Collected here are many newspaper articles, editorials, OpEds, studies and other information specifically relevant to New Hampshire public schools and education issues being debated in the Legislature.
The most important are shown in the menu on the left. The most recent posts are below:
Lawmakers Call on Lamontagne to Say Whether He Would Block Local Schools from Receiving Federal Funds
Turned Away Millions as Chair of State Board of Education,
Lamontagne Tells Radio Host "I'd Do it Again"
MANCHESTER - Democratic lawmakers today called on Ovide Lamontagne to make clear whether as Governor he would once again turn away millions in federal education funds, which would hurt schools and raise local property taxes.
As chairman of the state Board of Education, Ovide Lamontagne blocked local schools from receiving federal Goals 2000 funds. In a recent radio interview with Paul Wescott on WGIR, Ovide seemed to suggest he may seek to block local schools from receiving federal funds again:
"We need to continue to respect our state sovereignty and our responsibilities that we owe to our people and I've been a fighter against Washington encroachment on the education front. In the mid-nineties we stood up the federal power grab. I'd do it again...."
This year, the New Hampshire legislature considered, and tabled two bills that would have withdrawn New Hampshire from No Child Left Behind, a Bush-era law, and rejected $61 million in federal funds that go to local schools.
"A skilled, knowledgeable workforce is essential to our efforts to attract innovative, growing companies to New Hampshire," Senator Molly Kelly, a member of the Senate Education Committee said. "To meet that goal, we need to make sure New Hampshire schools have the resources they need to give our students a solid education, while helping relieve the local property tax burden. That includes ensuring our school districts have access to available federal funding.
"We should not hurt our schools or our taxpayers by turning away federal education dollars that help offset local property taxes and ensure that our schools have the resources they need," said Kelly.
"Parents and taxpayers deserve answers from Ovide: Will you once again turn away federal education funds? What funds? Will you block the Department of Education from applying for federal education grants? Will you block local schools from applying for federal funds? Will the state make up the difference in lost revenue?" House Minority Leader Terie Norelli said.
"Ovide Lamontagne has a long record of opposing the best interests of public schools and their students. Lamontagne supports a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to cut aid to local schools; opposed expanding public kindergarten; and pushed for a law that is diverting $16 million in taxpayer money away from public schools toward religious schools," Norelli said.
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By Monitor staff
June 8, 2012
In the final hours of the legislative session, Republican lawmakers passed two ill-conceived constitutional amendments that will go before voters on the November ballot. One would ensconce in the Constitution an ill
ban on taxing the income of a natural person; the other would take the authority to set the rules by which the courts operate away from the chief justice of the Supreme Court and award that power to the Legislature. Voters should reject both amendments.Constitutions should not be tampered with lightly
. They should be changed only when the need is great. Neither amendment is needed. Both would do more harm than good.There is no reason to take rule-making power away from the courts. The existing system put an end to the absurdity that before 1978 saw each court operate as its own fiefdom with rules that differed from one court to the next.
Centralizing the rule-making authority in the hands of the system's chief justice made operational rules consistent from court to court, streamlined the operation of the courts, and saved confusion and costs. It helped to insulate the court from political pressure and the ire of legislators angered by its decisions, and it showed fidelity to the constitutional concept of a separation of powers.
Voters knew what they were doing when they took the power to adopt the rules under which the courts operate out of the hands of a volunteer and largely lay Legislature and put it in the hands of those who actually know how courts operate: the system's judges. That's where it should be.
As for the income tax ban, voters might see it as nothing more than waving the state's unofficial "Ax the Tax" flag. Not so.Real harm could come in the form of a lower bond rating and higher interest costs on state borrowing - since in a fiscal crisis lawmakers couldn't turn to an income tax.Additionally, since virtually all taxes at some level are a tax on income, a constitutional ban on an income tax would also mean that the state would be tied up in court for years while the Supreme Court struggled to decide whether Tax A or Tax B could legally be considered a tax on income. The ban would straightjacket future legislatures and strip them of the ability to react quickly in a financial crisis or in the not entirely unimaginable event that crushing property tax burdens finally force owners to demand relief.Certainly there is no appetite for a statewide income tax among the current crop of state lawmakers.
But without it, at some point - and we may be already be near it - one of two things will happen. Either the services the state provides, including aid to those least able to care for themselves, will dwindle and New Hampshire's infrastructure deteriorate further, or existing taxes on business and property will increase significantly. The first is bad for the state's economy. The second is grossly unfair.
Because New Hampshire relies more heavily on property taxes that perhaps any other state, it has a very regressive tax system.
In 2009, families earning less than $25,000 paid 8.3 percent of their income in state and local taxes, a figure that includes the property tax component of rent payments. Families in the $40,000 to $65,000 range paid 6.3 percent; those earning $102,000 to $204,000, 4.6 percent, and households with incomes of $480,000 or more paid just 2 percent. Those are the disparities that a constitutional ban on income taxes will preserve and increase. The poor and middle class will pay an ever-increasing share of their income to support state and local government, while the well-off pay less and less.
Voters should reject the income tax ban and the Legislature's attempt to seize power from the courts.
Letter to the Editor
I am outraged that all of my state representatives voted for the school “voucher” bills, rationalizing they would promote school “choice” and that the increased competition would improve public school performance.
According to National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores for fourth- and eighth-graders, New Hampshire ranks fourth and sixth, respectively, in reading and second in both grades in math this year.
Considering that New Hampshire ranks 22nd nationally when it comes to paying its teachers and 48th when it comes to state and local government contributions to education, I’d say we’re getting tremendous “bang for our buck.”
Unlike private schools, public schools cannot cherry-pick students or ignore expensive programs – such as special education and No Child Left Behind – that were federally mandated but never fully federally funded.
Just imagine how well public schools could compete if you leveled that playing field.
At a time when public school budgets are being slashed to the bone at all government levels, is it really prudent to gut them further?
In short, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
This issue isn’t about “choice.” When parents aren’t required to send their kids to public schools, they already have choice.
This is about who pays for that choice. Even with vouchers, only the more affluent families can afford to send their kids to private schools.
Are we once again asking the 90 percent to subsidize the 10 percent?
Darlene P. Skene
LinkDNHPE Comment: Education bills in this Legislature have been misrepresented by leadership and their allies in just the way described so forcefully in this editorial. Emphasis added.
May 29, 2012 2:00 AM
The first thing that struck the Portsmouth Herald editorial board last week when disgraced House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt came in with Speaker Bill O'Brien for a meeting was his youth.
At 28, he was the youngest House majority leader in the state's history and he looks his age. The most memorable comment he made was that he was graduating from the University of New Hampshire School of Law with $140,000 in debt.Our overall impression was that he and Speaker O'Brien told the Herald editorial board a lot of half truths and that both simply refused to take responsibility for leading the House's turn to the ideological right wing of the GOP.
Given his combination of youth, debt and an inability to tell the truth, it is not surprising that Bettencourt has fallen hard after just a short time in power. And we expect that O'Brien will be tumbling after him following this November's general election. People who exercise dictatorial authority can quickly rise to power, but their falls are as inevitable as they are spectacular.
For those of you who might have been camping and unplugged from the news over Memorial Day weekend, Bettencourt announced Sunday that he will resign from the House immediately, after falsifying academic records submitted to the UNH School of Law.
Bettencourt had approached a fellow Republican lawmaker, Brandon Giuda, and told him he didn't have enough credits to graduate and needed an internship. Giuda gave him that internship but Betterncourt proved a no show, then lied about it to UNH. "I will never cover for a dishonest person," Giuda said.
Speaker O'Brien is trying his best to control the damage.
In an e-mail to the Republican Caucus sent at 10:57 p.m. Sunday, O'Brien wrote: "Now we are left with the consequences of this event. There will be those that say that D.J.'s failure and his resignation characterize our current majority. Others will say it characterizes the leadership of our caucus. Neither is true."
Actually, both are true.
They've lied about why they really cut the cigarette tax and lied about the $10 million financial hit the state has taken.
They lied about New Hampshire needing Right-To-Work legislation to improve the state's business climate even though no one in the state has asked for it. At the same time, they've had the audacity to take credit for the state's near-national best employment rate.
They lied about bullying State Rep. Susan Emerson and lied about the eyewitnesses who saw them do it.They lied about legislative efforts to gut public education by taking tax dollars from the public schools and giving them as vouchers — which they deceptively call scholarships — to families sending students to private and parochial schools.
They lied about some particularly loony Republican representatives threatening and intimidating Assistant Attorney General Matthew Mavrogeorge at a "birther" Ballot Law Commission hearing in November 2011.They lied about needing to cut funding to the University System of New Hampshire system by 50 percent because, they claim, university leaders refuse to collaborate with them on real ways to have the university run more efficiently. We know this is not true.
They refused to tell the truth about their hands-on leadership of efforts to take away a woman's legal right to an abortion.
They lied about emptying the House gallery of pro-union forces during the state budget debate, stating they were concerned for representatives' safety, then passed a law allowing anyone to carry a handgun into the gallery. Some concerns about safety!
They lied about working collaboratively with the governor and Democrats on important issues such as the education funding constitutional amendment. Frankly, we'll take Gov. John Lynch's word on this over O'Brien's any day of the week.
They've lied and they've lied and they've lied, and now Bettencourt has fallen. Because when you tell enough lies, inevitably, you get caught.
DNHPE Comment: The recycling of this version of the argument by the libertarian Republican Liberty Caucus, home based of the prime sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jim Forsythe, suggests they feel some uncertainty about overriding the veto.
EVERYONE in the United States already has school choice ... if they can afford it. The rich and upper-middle class go to private schools or select schools in wealthy suburbs. Middleclass parents can afford many private schools, or homeschool their children. What the new education bill will do is extend those same choices to lower-income families.
According to the U.S. Dept.
of Education’s NCES website: “From 1993 to 2007, the percentage of children attending a ‘chosen’ public school (a public school other than their assigned public school) increased from 11 to 16 percent. The percentages of children attending private schools also increased between 1993 and 2007 (from 8 to 9 percent for private church-related schools and from 2 to 3 percent for private not church-related schools).” An additional 3 percent are home-schooled.
So 15 percent of our students are already completely outside the public school system, and having a lot less money spent on them.
The NAEP reported that the average private school tuition in 2003-4 was $6,600 (for comparison, NH spent $9,413 per pupil that year in public schools; last year it was $15,585). Yet privateschool students get higher ACT and SAT scores than public-schooled children.
The NCES web site also points out: “Another form of parental choice is to move to a neighborhood so one’s child can attend a particular school. In 2007, the parents of 27 percent of public school students reported that they had moved to their current neighborhood so that their child could attend his or her current school.”
Kudos to parents who make the sacrifices necessary to take on an $800,000 mortgage so that their children can go to a safer, betterequipped school. However, obviously not everyone has the option to spend 100 times the cost of private-school tuition in order to switch schools. That’s where the recently passed school choice tax credit comes in, aimed at parents making less than $67,000 per year.
The $2,500 tax credit is much less than the variable cost per pupil in a public school. (Remember, last year New Hampshire spent $15,585, and it will be more this year). One study shows that variable costs can average 64 percent of total costs nationwide, and the lowest variable cost estimate from a state was well over $5.000 ...
in Utah, a state that spends less than New Hampshire.
(Variable costs tend to be higher in smaller schools, but even there they will be higher than $2,500).
Parents who take advantage of the home-schooling option will save school districts even more money, as the tax credit for homeschool supplies is only $650.
So the effect of school choice on public schools will be to help their budgets while reducing their class sizes.
Who doesn’t want better teacher-pupil ratios in public schools?
The family has to chip in the difference between the $2,500 and the private tuition. So overall, the proposed bill INCREASES the overall amount spent on education per child.
Instead of beating the student into the shape of a school desk, maybe the school should be tailored to the student. Despite what George Bush said, maybe not everyone needs exactly the same education. The “nationwide standardized tests” don’t measure a child’s ability in ballet, violin, or web design. (Of course, public schools aren’t passing the standardized tests either.
In April, New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry announced that 71 percent of NH public schools have failed the federally required NCLB tests.) So public schools are spending 100 percent of their time “teaching to the test”, and then the students are failing the test. This is the system that we are afraid to let lower-income parents and children escape.
On May 16 the House voted 236-97 for its version of a school-choice bill. The Senate voted 17-7 for the Senate bill. Now the bills go to a conference committee to iron out the differences and send the bill to Gov. John Lynch.
But the lame-duck governor has promised to support the public employee unions and veto the bill. If you want to see school choice become a reality in New Hampshire, call your state legislators.
Bill Walker, a resident of Plainfield, works at M2S in West Lebanon. He is active in the NH Liberty Alliance.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Kathy Sullivan, former state Democratic Party chair, has taken on the GOP-led Legislature over what she calls the "war that has erupted against New Hampshire's public schools."
In a recent commentary, Sullivan points to the debate over CACR 12, a proposed constitutional amendment to give the Legislature more flexibility for funding local education (as opposed to the state Supreme Court's first-dollar, last-dollar ruling in Claremont).
She makes special note of some in the Legislature who want to abolish any obligation, bemoaning the attempt.
Foster's Daily Democrat has also taken aim at those who would have the state back out of any responsibility to fund local education. But unlike Sullivan, whose entreaties we often find alluring, we prefer not make the extreme the rule.
The broader critique of public education is that it just doesn't do the job that needs to be done — for many different reason. Yes, there may be some dinosaurs in the Legislature that want to eliminate the public school system over the long-term, although we couldn't name any.
More prominent, however, are those who want to challenge public schools to do better and to spend tax dollars more wisely. This is not a goal which anyone should oppose — only the means to that end.
For example, it is the editorial position of this newspaper that voucher plans are generally flawed. They seek to send public dollars to parochial and private schools that don't have to play by the same rules as do public schools.
One voucher bill from the current legislative session depends on a state tax credit for businesses. But it fails to make private schools take all comers, as public school's must. There are also inconsistencies in how private schools handle special needs students, when compared to public schools, that are not addressed.
The closest thing to a good compromise in this debate has been the institution of charter schools, although even within our editorial board there is debate over their fairness.
As the dust settles after the current session of the Legislature ends shortly we plan on taking some time to digest all that has been served up by the GOP-dominated Legislature — including whether war was declared on public schools.
Our efforts will be aimed at not painting with a broad brush that labels all its efforts lunacy or belligerent, as Sullivan implies with her "war on public schools" analysis. Rather, we will take some time to see if the good outweighed the silly (of which there was surely plenty).
We suggest voters do the same thing before the Nov. 6 elections.
On the web: http://tinyurl.com/War-on-public-schools
LinkBy Valerie Strauss
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, has been in the news
for blasting President Obama’s
campaign ads attacking Mitt Romney’s career with a private-equity firm and calling the tone of the presidential campaign “nauseating to me on both sides.”
This isn’t the first time that Booker has sided with Republicans over the leader of his own party.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, left, jokes with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during in 2011. (Julio Cortez/AP)Booker has made school reform a key initiative of his administration in New Jersey’s biggest city. And he has been an outspoken supporter of the school reform policies of the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, which include an expansion of charter schools, the end of teacher tenures, and the use of student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. He has called the state’s largest teachers union a group of “bullies and thugs.”
While there are a number of issues on which Obama and Christie agree when it comes to school reform — including charter school growth and the use of test scores to evaluate teachers — there is at least one key area where they depart company.
Obama opposes vouchers, which
provide public money for students to use for private school tuition. But Christie does support them, and so does Booker.
According to this story in the Star-Ledger newspaper
, Booker and Christie last month both spoke at the national policy meeting of the American Federation for Children. The federation’s board chair is Betsy DeVos, a key member of the DeVos family, which has spent millions to support efforts to promote vouchers and promote reforms that are furthering the privatization of public education.
Politicians betrayed students, taxpayers
Rhonda Wesolowski, ConcordFor the Monitor
May 20, 2012
I do not believe the citizens of New Hampshire want their public tax dollars going to pay for private, religious and home schools. They will hold those representatives and senators who voted for such a betrayal of their
Posted by Adam Schaeffer
The New Hampshire House and Senate approved a a path-breaking education tax credit bill yesterday with an overwhelming 70 percent support in each chamber. The Governor must now decide whether to sign up with reform on the right side of history or face a veto-override battle.
The program includes home school expenses and allows the program to grow 25 percent each year if donations equal 80 percent or more of the program cap. It is income-limited, but scholarship organizations can use 20 percent of their funds for children who would otherwise not qualify, giving flexibility instead of a hard cut-off. It allows up to 30 percent of students to be currently enrolled in private school. It imposes no new regulations on private education beyond basic reporting to the department of taxation.
By CAMERON KITTLE
NASHUA – While supporters of an education tax credit program argue it will offer low- and middle-income families more choice, the average annual credit of $2,500 would only cover a fraction of the cost of tuition for some local private schools.
For example, tuition at Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School is $6,413. Tuition at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua is $11,750. Local private elementary schools run from $2,950 to $4,700, depending on the grade level.
Still, Nashua Catholic principal Thomas Kelleher said the education tax credit bills, HB 1607 and SB 372, could help support families who need some extra help and want more options for their children’s education.
“There should be choice,” he said. “If opportunities for choice are expanded, that’s good for everyone.”
The House of Representatives will vote on SB 372 either Tuesday or Wednesday. The bills would establish an education tax credit program and offer scholarships to low- and middle-income students if they choose to attend private, religious or home schools.
The program would allow students to receive an average of $2,500 a year if they choose to attend a private school or public school outside their home district, and home-schooled students would be eligible for up to $650 in annual scholarship money.
Businesses would fund the scholarships and receive an 85 percent tax credit in return, on either the business profits tax or the business enterprise tax.
The bill was passed in the Senate, 17-7, on March 28. A similar measure, HB 1607, passed the House last month and was initially approved by the Senate two weeks ago, but it will be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee before the Senate takes final action on the bill.
With tuition running over $10,000 a year at some of the pricier private schools, opponents of the bill have said the tax credit program doesn’t provide enough relief for low- and middle-income families to give students choice.
Bill Duncan, leader of the organization Defending New Hampshire Public Education, said the bills will cause a significant drop in public school enrollment, and any funds lost by school districts will need to be replaced by property taxes.
“It’s going to cost school systems big time,” he said. “It’s being sold as rich people have choice and lower income people should have school choice as well, but to put all this public money into private schools with no accountability is entirely unjustified. The bill is really about privatizing schools.”
However, Sen. Jim Forsythe, prime sponsor of the Senate bill, said the scholarships will be flexible, depending on the price of the school’s tuition and the income level of the student’s family.
With some financial aid from the school as well, opportunities for school choice will increase, he said.
“Will this actually help poor people out? The answer is yes, based on experience in other states,” Forsythe said.
Nashua Catholic tries to keep tuition low, Kelleher said, but the cost still rises every year – tuition was $6,413 this year. That forces out many low-income families, Kelleher said.
“We don’t have a lot of low- and middle-class parents who send their children to our school,” he said. “We are a tuition-based school. We try to realize that parents make a great deal of sacrifice to send their children to a school like this, but the tuition rate is not decreasing. We try to limit it so that it stays within the cost of living.
“The philosophy behind a Catholic education is that Catholic schools should be accessible to everyone,” Kelleher added. “In that sense, a bill like this may ease the burden a little bit for some parents.”
Paul Berube, high school principal at Nashua Christian Academy, said he was in favor of the bill because it can help working class families pursue a Christian education for their children.
“This could help a lot of families get over that edge of being able to afford it or not,” Berube said. “From my perspective, more people having the availability is a good thing. I know many families who would jump at the opportunity.”
Both schools offer need-based financial aid, which is used from a pool of money in the budget every year. More low-income applicants who need financial aid could stretch that budget, but Kelleher said he doesn’t expect to see a significant impact because Nashua Catholic is a smaller school.
Opponents maintain that the two bills are bad for education.
Early estimates from the state Department of Education show that New Hampshire could lose more than $7.75 million in state grant funds currently given to local cities and towns. The state estimates it would lose $4,100 in state aid for every student who leaves public school, and the estimates project that Nashua could lose 160 students and $367,430. The School District would lose that amount each year for three years if the students remain enrolled in private school.
However, Forsythe counters that the Senate bill includes a “scholarship stabilization” provision that says school districts cannot lose adequacy aid that exceeds 0.25 percent of their annual budget. He said it was brought up as a concern about HB 1607, and senators tried to mitigate the losses to the school district with the provision.
Public school districts could still lose money if students leave for private or religious schools, but that’s the point of the bill, Forsythe said.
“It provides the competitive effect,” he said. “Other states have actually seen a positive effect because of that kind of provision. Tax credit programs like this have shown over and over again to have a positive impact on students exercising their choice.”
Another key provision, he said, is that 40 percent of all scholarships will go to students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch. If not enough students in that group apply for scholarships, the cost of the program will go down, Forsythe said.
Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or email@example.com. Also, follow Kittle on Twitter (@Telegraph_CamK).