DNHPE 4/2/12 Update: Getting ready for the second half of the legislative session

posted Apr 6, 2012, 2:10 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Apr 6, 2012, 2:13 AM ]

We have some big challenges remaining, but many of the most extreme anti-education bills have died.  To make tracking the bills easier from here on, I've reorganized them into High Priority BillsActive but Lower Priority Bills and No Longer Active Bills.  If anyone disagrees about the bills I've categorized as low priority, let me know.  DNHPE Updates from here on in the session will concern primarily the high priority bills. 

Vouchers wounded but still very much alive

Virtually all Democrats voted against vouchers (HB 1607) on March 29 and can be relied upon to continue to do that.  The voucher story is about Republican votes and leadership muscle.  With only 172 Republican votes in support and 49 against, vouchers got less Republican support than any other bill in the turnover day rush of March 28 and 29th.  Many Republicans have said they are in favor of school choice but that this is the wrong bill.  They are not in favor of downshifting education funding to the local property tax payers and are not in favor of privatizing our public schools.

So we would have a good opportunity to prevail in a veto override vote.  The next test will be the votes on SB 372 in House and HB 1607 in the Senate.  The timing is not set but the bills will follow the normal process.  SB 372 will be introduced in the House and HB 1607 in Senate and each will be assigned to a committee.  The logical policy committee House, the Education Committee, was snubbed on HB 1607 but will probably get SB 372 this time.  The Senate Education Committee will probably get HB 1607. There will be public hearings and then committee votes in the usual way.  While it seems that everything that can be said about vouchers has been said, it will be important to testify at the public hearings on the current version of each bill.  They are different from where they were at the time of the last hearings.  Everyone - parents, teachers, school board members, members of the House, UNH faculty who contributed so much valuable testimony last time - should testify.

Overriding Local Control of School Curricula to protect our kids from foreign influences

HB 1403, prohibiting any curriculum "subject to the governance of a foreign body," passed the House last week, 209-102.  It had started out in a more modest form, allowing parents to take their kids out of any school that used the International Baccalaureate curriculum.  (Actually, IB is an elective enrichment curriculum, not something all children in a school must take.) However, during the Education Committee process, including 3 subcommittee work sessions, the bill morphed into its current form - a prohibition of foreign influence of any kind in our schools.

There are two IB programs in New Hampshire public schools - in Bedford High School and K-12 in the Merrimack Valley School District.  Both are successful and highly popular.  At last month's annual Merrimack Valley School District meeting, voters defeated a motion to defund the IB program by a two to one margin. Three of the HB 1403 co-sponsors - Reps. Gregory Hill, Seth Cohn and Kenneth Kries - represent Merrimack Valley School District towns.  They are now in the position of proposing to set aside local control and use their state legislative roles to override the clearly expressed desires of their constituents.  Among the 6 House members who represent Bedford, four supported the bill: Reps. Cebrowski, Hawkins, Murphy and Villeneuve.

Here are some of quotes in support of the bill:
"At yesterday's hearing, Pettengill asserted that the program encourages students to think like world citizens whose rights are granted by the United Nations, not as American citizens, whose rights are derived from God.

"The committee's chairman, Rep. Michael Balboni, a Republican from Nashua, wondered whether the program would put teachers in violation of a 1949 state law forbidding them to advocate for communism or the overthrow of the United States.

"Rep. Charles Brosseau, a Republican from Campton, asked Pettengill, "Does this look like an attempt to influence our students toward the one-world government and against the sovereignty of the United States?"

"Absolutely," she answered." 
  • "NHTPC [the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition] notes that ‘those with certain political beliefs’ that find IB to alien do so because the IB program promotes world government under a single authority promoted by a non-governmental organization from abroad who views the UN as supplanting and undermining our legal form of government — the Constitution of the United States."...NH Tea Party Coalition
  • "This IBO program is nothing more than an expensive vehicle for inculcating UN propaganda into the minds of our best and brightest children."...the NH Tea Party Coalition

The bill has not been introduced or referred to a committee yet.

Lowering Standards

HB 219, passed by the House on 1/5/12, 214-110.  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.  The bill has been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Education Committee.  The public hearing is the Tuesday, 4/03/12, Room 103, LOB, 1:15 p.m.