Contact: Bill Duncan, 603-682-4748
We've passed March 29 crossover day, the last day on which each body of the Legislature can pass legislation to be sent to the other body for a vote in the current session. And the Legislature will be on vacation next week. Here is the state of important anti-education legislation at this point.
The Voucher Wars
There is important news below on the progress of the voucher proposal but the headline this morning is the passionate and insightful editorial in today's Portsmouth Herald, Voucher bills pose a threat to public schools. Read this now (please)! We should give this wide circulation because it states the case against vouchers so accurately and concisely - and with an obvious depth of feeling.
The House voted in favor of vouchers (HB 1607) yesterday - 173-127. That's about as good a result as we could have wanted on a featured leadership initiative, a bill that some have called the most important in the session. One hundred members did not vote. But that vote is clearly not the basis for a veto override. The support was strictly partisan, with only 1 Democrat voting for the bill, but the opposition was bi-partisan, with 49 Republicans voting against it. Downshifting the cost of the program to the local property tax payer seemed to be a key issue for Republicans voting against the bill. They're right. That's how the vouchers are financed. Three Republicans and one Democrat spoke against the bill. The Union Leader reports on the debate here. See the whole debate here. The roll call vote is here. You can look up your legislator and give feedback.
The Senate voted on vouchers a second time on Wednesday. After the sponsors amended to bill to respond to Senate Finance Committee objections, SB 372passed the Senate 17-7. There was a spirited half hour debate, well worth watching, here. The roll call vote is here. Senators Forrester and Rausch were apparently responsive to the amendment and switched their votes from against to for the bill. Senators Stiles and Odell maintained their opposition. If this vote holds, it would be sufficient to override a veto. (The vote to override must succeed in both bodies to succeed.)
The bill's author, Senator Forsythe, did a little dance in the end zone, saying that the accountability measures he adopted in response to our proposal were responsible for his achieving that veto-proof vote. But there is no accountability for private school performance in the bill! (There is a parent satisfaction survey, but that doesn't count.) This puts the bill to the right of ALEX and other voucher advocates, since they support detailed accountability provisions. This is worth mentioning when you talk with legislators. Here is our accountability proposal. It's long, but you can get the idea just by scanning it. Look at how painstakingly detailed Florida's accountability provisions are. The parent survey language in SB 372 is included at the top of the page. It doesn't pass the straight face test.
At the same time, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has just released a comparison of private school choice students and public school students on the state's standardized test: Voucher school students scored well below their public school peers. These kinds of comparative assessments are possible in most voucher programs but would not be possible in the New Hampshire program.
In an additional development, the Maine House has voted down Governor LePage's voucher proposal to fund sectarian schools, 84-59
CACR 12, the education funding amendment
The Committee of Conference on CACR 12 has not been scheduled.
The House voted on CACR 8 on Wednesday, 222-133, gaining only 3 votes more than it had in January and failing to get the 3/5 vote needed. It was then "Laid on the table," so theoretically could come back but in reality can be considered dead for this session. Off the tracking list next week.
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. These bills would have had to be voted on this week, before March 29 "crossover day," when each body sends its bills to the other. They were not, so they are dead for this session. Off the tracking list next week.
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 outlaw foreign influence in any curriculum used in New Hampshire schools.
This bill passed, 209-102, so goes on to the Senate. It will be important to testify against it there.
Other Bills Awaiting Senate Action
HB 1692 proposes to do away with the university system chancellor's office. (In the last session, the Legislature cut $50 million from the New Hampshire University System.) On Wednesday, March 28, the House voted OTP, 199-95, mostly along party lines.
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.
SB 300, requiring a charter schools to make available a free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities.
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.
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).
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 on 1/4/12.
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