DNHPE 3/23/12 Update: A Twist in the Voucher Story and Fending off Foreign Influence

posted Mar 23, 2012, 5:40 AM by Bill Duncan


Vouchers on the House Calendar

After the Senate passed SB 372, the voucher bill, on Wednesday and referred it to the Senate Finance Committee, the Finance Committee voted 4-3 on Thursday to refer the bill to interim study.  That kills SB 372 for this session but, all in all, simplifies the path for the voucher plan.  The House will take up its version of the bill, HB 1607, next Wednesday, March 28.  Then it will go to the Senate for committee hearings and a vote on the Senate floor on an as-yet undetermined schedule.

HB 1607 is very close to SB 372 but incorporates changes made in the House Ways and Means HB 1607 Subcommittee.  The most important is the size: In response to the subcommittee demands that the program start off smaller, the House bill authorizes $3,.4 million in tax credits ($4 million in scholarships) compared to the $6.8 million in tax credits contained in the Senate bill.  

While all that was happening, the passage of the SB 372 generated news coverage that provides an interesting snapshot of where we are in the debate.  The Union Leader editorialized this morning (laconically) in favor of seeking an Opinion of Justice from the New Hampshire Supreme Court to establish the constitutionality of the voucher plan.  NHPR coverage emphasized the constitutional question.  Fosters featured the Governor's opposition.

And the Cato Institute did a little pre-mature crowing over the passage of SB 372 in the Senate.  It turns out that SB 372 reflects almost word-for-word the ideas the Cato Institute has been trying to get someone to adopt for 5 years.  And you can now see that the difference between Cato and ALEC is that ALEC legislation just sits there for legislators to come and get, while Cato comes to Concord, sits the Legislature on its knee and dictates the lesson in detail.

Definitely the most fun is Arnie Arnesen's interview with Senator Lou D'Allesandro about the voucher bill.  It's got great stuff that I haven't transcribed yet, so you'll have to listen, which is better anyway.  They make cruel fun of those trying to distinguish the tax credit plan from vouchers.  And listen to Arnie's new radio station,WNHN 94.7, "News, Views and Blues."  It broadcasts in Concord but you can get it anywhere via on-line streaming sponsored by NEA-NH. It's already indispensable. 

CACR 12, the education funding amendment

The Senate has acceded to a Committee of Conference on CACR 12, but no meeting has yet been scheduled.  There's no further news here except this coverage in the Concord Monitor, which includes quotes from House leadership that half-way suggest a little flexibility about amendment wording.


A vote on CACR 8 has been postponed again until next Wednesday, March 28, which will be the last chance the Speaker has to get this through (On 1/5/12, it fell 20 votes short of the 2/3 needed.)

Opting out of No Child Left Behind

HB 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 on March 28.

Outlawing Foreign Influence on our Children

HB 1403 started out as a bill to allow a parent to withdraw a child from a school that adopts the international baccalaureate program (a very strong academic program).  This is an ideological bill based in superstition and was initially aimed at one district in particular.  After extensive discussion and subcommittee work in the Education Committee , the bill was amended to take an entirely new approach.  It now says (emphasis added),
"In continuing recognition of the duty to provide public school pupils with fundamental knowledge and learning as established by the New Hampshire constitution and the Constitution of the United States of America, a public school or public academy shall be deemed to meet school approval standards only if the curriculum and instruction of the school or academy promotes state and national sovereignty and is not subject to the governance of a foreign body or organization."

The bill is on the House Calendar for action on Wednesday, March 28.  We can expect another round of national news stories starting on the 29th.

Awaiting Senate Action

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. Awaiting Senate Action.
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).   

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. 

HB 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 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

HB 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.   

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.

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.  

HB 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