DNHPE 3/9/12 Update featuring two bad constitutional amendments and the voucher plan

posted Mar 9, 2012, 10:19 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:03 AM ]
Defending New Hampshire Public Education
Contact: Bill Duncan 603-682-4748

The highest priority education bills continue to be CACR 12, the education funding amendment, and the voucher plan, though CACR 8 is featured today as well. (Bills that have died are at the end under "moved off the tracking list.")

CACR 12, the education funding amendment

The CACR 12 sales effort is in full swing.  Senator Bradley is everywhere (here he is in today's Fosters).  Ovide Lamontagne is talking about it on the stump.  The Portsmouth Herald editorialized in favor, here.  They were persuaded by Senator Bradley's assertion that the amendment would end the politics and the Legislature would step up and target aid appropriately.  The Concord Monitor editorialized in opposition, here, saying "Don't take us back to the bad old days before Claremont."  It can seem like a complex issue and reasonable people can differ, so we've all got to be out there with clarity and force.

Here is our new write-up on the issue and the debate - a discussion of the key points on both sides.  We think that addressing the educational needs of our children does not require a constitutional amendment, a case I make in an OpEd called "Don’t eliminate constitutional protection of our children’s education" that I have submitted to the Portsmouth Herald for Sunday (hopefully).    

CACR 12 dwarfs all other legislation this year in the damage it would do to public education.  New Hampshire would become the only state in the nation to completely opt out of education funding.  It is important to tell your Representatives what a disaster this amendment is.

For the best background you could ever get on the issue, watch this video of Dr. Mark Joyce, head of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association.  You have to scroll down several items to get to the one called "Capital Connections 3/4/12 with John O'Connor & Dr. Mark Joyce."  Then you have to watch an ad.  And the show is a half hour long.  But the first segment is the best overview of the federal and state roles in New Hampshire education you could ever get.  And the second segment is a just-right overview of the history of the education funding issue in New Hampshire.  Invaluable. You need to invest the time but you will be rewarded.

CACR 12 is on the House Calendar and could be taken up at any time.  However, under pressure to vote on a backlog of bills before crossover (March 29, 2012), it may not come up until after that.   The House will probably not agree to it in the form passed by the Senate.  House leadership has anticipated negotiating more acceptable language in a Committee of Conference.  That's good because it gives us time.

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 this week.  Democrats are solidly against the bill and, based on our telephone calls, many Republicans are too.  When it came down to it, leadership did not have the votes so moved the vote off for a week.

The Voucher Plan

The voucher bills (HB 1607 and SB 372) continue to advance, but they are substantially changed.  

The biggest change, not reflected in the bills yet, is in the size.  Out of concern about the complexity of the plan, it would now offer $4 million in scholarships in the first year instead of the $20 million as initially proposed.  

In addition, just before the legislative break, we proposed an amendment that would hold the voucher schools accountable for their performance.  The bills are now amended to include an accountability provision, but we've been snookered.  Instead of real academic accountability for the performance of the schools receiving this public subsidy, accountability takes a form of a parent satisfaction survey!  The sponsors should be embarrassed to even propose this but, instead, they are selling it as responsive to what the leading school choice groups advocate.  It isn't.  We will continue working on this.

I would still hope that the bills would be seen for what they are - a complex and costly proposal to privatize our high performing public schools.  Many of the state's media have been consistent in covering the voucher proposal and other education issues in this Legislature.  Last week I mentioned the great quotes Fosters gotfrom school board members about the impact vouchers would have on their schools.  Two days ago, the Nashua Telegraph did a front page story, the product of a lot of work by education reporter Cameron Kittle, covering the cost-of-vouchers issue but a lot more as well.  It's really a survey of the damage the Legislature is doing, complete with scornful leadership denials.

 So we can hope that, tarnished by poor salesmanship, the voucher bills would not get veto-proof support on the floor.  We will continue to work toward that goal.

The Senate voucher bill, SB 372, has been sent to the floor on a 2-2 vote in the Senate Education Committee. It is not at all clear that it will find strong support there, in spite of leadership support The House Ways and Means HB 1607 subcommittee will meet on the bill one more time at 10:00AM, Monday 3/12/12.  

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.

Remaining Bills
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.  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 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 2/2/12The 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.

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 2/9/12where 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.

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 1/31/12The 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 

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 was on 2/21/12The bill was voted Inexpedient to Legislate, 16-1 and will be on the Consent Calendar.  Off the list