DNHPE 2/24/12 Update: The slate of active anti-education bills is shrinking, but there are important ones.

posted Feb 26, 2012, 8:00 PM by Bill Duncan
Defending New Hampshire Public Education
Contact: Bill Duncan 603-682-4748


In this week's update, changes from last week and hearings coming up this week, will be in red.  There is an "XX" in front of the high priority bills.  As bills die or are passed, I will take them out of the body of this update and put them at the end in a section called "moved off the tracking list."  Here is the update on the remaining anti-public education bills in the New Hampshire legislature.

The Legislature is on vacation next week and will return on March 5.

The highest priority education bills are, far and away, CACR 12, the education funding amendment, and the voucher program.  

CACR 12 passed the Senate last week.  Here is our write-up on it.  The House will consider it when they return.  In the mean time, it is important to talk be sure your Representatives understand the disaster this amendment represents for public education, leaving funding to the whims of the Legislature.  The current Legislature has reduced education funding already and would do it again if they could.  State aid for public education would, with fits and starts responding to the political winds, peter out nothing.  And our public schools would follow.  Be sure your Representatives know what you think  And, please, let me know what you find out.

The voucher bill sponsors (the bills are HB 1607 and SB 372) tenaciously continue to sell.  Here is an opinion piece in today's Union Leader and here is anotherthat Senator Forsythe, the prime sponsor, is sending out.  But it's been a tough slog.  Senator Forsythe has spent weeks changing his bill daily, responding to House and Senate committees charged with reviewing the bills.  The House has changed the rules to continue working on the House version until March 22.  The Senate Education Committee will vote the Senate version, SB 372, out on March 15, the last possible day.  He's even commissioned a bogus poll to persuade the Republican Senate colleagues to go along.  Make sure your Legislators know what you think about this.  

I have sent a proposed amendment that would hold the voucher schools accountable for their performance  to Senator Forsythe and the Senate and House committees working on the bill.

Here are the details on each education bill.

Reducing funding for public education

XXHB 1607 and SB 372, creating a school voucher program, are the keystone education legislation of the session, other than the constitutional amendments.  These companion bills would give a 93.5% tax credit and other tax benefits to businesses that fund school vouchers and off-set that cost with funds taken back from the local school districts.  This is a large and complex program undergoing daily revision as the leadership pushes it through.  If passed, it would cost state government and the school districts tens of millions of dollars every year and move many thousands of children from public schools to private, religious and home schools.  

The continuation of the Senate Education Committee public hearing was at 1:00 PM, 2/14/12.  The executive session scheduled is not posted, but Committee Chair Stiles said on Wednesday night that she planned to hold the executive committee meeting to vote on the bill on March 15th, the last possible day, under the Senate rules, on which to vote out a bill with fiscal impact.

The House Ways and Means HB 1607 subcommittee will meet at 2:00PM, Tuesday, 3/6/12.

XXHB 1413 and HB 1517 would both opt NH out of NCLB, at a cost of $61 million and would do great damage to New Hampshire public education.  Both of thesebills have been passed Ought to Pass out of the House Education Committee.  On Wednesday, 2/8/12, these bills were laid on the table for further analysis.  Theeffort to reach a waiver agreement with the federal DOE would be pretty involved.  The waiver would surely lead to an increase federal role in teacher evaluation.  NHDOE would have to spend a good deal of time developing a plan that would gain federal approval and local buy-in.  NHDOE has announced that thedepartment will not pursue a waiver at this time.  This could reactivate the sponsors to bring the bill to a vote at some point.
XXCACR 8 makes state funding of public schools optional: "The several political subdivisions... shall make adequate provision at their own expense for their schools, provided that the Legislature may supplement that provision in the manner and degree that the Legislature finds most beneficial to the general good. "  Thepublic hearing in the House Education Committee will be at 1:00 PM. 2/16/12.  The executive session was 2/21/12The bill was voted Ought to Pass 12-5.  There was much discussion of the fact that CACR 8 is unchanged since it failed (219-127) to receive the 3/5 vote needed on 1/5/12.

XXCACR 12 alters the state obligation to fund public education.  It passed the House in the last session 252-113.  The Senate Internal Affairs amended the bill and voted Ought to Pass on 2/1/12.  On 2/8/12the Senate Internal Affairs Committee reported the bill out, OTP with amendment, 4-1. Both progressive advocacy groups and New Hampshire Families for Education, which advocates for home schooling and parents' rights, are strongly against CACR 12.  The bill passed in theSenate 17-7.  Governor Lynch supports the bill.  House leadership issued a strong negative reaction.  The coalition of 38 New Hampshire donor communities strongly supports the amendment.  Other education advocates see it as a way to further reduce state aid to education.  The expectation is that the House will pass an amendment different from the Senate's and will go to a Committee of Conference to try to negotiate a viable CACR with the Senate (and, presumably, the Governor).  Our case against CACR 12 is laid out here.

HB 1692 proposes to do away with the University System.  Voted out of House Education Committee, 2/2/12, Ought to Pass, 12-4.  Scheduled for House floor vote2/8/12.  In the last session, the Legislature cut $50 million from the New Hampshire University System.  This House voted OTP, 247-105, mostly along party lines but with significant exceptions.  The roll call is here. It is awaiting Senate Action.

Dismantling compulsory attendance

Having failed to  abolish compulsory attendance (HB 595), lower the high school dropout age (HB 429) or end kindergarten (HB 631) last year, the Legislature continues in 2012 to try to dismantle the compulsory attendance in other ways.

HB1167 would repeal the 180 day school year.  The public hearing in the House Education Committee was on 1/26/12 and the executive session will be on 2/14/12 1:00 PM LOB 207.  This was voted Ought to Pass with Amendment.  The amendment had the effect of leaving the 180 day requirement in place but eliminated the requirement of Department of Education approval of an "equivalent number of hours."  It is no longer a bill of concern and I will move out of the list next week.  There will be no more compulsory attendance bills pending.

Exerting legislative control over the school curriculum

HB 1712 would mandate that every school district in New Hampshire offer an elective course on the Bible. The public hearing in the House Education Committee was 2/2/12.  The sole sponsor is Rep. Bergevin (R-Manchester), who did not seem to understand the bill or the materials he had submitted in support of it. This appears to be one of the many examples of legislation brought by political or religious groups hoping to take advantage of New Hampshire's citizen-legislature.  The executive session is scheduled for 10AM Tuesday 2/21/12.  The bill was voted ITL (Inexpedient to Legislate) 16-1.  Off the list next week

HB 1148 would require evolution to be taught as a theory in public schools.  The sponsor is Rep. Bergevin again. The public hearing before the House EducationCommittee was at 11:00 AM on 2/14/12.  The executive session was on 2/16/12 in LOB 207. The bill was voted Inexpedient to Legislate, 16-0, and will be on the Consent Calendar for 3/7/12.  Off the list next week.

HB 1516 requires a specific number of hours per day of English and mathematics instruction for pupils in kindergarten through grade 3.  The sole sponsor is chair ofthe House Education Committee.  The public hearing was on 1/31/12The 2/2/12 executive session to vote on the bill was cancelled and Chairman Balboni instead named a subcommittee, which held a work session on 2/7/12.  This bill probably can't realistically be implemented and may not come out of the subcommittee inthe same form. Voted Inexpedient to Legislated on 2/21/12 and will be on the Consent Calendar.  Off the list next week.

HB 1424 prohibits a school district from requiring that parents send their children to any school or school program or curriculum to which they are conscientiously opposed.  This is a one sentence bill: "No school district shall compel a parent to send his or her child to any school or program to which he or she may be conscientiously opposed nor shall a school district approve or disapprove a parent’s education program or curriculum."  This bill is essentially the same asthe original version of HB 542 and was supported by the House Education Committee, 11-6, in that form last year. It then passed the House, 197-148, before being modified in the Senate to its final form.  The public hearing on HB 1424 before the House Education Committee was on 2/7/12.  The executive session was on  2/21/12Voted Inexpedient to Legislate, 16-1, and will be on the Consent Calendar.  Off the list next week.

HB 1457 is another one sentence bill seeking to require a specific approach to teaching scientific inquiry: "Require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes."  The public hearing in the House Education Committee was on 2/9/2012.  The executive session was 2/16/12 at 10:00 AM in LOB 207.  Voted Inexpedient to Legislate, 16-0.  On the Consent Calendar for 3/7/12. Off the list next week.

XXHB 1403 would allow a parent to withdraw a child from a school that adopts the international baccalaureate program.  The public hearing in the House EducationCommittee was on1/26/12.  The executive session was held at 1:00PM on 2/14/12 in LOB 207.  The Chair got a suspension of the rules to allow the reporting deadline to be moved to 3/22/12.  There will be a public hearing on 3/15/12 at 11:00AM in LOB 207.  This is an ideological bill based in superstition and is aimed at one district in particular.  

HB 1461, requiring schools to notify parents of an outside speaker and allow parents to opt the child out, was voted out of the House Education Committee OTP with Amendment, 17-0.  The amendment made the bill essentially meaningless because it issue is already covered in statute and school districts have policies in place on this issue already.  It was on the consent calendar for 2/15/12.  Passed with amendment #0570h (voice vote).  Awaiting Senate action.

SB 300, requiring a charter schools to make available a free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities.  The public hearing in the SenateEducation Committee was 2/7/12.  An amendment is in process.  The executive session is unscheduled but may be 3/6/12

Dismantling the New Hampshire Department of Education

XXHB 219, passed by the House on 1/5/12, 214-110, and has not yet been taken up by the Senate.  It would prohibit the state Board of Education from passing any rule other than those needed to meet minimum federal standards without a vote of both houses of the legislature.  It is awaiting action in the Senate, where there is significant opposition.  It will be important to testify against it.  

HB 1713 abolishes the New Hampshire Department of Education,  The public hearing in the House Education Committee was on 2/2/12.  The executive session was on 2/21/12The bill was voted Inexpedient to Legislate, 16-1 and will be on the Consent Calendar.  Off the list next week.  

XXHB 1571 removes the authority of the Department of Education to monitor achievement of home schooled students. The public hearing in the House EducationCommittee was on 1/25/12.  The bill was amended slightly and passed out of the House Education Committee with an OTP recommendation on 2/2/12The bill was on the consent calendar for 2/15/12.  Passed with amendment #0554h (voice vote) http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/amendments/2012-0554H.html.  Awaiting Senate action.

XXHB 1360 allocates all Department of Education rule making authority to the House and Senate Education Committees.  The bill was amended in the HouseEducation Committee and passed the House on 2/1/12, 238-88.  Awaiting Senate action.

HB 545, giving the home education advisory council final approval authority over home schooling rules.  The bill was amended and passed out of the EducationCommittee, OTP, 13-1, on 10/21/11. It is awaiting action in the Senate.

Moved off the tracking list

HB 1162 would establish a committee to study the effects of compulsory attendance on children and families.  It was voted out of the Education Committee, Inexpedient to Legislate, 14-2 on 2/2.  This bill was voted ITL on 2/15/12 and will be moved off our tracking list.

The passage of HB 542, which enables a parent to object to the child's curriculum on any basis and negotiate with the school for an alternative, made the New Hampshire Legislature an object of derision nationally (see Live Free, Die Dumb: The War on Education in New Hampshire).  The follow-on bill, HB 1575  was ITL inthe Education Committee, 16-1.  This bill was voted ITL by a voice vote on the consent calendar for 2/15/12 and is removed from tracking.

HB 1313 allowing school districts to offer higher education scholarships to high school pupils.  It's not clear to me what the point of this bill is.  The public hearing inthe House Education Committee was on 2/7/12 and the executive session was on 2/9/12where it was voted ITL.  

XXHB 1382  requires a warrant or permission of a parent to return a truant child to school and the parent's approval of an alternative learning plan for a child. This bill would go far to eliminate compulsory attendance. The public hearing in the House Education Committee was held on 2/2/12.  The executive session was on2/9/12 and the bill was voted ITL.

HB 1473, adjusting the adequacy formula, further reduces fundamental state support for public education.  When the current legislature took over last year, the key figure driving state support for educationthe adequacy cost, was $921,443,751.  The Legislature immediately cut $152 million in state aid to school districts each year.  If HB 1473 passes, adequacy cost will be reduced to $641,354,022, 30% less than when this Legislature arrived.  The Special Committee on EducationFunding Reform held its public hearing on this bill on 1/6/12 and a work session on 2/3/12.  There are currently no further meetings scheduled.  On 2/8/12theSpecial Committee on Education Funding Reform issued a Committee Report referring the bill for interim study, 14-0.  This is probably the end of it for this session, though it could be brought back.  I'll remove this from tracking unless it comes back.