The highest priority education bills continue to be CACR 12, the education funding amendment, and the voucher plan, though CACR 8 remains alive as well. (Bills that have died are at the end under "moved off the tracking list.")
CACR 12, the education funding amendment
The House voted on CACR 12 yesterday. The first vote was on concurrence with the amendment as it was voted out of the Senate. That failed, 54-287 (roll call here). The second vote was to non-concur and request a committee of conference. That passed, 295-48. The House committee of conference delegation will be led by Rep. Lynn Ober and will include Reps. Hess, Balboni, and Renzullo - no Democrats, suggesting there will be no effort to gain Democratic votes
CACR 8, an even worse education amendment.
A full discussion of CACR 8 is here. The amendment is a more radical alternative to CACR 12. Under the heading of local control, it makes state funding of public schools optional, while authorizing public funding of religious schools.
CACR 8 was on the House Calendar to come up for a vote last week. The speaker didn't have the votes, so he postponed to this week. This week again he did not have the votes so he postponed it again to next week, 3/21/12. Democrats remain solidly against the bill and, based on our telephone calls, many Republicans are too.
The Voucher Plan
The voucher bills (HB 1607 and SB 372) continue to advance but, as noted last week, they are changed. The plan would now start out offing $4 million in scholarships in the first year. Lack of targeting and accountability, as well as the impact on local school systems, are still the big issues. We've talked about the impact a lot. He's a bit about targeting and accountability.
There are many tax credit funded voucher programs being debated in state legislatures right now. Most are more progressive than HB 1607/SB372 because they target failing schools and require real accountability from the participating private schools. The New Hampshire plan is virtually the only proposal in the country that does not target its vouchers to failing schools and require accountability for from participating schools.
Louisiana, for instance, targets vouchers to poor children in schools rated "C" and below. Participating schools give the state assessment tests to all voucher students and the Department of Education prepares an annual report with test results for each school. In the proposed New Jersey plan, students must come from "chronically failing" schools (about 8% of New Jersey's schools). Participating schools must meet high standards and provide extensive student testing. Florida just expanded its education tax credit program. It is targets to schools rated "F" and tt's accountability provisions are 10 pages long.
By comparison, the proposed New Hampshire program has no targeting provision at all. In fact, vouchers can go to children already in private school. Even worse, there is no provision for accountability for taxpayer funds.
The Senate bill, SB 372, is awaiting action on the Senate floor. It is not clear what level of support there will be. The House Ways and Means HB 1607 subcommittee has sent the bill to the full committee, with will vote on it on March 22.
Opting out of No Child Left Behind
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 any point until March 29.
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.
XXHB 1403 would allow a parent to withdraw a child from a school that adopts the international baccalaureate program (a very strong academic 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. This is an ideological bill based in superstition and is aimed at one district in particular. The public hearing will be at 10 AM on 3/20/12 and the executive session at 1:30 on the same day in LOB 207.
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 was held on 3/6/12. Awaiting action on the Senate floor.
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.
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 2/2/12. The 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.
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 was on 2/14/12. 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.
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 2/9/12, where 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 education, the 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 2/8/12, theSpecial 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.
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..
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
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 1/31/12. The 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
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 2/21/12. Voted Inexpedient to Legislate, 16-1, and will be on the Consent Calendar. Off the list
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
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 wason 2/21/12. The bill was voted Inexpedient to Legislate, 16-1 and will be on the Consent Calendar. Off the list.