DNHPE 4/15/12 Special Edition: The debate on vouchers - and everything else

posted Apr 16, 2012, 7:38 AM by Bill Duncan

Make your views known on the plan to privatize New Hampshire's public schools - HB 1607

The Senate Education Committee hearing on the voucher plan is at 2:00 Tuesday, April 17, in LOB 103.  Please testify.

Nate Greenberg, the Londonderry School District superintendent, already has.  He can't be at the hearing so last Thursday he sent a letter to the Senate Education Committee pointing out major problems with the voucher bill.  A conservative blog, Granite Grok, took offense that a public school administrator was advocating against this proposal to privatize the public schools.  (Don't bother commenting unless you agree with him.)  

Mr. Grok probably didn't realize that legislators seek out the views of educators, town administrators and state agencies every day, relying on them to represent their institutions.  That's why legislators meet regularly with their superintendents and school boards and welcome their testimony in committee.  They'll often disagree with the legislation under discussion, as you would expect when the proposal is to dismantle the public school system.   

Accusations of self-interest such as the blog makes, though, are another matter.  If Superintendent Greenberg merely offered some kind of twisted logic to advance some personal concern, his advice would be disregarded.  However, his two main points are indisputable.  Many of the 51 Republican legislators who oppose the voucher program make the same point about downshifting costs to our local schools.  Here is a video of Representative Neal Kurk (R-Weare) making that very point on the House floor.  And Mr. Greenberg's second point, the lack of accountability for public funds, is actually a concern of key Senators, according to the bill's prime sponsor (in an email to me).  Superintendent Greenberg makes each point clearly, concisely and persuasively, in a way that should cause a legislator who supports the bill to think again.

The quality of each side's argument is self-evident.  School teachers, administrators and board members often hesitate to engage in the public policy debate out of concern for eliciting just this kind of bombastic accusation of self-interest.  But the ridicule of a credible public servant turns out to be impotent.  Even if it were picked up more broadly, the charge of self-interest would be dismissed as empty bluster, the policy he is opposing would be tagged as "controversial," and the credible arguments against it would gain wider circulation.  And the community would be proud of it's spokesperson.  Where's the problem with any of that?

Educators concerned about their institutions and their children are important voices, but are often missing from the debate in New Hampshire.  Hopefully Nate Greenberg will inspire others.

Defend local control against HB 1403, the anti-International Baccalaureate bill

A New Yorker who administers an anti-IB web site,Laurie McLaughlin, wrote this back in October of last year.  She said that the Merrimack Valley School District held a curriculum committee meeting, "after numerous requests by state Rep. Gregory Hill, R-Northfield," to discuss the adoption of the International Baccalaureate program.  Rep. Hill invited her and Tea Party folks to dissuade MVSD from adopting IB.  They did not succeed.  So a month later Rep. Hill and others introduced HB 1403 which, in its current form, would override their school board's decision to implement IB - a decision supported 2-1 by the Merrimack Valley School District meeting last month.  The IB program in Bedford and any district considering IB are collateral damage in what amounts to parochial power play by this House freshman.
As you know from recent updates, Bedford is not taking this lying down.  Now Bedford High students and their parents have made a Facebook page to help organize against the bill.  They're taking the lead but everyone is welcome.  You could join them and show your support.

This kind of bill at the ideological margins should die on its own, unnoticed.  And the Senate may well put it out of its misery.  But our senators are hearing support for the bill from Tea Party fellow travelers all over the state and the country, so some of our senators need to hear from us as well.  Here is a list of those who need to get emails about how dopey this bill is:

"John T Gallus" <john.gallus@leg.state.nh.us>, 
"Jeanie L Forrester" <jeanie.forrester@leg.state.nh.us>, 
"Jeb Bradley" <jeb.bradley@leg.state.nh.us>, 
"Senator Jim Forsythe" <jim@jimforsythe.com>, 
"Fenton L Groen" <fenton.groen@leg.state.nh.us>, 
"Andy Sanborn" <andy.sanborn@leg.state.nh.us>, 

If you need ideas, look at the last several Updates, here, or the DNHPE bill page, here.

The Education Funding Debate - CACR 12

Governor Lynch spoke at the Portsmouth Rotary Club last week.  He clearly continues to believe that removing the floor under state support of public education will lead to fairness rather than to more of the radical cuts we have seen from this legislature.  But maybe we can take comfort in his evident frustration with the House.  It's hard to imagine Gov. Lynch and Speaker O'Brien climbing into the same education funding boat.  And a boat with just O'Brien and Bragdon in it won't have enough horse power to pull away from the pier.  Fingers crossed.

Former Concord attorney Fred Upton is very active in his 90's, living at Riverwoods, in Exeter.  For some perspective on the education funding debate, read this collection of opinion pieces he wrote for the Concord Monitor between 2004 and 2008.  Now that's old-fashioned commitment.