DNHPE 5/2/12 Update - Lots of news on all fronts

posted May 3, 2012, 4:59 AM by Bill Duncan

All three is these remaining issues are important and interesting.  It'll be worth reading to the bottom.

CACR 12 - the education funding amendment gets (secret) new language

You may have read about the new language House Republican leadership is circulating.  Here is Saturday's Union Leader report on it.  This language is just as bad as all the previous attempts, if not worse. This new proposed amendment gives the Legislature sole discretion over all funding and how it will be raised ---- effectively taking the Courts out of protecting the rights of every child. The New Hampshire Constitution promises to educate every child.  This amendment breaks the promise of public education to all our children.

There is no way to predict the timing of the next steps, but time remaining in this session is short, so the Legislature will act on this soon.

HB 1403 - The anti-International Baccalaureate bill gets hammered

The Senate Education Committee hearing on HB 1403 was on Tuesday, May 1st.  It was instructive.  Most clearly, it showed the high cost of electing self-indulgent legislators.  HB 1403 was originally sponsored by 5 House freshmen who, since their side lost a school curriculum debate, have tried to use their legislative positions to override the local process.  Their effort ignited in the House Education Committee a suspicious faux-patriotism fueled by fears that US and New Hampshire "sovereignty" could be undermined by the UN or Communists.  

You can't be sure the adults in the Legislature will prevail and kill a silly bill like this.  So students, parents, teachers and administrators from Bedford and Merrimack Valley school districts and citizens from around the state, have spent weeks opposing the bill in meetings, petitions, Facebook pages and in every other way they can think of.  It all became visible at Tuesday's hearing.  Here is great, detailed post from Ryan O'Connor in the Bedford Patch and coverage in the Union Leader and on NPR.

But if you click on nothing else, watch this video of the testimony of Wolfeboro resident John R. White who came down to testify apparently because he just couldn't believe what he was reading in the paper.  For an odd counterpoint, watch this testimony by Senator Ray White (R-Bedford), who describes himself as a libertarian conservative and will not be seeking another term.  Finally, here is Don Graff, Bedford School Board chair, giving clean and crisp testimony on the process Bedford used to select the IB curriculum and how it has performed.  (There were other great witnesses but I couldn't get them all.)

It's hard to see how HB 1403 survives this assault.  The sponsors see that, in its current form, it will be defeated.  They have offered a face-saving amendment that would form a study committee that would report by November 1, 2012 and establish a moratorium on new IB programs in New Hampshire until then.  As a practical matter, a study committee at the end of the second year of the Legislature could not lead to a bill.  If the Senate Education Committee passes HB 1403 out to the full Senate with that amendment and the Senate accepts it in that form, it will go to back to the House is that form where it could pass or go to a Committee of Conference.  

The plot thickens on the voucher bills - SB 372 / HB 1607

The House Ways and Means SB 372 Subcommittee met today, Wednesday, May 2.  This same group of 5 representatives met for 8 sessions over several weeks to work on HB 1607, but the sponsors of the bills have made many changes since then, hoping to make the bill more acceptable to the the House (which passed the voucher plan on March 29th, but not with enough votes to override an expected veto).  The subcommittee felt there was insufficient time left in the session to adequately review the new changes and, from what they could see, the bill would no longer be revenue neutral, which they consider essential. 

Therefore, they voted to recommend the SB 372 be sent to Interim Study.  The meeting was short and very interesting.  Here is the video

At virtually the same moment today, the Senate voted 17-7 in favor of the sister bill, HB 1607, and sent it to the Senate Finance Committee, which will make a recommendation before the full Senate takes a final vote.

All this amounts to a dramatic turn of events.  The voucher plan will probably be voted on several more times by both bodies before it's over.  At this point, the plan is defeatable, but the detailed steps will not be clear for several days.