department of Labor)

WASHINGTON D.C. -U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (AR), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH) Jeff Merkley (OR), Al Franken (MN), Brian Schatz (HI), Tom Udall (NM), and Elizabeth Warren (MA) today introduced the Medicare Protection Act, legislation expressing strong opposition to changes in Medicare that would reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or raise the eligibility age for hard-working seniors. Today, more than 46 million Americans rely on Medicare.

“We’ve seen an irresponsible few in Washington try to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors by recklessly voting to turn Medicare into a voucher system and raise the eligibility age for benefits,” Pryor said. “I refuse to let that happen. That’s why I’m proud to lead the charge on the Medicare Protection Act, a responsible solution that will protect the health, safety, and financial security of nearly 600,000 seniors in my state alone.”

“Seniors cannot afford cuts to their Medicare benefits,” Brown said. “As the cost of living continues to rise, the budgets of many are already stretched to the breaking point. Instead of privatizing Medicare, we should focus on ensuring the health and wellness of our country’s seniors. The Medicare Protection Act would protect Medicare as we know it so that we aren’t reducing the deficit on the backs of our seniors.”

“I want to make sure that Medicare can continue to provide New Hampshire seniors with the care they need,” Shaheen said. “Preserving Medicare is crucial to the health and financial security of our seniors.”

“Raising the Medicare eligibility age would be absolutely disastrous. In my town halls, I hear from a lot of Oregonians who are in their early 60s and are praying they make it to 65 to receive their Medicare benefits. If anything, we should be lowering the eligibility age. Medicare is an important lifeline for our seniors, and must be protected from hostile attacks to privatize it or weaken it,” said Merkley.

“About 700,000 Minnesota seniors rely on Medicare to cover most of their health care costs,” said Franken. “It not only keeps them healthy and out of poverty, but also brings peace of mind to their families who don’t have to worry about whether they can afford to see a doctor. I disagree with those who want to turn Medicare into a voucher program, slash benefits, and tell seniors that they’re out on their own. This legislation will help protect this important program that millions of Americans depend upon.”

“Since the program’s creation, Medicare has been a vital lifeline for our seniors, ensuring access to health care for people who need it the most,” Schatz said. “Yet time and time again, changes to the Medicare program are wrongfully used as a bargaining chip. This bill will help us protect seniors’ Medicare benefits. In Hawai‘i, generations take care of each other and it is our responsibility in Congress to make sure benefits are there for America’s seniors.”

“Our seniors rely on Medicare, they paid into Medicare, and they deserve to know they can count on Medicare when the need it,” Tom Udall said. “I have been proud to fight for Medicare, and will continue to push for measures like this that will keep this program strong.”

“Millions of seniors rely on Medicare to pay for critical health care services, and we should not cut these essential benefits for people who need them most,” said Warren. “Cutting benefits will not stop people from getting sick, it will only shift more of the cost of health care onto our seniors. We should be focused on bringing down the costs of health care, not slashing benefits for people who need care. I’m pleased to support the Medicare Protection Act, which will help protect older Americans from irresponsible benefits cuts and efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher program.”

The Medicare Protection Act would amend the Congressional Budget Act to define any provision included in reconciliation legislation that makes changes to Medicare to reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or restrict eligibility criteria as extraneous and an inappropriate use of the reconciliation process. The bill would also express the sense of the Senate that 1) the Medicare eligibility age should not be increased and 2) the Medicare program should not be privatized or turned into a voucher system.
Full text of legislation

AFT-NH Legislative Update 1-20-14

aft sqaureThe 2014 legislative session has started and they are on a short time schedule. The House must act on all bills that have a fiscal note by February 16th; the Senate has till March 6th.  All other bills must be acted on by March 27th (crossover day). Currently we are monitoring:

13 retirement bills
44 education bills
9 labor bills

I am sure as time goes there will be more bills added to this list. The past two weeks the House has met twice and is working their way through bills retained from the last session. We asked the following of them:

That they vote in support of the committee recommendation on the following bills—which they did:

HB 299-FN, relative to tuition payments for chartered public school pupils.
The funding has been addressed in HB 2 that passed last session and this was unnecessary.

HB 494, relative to the administration of glucagon injections for pupils.
Both the New Hampshire board of nursing and New Hampshire School Nurses Association collaborated on changes to existing rules to more clearly provide the needed flexibility to delegate administering emergency medications.

However
, on HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils, the House  overturned the committee’s recommendation to defeat this bill and passed it by a vote of  168 to 134.  AFT-NH is disappointed in this vote. This bill now moves to the House Finance committee where they will need to find the money to fund this bill.

We will be sending a letter to the representatives that voted in favor of this bill informing them that we are very disappointed.

We are still waiting on the full House to vote on the following:

HB 627-FN, requiring unused vacation and sick leave be converted to service time for purposes of calculating retirement system benefits. AFT-NH is in support of the committee recommendation of ITL (inexpedient to legislate) and asked Representatives to support this recommendation. If this bill was to pass it would lead to further litigation.

HB 341-FN, relative to the cost of fiscal analysis of legislation relating to the retirement system. AFT-NH asked the representatives to overturn the committee recommendation of ITL and support a recommendation of OTP (ought to pass) as amended for the following reasons:

  • Currently those expenses are paid for out of the retirement system’s assets. These funds are in fact the source for retiree pension payments.
  • Over the course of the last five years these costs have come close to $500,000, which is equivalent to over 26 average pensions.
  • We do not believe that half a million dollars is an insignificant sum, nor are the 26 pensions.
  • If a legislator puts in a bill then the funds to cost this should come out of their budget not from ours.
  • Passing this bill is the first step towards correcting a very bad practice of passing costs onto the backs of property taxpayers. Defeating it is just continuing a practice that cannot be justified in this economy.

THE HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE HELD HEARINGS ON:

HB 1105: relative to aid to school districts for costs of special education. AFT-NH supports this bill because it lifts the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully funds it. With this cap of 72% the state has downshifted roughly $8 million to communities. Catastrophic aid is a state fund that helps local district with exorbitant special education cost for our severely disabled children.

HB 1114: which establishes a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. AFT-NH is in support of this bill. It puts a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many district have not been able to afford to complete upgrades, repairs or build new building because of the cost. Keep in mind 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

RED ISSUE ALERT – ITS TIME TO TAKE ACTION
YES, THAT IS CORRECT, RIGHT TO WORK “FOR LESS” IS BACK!
It hasn’t even been a year!

The Senate Finance committee will be hearing Right to Work “for less” (SB 217) on Thursday January 23, 2014 at 1 pm in the State House room 103. Please contact the committee members and ask that they defeat this bill.

Over the past two years hundreds of NH citizens voiced opposition to this bill with only a handful of people speaking in support. This attack on working people like you is led by out of state interests such as the National Right to Work Committee and ALEC. Don’t let the voice of NH residents to be silenced.

Please pass the word to friends and family members. These Senators need to hear from you. Simply put this is a union-busting bill and an attack on our public employees and middle class families.

Please share this with colleagues so they know the seriousness of these attacks. So let’s GET ACTIVE and let these state Senators hear our voices.

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

UPCOMING HEARINGS FOR NEXT WEEK

TUESDAY, JANUARY 21

Senate COMMERCE, Room 101, LOB
2:00 p.m. SB 302, relative to public or private criticism of employers by employees.

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
1:00 p.m. SB 339-FN, authorizing the department of administrative services to contract for a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retire¬ment system’s unfunded liability.

Senate HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:50 a.m. SB 350, relative to the transfer of average daily membership information from the Department of Education to the Department of Revenue Administration.

10:10 a.m. SB 343, establishing a commission to study the common core standards.

CHILDREN AND FAMILY LAW, Room 206, LOB
10:00 a.m. HB 1624-FN, modernizing the juvenile justice system to ensure rehabilitation of juveniles and preservation of juvenile rights.

COMMERCE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS, Room 302, LOB
1:15 p.m. HB 1589-FN, requiring background checks for all firearm sales. Please note that location is Representatives Hall, State House.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Room 204, LOB
10:30 a.m. HB 1306-FN, prohibiting a law enforcement officer from soliciting another person to participate in criminal activity.

11:00 a.m. HB 1435, requiring law enforcement officials to disclose specific information relating to a police checkpoint.

1:00 p.m. HB 1550, permitting the audio and video recording of a public official while in the course of his or her official duties.

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:30 a.m. HB 1187, relative to an appeal of a change of school assignment decision by a superintendent.

11:00 a.m. HB 1113, requiring school districts to distribute a concussion and head injury information sheet to student-athletes.

11:30 a.m. HB 1180-FN-L, relative to days of school.

1:15 p.m. HB 1147, permitting school districts to advertise.

3:15 p.m. Executive session on
HB 1243, relative to the confidentiality of criminal background checks of school employees and volunteers,
HB 1255, making students whose name appears on the voter checklist eligible for in-state tuition rates at schools in the University System of New Hampshire,
HB 1415-FN, establishing a robotics education fund in the Department of Education,

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
1:30 p.m. Executive session on,
HB 1148-FN, relative to the reduction in the calculation of state retirement system annui¬ties at age 65,
HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees,
HB 1563-FN, granting group II retirement system status to certain positions in the Department of Corrections.

FINANCE – (DIVISION II), Room 209, LOB
11:00 a.m. Work session on
HB 1146, establishing a committee to study the feasibility of funding a kin¬dergarten to college/career ready program and a universal college savings account.

2:00 p.m. Work session on
HB 1394-FN-A, relative to funds for chartered public school facilities and making an appropriation for them.

JUDICIARY, Room 208, LOB
2:00 p.m. HB 1143, relative to the New Hampshire Law Against Discrimination.
2:30 p.m. HB 1214, relative to grounds for termination of tenancy.

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
10:15 a.m. HB 1334, relative to contributions to charities by employees.
10:30 a.m. HB 1188, relative to paycheck equity.
11:15 a.m. HB 1405, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions.
1:15 p.m. HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee    collective bargaining.
1:45 p.m. HB 1174, establishing a commission to study the payment of subminimum wages to persons with disabilities.
2:15 p.m. Executive session on
HB 1169, relative to enforcement of labor laws by the Department of Labor,
HB 1368-FN, relative to inquiries into criminal records on employment applications.

MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
1:00 p.m. Executive session on
HB 1234, relative to municipal contracts for police chief,
HB 1235-FN, establishing a procedure to recall selectmen and school board members,
HB 1375, permitting a municipal law enforcement agency to collect unwanted or illegal firearms.

PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS, Room 201, LOB
11:00 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1222, prohibiting commer¬cial use of the law enforcement and fallen firefighters memorials.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22
10 am House in session

Senate PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS, Room 102, LOB
9:45 a.m. SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and recommendation of the municipal budget committee to the governing body.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 23

Senate FINANCE, Room 100, SH
1:00 p.m. SB 217-FN, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. HB 1132-FN, relative to school building inventory reports.
10:30 a.m. HB 1200, relative to student social media policies by educational institutions.
11:00 a.m. HB 1208, relative to the number of first-year college students from New Hampshire high schools required to take remedial classes.
11:30 a.m. HB 1212, relative to social media privacy in higher education.
1:15 p.m. HB 1141, requiring chartered public schools to share enrollment information with school districts.
1:45 p.m. HB 1298, relative to additional criteria for review of chartered public school applications.
2:15 p.m. HB 1449, relative to the requirements for filing a charter school application.

ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:30 a.m. HB 1364-FN, relative to political expenditure and contribution reporting requirements and relative to political expenditure limitations for state representative and county office candidates.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
10:00 a.m. HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and estab¬lishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid.
10:30 a.m. HB 1126, establishing a committee to study alternative public employee retirement plans.
11:00 a.m. HB 1152-FN, terminating the benefit program for call, substitute or volunteer firemen admin¬istered by the New Hampshire retirement system.
11:30 a.m. HB 1398-FN, allowing the retirement system to make payments in lieu of payments to estates in certain instances.
1:00 p.m. HB 1399-FN, relative to the application for a vested deferred retirement allowance in the re¬tirement system.

1:30 p.m. HB 1617-FN, permitting the retirement system to access death, marriage, and divorce records of the Division of Vital Records Administration for the administration of RSA 100-A.
2:00 p.m. HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms.

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211
10:00 a.m. Work session on HB 525-FN, raising the age of minority for juvenile delinquency proceedings from 17 to 18 years of age.

LEGISLATIVE ADMINISTRATION, Room 104, LOB
2:30 p.m. HB 1440-FN, including the writing, promoting, or distributing of model legislation to elected officials as lobbying and requiring disclosure of scholarship funds, money, or other financial support received from such lobbyists by elected officials.
3:00 p.m. HB 1481-FN, relative to information submitted to a committee of the General Court.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
1:00 p.m. Executive session on CACR10, relating to revenue classes. Providing that all monies
received by the state shall belong to a defined revenue class, and CACR11, relating to the definitions of “tax” and “fee.” Providing that a tax is imposed to raise state revenue and a fee is imposed to recover costs to the state for providing a service to the payer,

Noon to 1:00 PM in the House Finance Committee room (LOB 210-211).
The New Hampshire Kids Count and the New Hampshire Child Advocacy Network (NH CAN) cordially invite all legislators for lunch and a brief program. The program will unveil NH CAN’s 16th annual Priorities for New Hampshire’s Children. NH CAN is comprised of numerous Advocacy Partners and Legislative Advisors. NH CAN seeks to ensure that New Hampshire continues to be one of the best places to raise children.

Governor Hassan Submits Brief in Education Voucher Tax Credit Case

Urges NH Supreme Court to Uphold Superior Court Decision that
Voucher Program is Unconstitutional

CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan today submitted an amicus brief urging the New Hampshire Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision that diverting taxpayer dollars from public schools to religious schools violates the state constitution.

“The education voucher tax credit program is a misguided policy that undermines New Hampshire’s public education system and violates our state’s constitutional separation of church and state,” Governor Hassan said. “The New Hampshire Constitution explicitly prohibits the use of public funds for the benefit of schools or institutions of any religious sect or denomination. Diverting millions in already limited education funds from public to religious schools violates this important constitutional protection while making it more difficult for the state to meet its obligation to provide an adequate public education to all of New Hampshire’s young people.”

 

Governor Hassan filed her brief in the case of Duncan v. State of New Hampshire.

 

The Governor’s brief, submitted by counsel, makes three key points: 1) New Hampshire’s Constitution is clearer than the federal constitution in prohibiting tax dollars from being used for religious institutions, both to prohibit state endorsement of a religion and to protect religious institutions from state interference; 2) New Hampshire case law has repeatedly treated tax credits as public expenditures of taxpayer dollars; and 3) The diversion of public money to religious schools through the education voucher tax credit program could undermine the finances of local communities and undermine the state’s ability to meet its responsibilities, including to provide every child with the opportunity for an adequate public education.

The full amicus brief submitted on behalf of Governor can be found here.

Get this: Privatizers see the Common Core as a Distraction from school choice!

I always consider policy discussions about privatization – proposals to dismantle public education and replace it with charters, vouchers and home schools  - a distraction from the real project of making our public schools the best in the world.  But anti-Common Core activists have the gall to see the work needed to move our schools forward - like increasing expectations by instituting higher standards like the Common Core - as a distraction from their privatization goal!

Just think about that.

New Hampshire’s anti-Common Core activists express these very views (a point I first made here) but the American Principles Project further fleshed out this manifesto on its blog a couple of days ago.  Here’s an excerpt:

American Principles Project has been an advocate for school choice since our inception.  We have been alarmed how the Common Core State Standards  has been an intrusion for private schools and even homeschoolers.  In principle we desire greater choice in education as parents should have sovereignty over how their children learn.  The Common Core diminishes parental choice as they are confronted by “common standards” at every turn.  Robert Holland of The Heartland Institute gave a dire warning last month saying that the Common Core would cripple school choice.

Ultimately, disempowerment may be the main reason for parental angst. Unless it is stopped, Common Core will deliver a devastating blow to parental choice at all levels. The one, limited power possessed by most public-school parents is the ability to seek change at the local school board. Unfortunately, the corporate and foundation-funded sponsors of CCSS copyrighted the standards and set up no process for local amendment.

The greatest leverage for parents comes when they can use vouchers or tax-credit scholarships to transfer their children to private or parochial schools. But even in a state with as strong a voucher program as Indiana, the government requires schools accepting voucher students to administer the official test, which has opened the door wide to CCSS-style assessment. Thus will governmental creep dilute the liberating effect of school choice.

Nor will homeschooling parents be exempt if CCSS stands, because many states also require home educators to administer the official test. Even more insidious, Common Core lead writer David Coleman (formerly a testing consultant) now heads the College Board and has vowed to align the SAT with the nationalized standards. Thus any student—whether from public, private, parochial, or home school—will have to be Common Core-acclimated.

….

via Common Core Is a Distraction From School Choice.

So there you have it.  The privatizers see the Common Core as a threat to their goal of dismantling American public education.  Naturally.

Common Core opponents come clean – it’s all about the rights of private and home schoolers. Huh?

From Bill Duncan (Advancing NH Public Education)

Eagle Tribune reporter John Toole wrote a piece yesterday with a telling quote from Cornerstone:

Cornerstone, announcing a forum last month with AFP at St. Anselm College, said many parents, teachers and legislators are questioning and opposing Common Core.

“How will Common Core impact home-school and private school students? What about all the data collection on students and their families? What will this cost taxpayers?” Cornerstone asked.

There it is.  The Common Core debate in New Hampshire is being driven by homeschoolers and privatization advocates like Cornerstone out of concern for how improved public education standards might eventually affect voucher and home schools.  Just stop and think about that for a minute.  These folks are part of a national effort that would shut down public education and replace it with private and home schools but still want to set policy for New Hampshire public education.  In case it might eventually affect them.

Here is Cornerstone advocating for vouchers last year, saying that New Hampshire standards are so bad that students need private tutors to be successful in school.  Now the same folks oppose a improving New Hampshire academic standards because of “all the data collection on students and their families?”  Where does this concern come from?  There is no serious risk to student data privacy in New Hampshire.  Nor does cost appear to be a serious issue.  No.  Cornerstone is clear about its real concern, asserting that “teachers” are concerned about the question:

“How will Common Core impact home-school and private school students?”

Personally, I doubt it.  But Cornerstone’s frequent advocacy partner, Jamie Gass, from the free market Pioneer Institute says he opposes the Common Core for the same reason: it might affect charter and voucher schools.

Adoption of the Common Core became a political issue in Manchester driven largely by a local radio talk show host who serves on the board of and sends his kids to the the libertarian Liberty Harbor Academy, an advocate for privatization of New Hampshire public education.  Here is Manchester master teacher Selma Nacach- Hoff pleading with the school board to move beyond that political debate and exercise its responsibility for curriculum leadership.  And the school board did do the right thing last week.

Homeschoolers and private and religious schools funded with vouchers operate with no accountability in New Hampshire.  So advocates seem to want a public debate about the Common Core because, at some time in the future, they might feel cramped by the effort to improve New Hampshire public education.

As a result, we will have at least 5 bills in the upcoming legislative session and a number of school boards around the state are earnestly debating the merits of the Common Core, a clear step forward for New Hampshire public education, because homeschoolers and voucher advocates are concerned that their rights might eventually be infringed.

We pride ourselves on our open public debate here in New Hampshire.  I hope that will never change.  Common Core opponents should get a fair public hearing.  But legislators and school board members should not allow themselves to be sidetracked by the Common Core red herrings offered by advocates for privatization of public education.

Thanks to New Hampshire’s teachers. You’re a precious asset to the State.

Today I heard one teacher observing to another - not complaining, just observing - that “teacher appreciation days” in the local stores aren’t what they used to be.  There are 15% discounts for teachers buying supplies but not “composition books for a penny” as it used to be.

So this is teacher appreciation day here at ANHPE.  There’s no real purpose for this post other than to say thank you to New Hampshire teachers as you prepare for the new school year.  There’s a lot of debate swirling about schools and teachers and you could come to think that there are no teacher appreciation days anymore.  But New Hampshire does appreciate you and it’s a great place to do great teaching.

Teachers’ voices need to be part of the public debate about our schools.  You’ve got great stories to tell.  Your every-day work in overcoming learning challenges with your kids, implementing the Common Core, reaching out to parents, helping each other become better educators….this is all a view of our schools and teachers that most people don’t get.  And they need it.  They need to know how hard you work every day.

A long-time teacher and principal in Manchester said to me:

“People have no idea how much effort goes into these students.  And it’s because you want to do it.  I believe that the best that we can do for our students is to have them leave here so that they are able to handle sixth grade curriculum and then hopefully ninth grade curriculum because by the doing that we are giving them a choice. They may choose to go to a trade school, go to a college – or they may choose to go directly into the workplace. If we don’t do that for them – prepare them – we haven’t given them a choice.  What they choose to do beyond that is out of our control but the driving goal day-to-day is to get them there.”

People need to know that you are investing in their kids that way every day. We’ll try to tell more of those stories over the next while.

And, as you get down to business preparing for this school year, it’s worth looking at how your work in educating our kids every day fits into the national education reform debate raging today.

It’s hard to feel like society’s precious asset when you read the paper and watch the news.  It feels more like you’re on the front lines.  With rockets landing all around you.  Maybe you’ve got political advocates, parents and school board members telling you what you’re doing wrong.   Critics use everything from international comparisons to personal anecdotes to bash public education.

You see the national education reform debate and it looks like an existential threat to public education.  Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan…Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maine…200 years of public education is being plowed under.  And teachers are the targets.

You could be teaching in Maine, where the governor said, “If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck. You can go to the public school.”

Or just look at Philadelphia.  It’s a school district about the size of all New Hampshire districts put together. And it represents the future of the education reform strategies we see in some states.  The State of Pennsylvania has defunded the Philadelphia school district and closed two dozen schools, so far, in order to hurt the teachers’ union. They have used their money instead to fund vouchers and charters, which now educate over 30% of the kids.

So now they’ve got 3 school systems to support – tradition public schools, charters and private schools – instead of just one.

Is that the future we have to look forward to?

But here’s something you might not know.

You are lucky to be teaching in New Hampshire.  You have an engaged and constructive union leadership, supportive political leadership, astute educational leadership … AND you have real local control.

New Hampshire is an island of sanity in the maelstrom of the national education reform debate.

This isn’t to say that everything is perfect.  It never is.  But just look at other states: charters, private school vouchers, A-F school scoring, punitive teacher evaluation driven by high stakes testing, draconian pay policies set at the state level – these are all used as bludgeons to beat on public schools and educators.

Obviously, this kind of reform strategy does not improve schools.  It merely penalizes schools with the most at-risk kids and, therefore, the lowest scores.  And it replaces public schools with a privatized form of education.

But in NH, just the opposite is happening.  Charters are under control.  Vouchers are just about extinguished.  We are moving in the opposite direction from A_F school ratings.  Evaluation of teaching and schools is about creating an environment that supports improvement.  And pay is still negotiated locally.

Here’s why I think that, in spite of the destruction you see going on around you, you’re in a great place that allows you to do great teaching.

Charters: Public charter schools are used throughout the country to undercut teachers’ unions. Cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, DC, are shutting down traditional public schools and replacing them with charters.  And what’s the result?  There are good and bad charters as there are all other kinds of schools but over-all charters achieve no improvement in educational outcomes.

In New Hampshire, just over 1% of our kids go to charters and those schools are mostly targeted to special situations, particularly at-risk kids.  There’s wide consensus among the Governor, legislative committee chairs, unions and educators that charters in New Hampshire play a niche role.  They’re for special situations.

So far, then, charters play a small role in the New Hampshire education reform debate.  What about vouchers, the other major tool for reformers who want to privatize our public education system?

Vouchers: New Hampshire’s education tax credit bill was 2012 legislation that funds vouchers by granting tax credits to repay businesses almost dollar-for-dollar for donations to the voucher program.  The voucher bill was the most important piece of legislation passed last year.  The primary author in the House described his goal this way: “We want as many students as possible out of the “system”.  You are the “system” he was talking about.  This is hard to believe coming from a state representative - a member of the Education Committee no less!  But the bill passed over the governor’s veto.

But the program sends kids primarily to religious schools and a lower court here in New Hampshire has ruled that unconstitutional.  There’s now an injunction against using vouchers for religious schools.  That’s being appealed to our Supreme Court, of course, but in the meantime, neither public school parents nor businesses have shown much interest in vouchers.  They are happy with what you are doing for them.  The program will fund just 21 scholarships this year and, if it survives at all, will not become a significant factor in New Hampshire public education.

Evaluation: But what about the core issues of how teaching and schools are evaluated, the issue that’s most entwined with current federal education policy?

To my eye, New Hampshire got the best Race to the Top deal in the country.  Your commissioner’s negotiation of the No Child Left Behind waiver was a virtuoso performance.

This appeared to be a 10-month process that ended a few weeks ago, but the waiver was really the culmination of an effort that extended over several years.  It required a long-term vision by the department of education and the support of a bewildering number of players, including two governors, the Legislature, teachers, superintendents and school board leadership throughout the state.

But by 2010, the department had the groundwork laid for the move to Common Core State Standards that you are now implementing and for the new Smarter Balanced assessments.  And the new evaluation model, the product of two large task forces over 18 months, was done this spring.

So when it came down to negotiating with the U.S. Department of Education, the commissioner knew what she needed to get.  And she got it.  She got a waiver that did not sacrifice local control of our school systems to the federal government.  What did happen is that New Hampshire replaced No Child Left Behind with its own education strategy.

If we were in New Jersey or Indiana or Arkansas – or Maine – we’d be basing up to 50% of teacher evaluations on student test scores.  We’d be trying to embarrass schools with A-F ratings using loaded formulas.  And we’d be using all that to fire teachers, close schools and replace them with charters and vouchers.  Just like Philadelphia.

What do we have instead?  We certainly have no A-F school rating system.  Schools get an adequacy score constructed using realistic parameters.  It is not used to embarrass schools and make news.  And we get “priority” and “focus” schools, a new, regionally-based, system for working with schools that need help, either because they have low student achievement or some groups of students are falling behind.  They will get targeted support to make improvements that fit their realistic situations.

And we have an evaluation model that is our own and a model for the country.  DOE didn’t bring in “education reformer” Jeb Bush to tell us how to do it, as Maine did.  All over the country these documents are being created as political statements.  But the New Hampshire model is all about the kids.

The task force minutes summarized what one leader said this way:

“….the district has to show evidence that the teacher was given the support necessary to be successful….Those are the kinds of policies that need to go into the contract ….If a district cannot submit evidence that they provided support to a teacher that is having difficulty, then whose responsibility is it? We have to provide a level of protection for teachers that are giving it their best. Other states…are putting policies in place with no interaction from the educators. We do not want that to happen to us.”

That was the commissioner, not a union president.

And, because she had developed a broad consensus on a balanced plan, what she came out with from the waiver negotiation was pretty close to what she went in with.

You will see this supportive approach in your own district teaching evaluation plans.  But it would not have been possible without the flexibility provided by the New Hampshire waiver.

There’s a lot left to do.  There always is.  You will continue rolling out the Common Core standards.  And you’ll continue to hear debate about that.  But I think we see at this point that teachers who have implemented the Common Core standards become strong supporters.

A 5th grade teacher at Portsmouth’s New Franklin Elementary School, talking about the Language Arts standards, said to me:

“It’s overwhelming, of course, because it’s a big shift,” she said matter-of-factly.  ”It’s been interesting, though, to watch the kids step up to the level of deeper thinking that we’re asking them to do.  We’ve done persuasive writing in the past but this is the first time it’s been research based.

“In this particular project, we started with debating, on two different teams.  After that it just progressed.  I didn’t have to say, ‘Now let’s do a research-based writing project.’  The kids said, ‘Let’s research something,’ and decided on ‘Do fast food restaurants cause obesity?’  They’re writing this essay together as teams.  The next one they’ll do alone.”

So I look forward to this next school year with great anticipation – traveling further down New Hampshire’s own path for public education. I hope you’re excited too.  You are ground zero for showing what our American public schools can do in a constructive, supportive atmosphere.

And thank you for what you do.

Cross posted from ANHPE

ANHPE Asks Why Do Even Need A Voucher Law, It Is A Proven Failure

Why do you keep after the New Hampshire voucher program? Won’t it just die on the vine? (Answer: It’s a bad seed.)

We have a lower court decision saying that New Hampshire’s voucher tax credit program can’t fund religious schools, where most of the money would have gone, and the Supreme Court may well agree.

Business and public school parents have shown little interest in the program, though it’s hard to know how much of that is a result of the controversy.

There’s only one active scholarship organization to collect donations and hand out the money and, without the capacity to run a publicly funded program, it probably won’t be able to do much with the program.

So why keep after it? Why not let it just die on the vine or trundle along getting a little money to some families who could use it?

It’s true, the voucher program is not worth all the air time it takes up.  Education funding, the role of charter schools in the State, support for early childhood development, the State’s role in the current education reform debates – these are all much more important topics.

And doing a better job educating our low income students, as the voucher program purports to do, is an important topic.  But the voucher program has proved a random and unsystematic way to do that.  Giving money to a group that helped write the law (“We want as many students as possible out of the ‘system’”) to select a small number of children to go to unaccredited religious schools is not a solution to that problem.  There are many more purposeful and direct ways to help low income families get better educations for their children.

However, the voucher law will not go away by itself.  It may continue to function even if the Supreme Court agrees that it cannot fund religious schools.  Supporters assert that the kind of slow start we are seeing here has been the normal experience in other states and that the program will grow large over time.  Any future legislature could expand the program overnight but even with no attention at all it will grow automatically if it gets enough use.

There is no legitimate public purpose for this law, no public support, no state oversight for the money and now we’ve had an opportunity to see the result of this kind of ill-conceived legislation.  There is no reason to leave this kind of failed program in place.

Cross-posted from ANHPE