AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2021-06

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Feb. 6, 2021 ~ Bow, NH

 

Action Needed on Critical Hearings This Week. Upcoming this week are more very important hearings and it is vital we have our voices heard.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 1:30 pm, the House Education Committee will take testimony on HB 607-FN (local education savings accounts). As you will read below, this is even worse than HB 20. Please register opposition to HB 607 here.  1. Click on the calendar for February 9th. 2. Select House Education Committee. 3. Select bill number HB607 and 1:30 pm.  4. Select, “I am a member of the Public”. 5. Click “I oppose the Bill”. Please be sure to do this in advance of the 1:30 pm hearing time.

Two days later at 9 am on Feb. 11, the Education Committee will continue its hearing on HB 20  (voucher bill).  If you have not yet registered your opposition to this bill, please do so by clicking this link,  DEFEAT HB 20 VOUCHER BILL. 1. Click on the calendar for February 11th. 2. Select House Education Committee. 3. Select bill numberHB20 and 9:00AM  4. Select, “I am a member of the Public”. 5. Click “I oppose the Bill”. Please be sure to do this in advance of the 9:00 am.

 Finally, there is the chance that the Senate will take up SB 61, so-called right to work legislation in their session on Feb. 11. Please contact your Senator and ask them to vote NO on SB 61, which simply establishes the right of employees to freeload and obtain all the benefits and protections of a union contract without contributing a cent towards costs of negotiation or enforcement.  Don’t be fooled—no one can be forced to join a union in NH, but if you work under and benefit from a union contract, you should be contributing to the costs of maintaining those protections and benefits. 

Week in Review.  This past week has been an exceptionally busy one as the NH Legislature is finally ramping up and tackling the business at hand.  The Senate met in remote session for the first time, while in the House, committee hearings are being held.  Most Democrats attend hearings remotely, whereas many Republicans tend to attend in person, often without wearing masks.  Regardless, business is moving forward, though marred at times by poor behavior (Republican reps laughing about racism) and just plain silliness (a “ban” on cats that wandered onto a remote access rep’s screen). In between it all, some real work was done, including the first hearing on HB 20, the education “voucher” bill.

The House Education Committee held its scheduled hearing on HB 20, the “voucher” bill, on the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 2.  After lobbyists were permitted to testify at length, the chair of the committee, Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) imposed limits on public testimony.  Even so, the hearing lasted just under four hours and with at least 100 more citizens seeking to offer testimony, the hearing is now continued and will resume on this Thursday, February 11 at 9am. 

Probably the biggest surprise from the HB 20 hearing is the widespread concern and opposition to HB 20.  Among those registering support or opposition to the bill, 600 were in support and an astounding and unprecedented 3200 registered in opposition.  As for the testimony offered, there were few surprises.  Those who have had children in private schools or who homeschool touted the benefits of their experiences and now seek public funding for their choices.  Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut once again claimed HB 20 would save taxpayer monies, claiming illogically that for every student who leaves a public school some $16,000 is saved.  This of course ignores the fact that public schools have fixed costs and that a smattering of students leaving across a number of grade levels does not permit for any significant reduction in staffing.  It is the old saying:  if you reduce by 1%, you can’t shorten the 100-yard field to 99 yards!  The bill’s primary proponent, Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonborough) simply glossed over concerns regarding eligibility, discriminatory practices, and the lack of either fiscal or academic accountability.  In this he was aided by Chairman Ladd, who severely limited questioning of Cordelli by committee members regarding the specifics of HB20, despite the fact that Cordelli is the member most clearly responsible for the bill.

So, what was learned?  Well, we learned a few things regarding the private “scholarship organization” that would take in public funds (on average $4500 or so per student) and then deposit that money in individual “education freedom accounts” (i.e., launder the money).  For example, this organization is empowered to accept grants and gifts from any private sources, conceivably including those who seek to be recognized and legitimized as an “education service provider” eligible to be paid from the EFAs/vouchers.  And who is it who determines eligibility and legitimacy of the “education service providers?”  Why it is the very “scholarship organization” permitted to accept grants and gifts from them!  Do you detect any possible odors coming from that set of provisions?  You might of course assume that standard independent audits of a private organization handling millions of dollars of public funds would control for any nefarious activities, but lo and behold, there are no provisions for any such audits of the “scholarship organization.”  In fact the only audits in the bill concern occasional audits by the “scholarship organization” of spending by parents controlling the education freedom account (EFA).  Even then, there is no specific requirement to conduct such audits and clearly it is not in the interest of the “scholarship organization” to uncover illegitimate spending since that might result in suspension of accounts and less money being laundered by the “scholarship organization.”  That matters, because the “scholarship organization” can take 10% off the top of all money passing through its hands, an amount that is quite high compared to other states with similar arrangements.  In sum, the entire structure is designed to promote private profits off of public funds. 

Testimony went on for four hours, covering lack of any protections against discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, gender, and religious beliefs, as well as the requirement that parents and students must waive all rights to IEPs and services for those with special needs.  Most striking was the clarification of a total lack of academic standards or outcomes assessment.  Under HB 20, there would be no ensuring of an adequate education or even any basic minimal standards.  Asked about the lack of academic accountability, proponents of HB 20 could only fall back on the claim that parents were the best determinants of whether their children received an adequate or effective education.

What HB 20 and its new parallel Senate bill (SB 130) have in common is a lack of transparency and accountability.  In fact, if HB 20 has virtually no fiscal or academic accountability, SB130 appears to do the nearly impossible by essentially having NO accountability at all.  These bills, as well as HB607 (which would essentially refund all school tax payments to parents who withdraw their children from public schools) all have in common a basic elemental assumption that society is composed of atomistic individuals and the community does not exist.  The American system of public education is built upon the historical assumption dating back as early as the 1640s that the community and the larger society have a direct interest in promoting and educated citizenry and that all members of the community benefit from this, even those with no children in schools.  Proponents of EFAs and vouchers reject that historical assumption and reject the presumption of a social or community obligation and benefit via public education.  Nothing currently prevents parents from enrolling students in private schools, but that does not relieve them of the broader social responsibility to support public education for the good and for the benefit of the entire community.  In its most extreme form (HB 607), taxes supporting public education become entirely transactional—i.e., you pay if your students are in public schools, but if not in public schools, you have no tax obligations.  Go further with this—I don’t drive on your road, so must I then pay taxes to plow your road?  Any community or social commitment and obligation is simply ignored or set aside; society is simply a collection of atomistic individuals with no real obligations to one another.  Is that the direction NH seeks to go?

As noted above, more important hearings are on the docket this week.  On Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 1:30 pm, the House Education Committee will take testimony on HB 607 (local education savings accounts). This is even worse than HB 20. Two days later at 9 am on Feb. 11, the Education Committee will continue its hearing on HB 20.  If you have not yet registered your opposition to this bill, please do so by clicking here-Defeat HB 20  Finally, there is the chance that the Senate will take up SB 61, so-called right to work legislation in their session on Feb. 11. Please contact your senator and urge him/her to vote no on SB 61 which simply establishes the right of employees to freeload and obtain all the benefits and protections of a union contract without contributing a cent towards costs of negotiation or enforcement.  Don’t be fooled—no one can be forced to join a union in NH, but if you work under and benefit from a union contract, you should be contributing to the costs of maintaining those protections and benefits. 

 

As always, be safe and stay healthy over the upcoming week.  We are in the midst of winter right now, but Spring is approaching and the darkness of the pandemic is beginning to yield to light.  We wish you well and ask that you continue to help in the fight to preserve public education in New Hampshire. 

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NH Retirement Security Coalition   AFT-NH is a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition (NHRSC). The NHRSC will be tracking all bills related to the NH Retirement System and continuing advocacy for our members. This was a busy week on retirement bills. You can find the legislation tracker following retirement bills by clicking on the following link NHRSC UPDATES.

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The Week Ahead

 Here is a schedule of hearings for other bills being tracked by AFT-NH.

Mon 2/8 9:00 AM

HB 530

 

 

Relative to Candidate Background Checks For Law Enforcement Officers.

Mon 2/8 10:30 AM

HB 253

 

 

Requiring Law Enforcement Officers to Use Body-worn Cameras and Establishing A Grant Program to

Assist Local Law Enforcement Agencies to Purchase Body-worn Cameras.

Mon 2/8 1:30 PM

HB 471

 

Relative to Police Disciplinary Hearings.

Mon 2/8 2:00 PM

HB 459

 

Prohibiting A Transfer Of Funds Within An Adopted Budget to A General Ledger Line Item In Such

Budget That Contains An Entry Of Zero Dollars.

Mon 2/8 2:30 PM

HB 507

 

Prohibiting No-knock Warrants.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 323

 

Relative to A Statewide Student Assessment Report.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 349

 

Relative to Certification Requirements For School Nurses.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 278

 

Relative to The Use Of Unused District Facilities By Chartered Public Schools.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 242

 

Relative to The Content Of An Adequate Education.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 214

 

Relative to School Building Aid Grants.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 110

 

Relative to The Distribution Of Adequate Education Grants.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 594

 

Relative to The School Building Aid Program.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 609

 

Relative to Innovation Schools.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 194

 

Relative to The Release Of Student Assessment Information and Data.

Tue 2/9 9:00 AM

HB 96

 

Establishing The Office Of School Counseling and Psychology, Establishing The Position Of School

Counselor Coordinator, and Making An Appropriation Therefor.

Tue 2/9 10:30 AM

HB 67

 

Relative to Warrant Articles In Official Ballot Town, School District, or Village District Meetings.

Tue 2/9 1:30 PM

HB 607

 

Establishing Local Education Savings Accounts For Students.

Thu 2/11 9:00 AM

HB 20

 

Establishing The Richard "Dick" Hinch Education Freedom Account Program.

Thu 2/11 9:00 AM

HB 113

 

Relative to Payment For Earned But Unused Vacation or Personal Time.

Thu 2/11 1:00 PM

HB 303

 

Relative to Required Pay.

Thu 2/11 1:00 PM

HB 231

 

Relative to Workplace Lactation Rights.

Thu 2/11 1:00 PM

HB 258

 

 

Relative to Employee Time Records.

Thu 2/11 1:00 PM

HB 563

 

Establishing A Committee to Study A Living Wage and The Utilization Of Public Assistance Among

Low Wage Workers and Their Families In New Hampshire.

Thu 2/11 1:00 PM

HB 259

 

Relative to Employee Uniforms.

Thu 2/11 1:00 PM

HB 107

 

Relative to The Minimum Hourly Rate.

Thu 2/11 1:00 PM

HB 448

 

Establishing A Committee to Study and Compare Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act Standards

with The Safety and Health Standards The New Hampshire Department Of Labor Uses For Public

Sector Employees.

Thu 2/11 1:00 PM

HB 348

 

Requiring A Public Employer to Provide Notice Of A New or Amended Collective Bargaining

Agreement.

Fri 2/12 1:30 PM

HB 465

 

Relative to Permissible Campaign Contributions By Business Organizations and Labor Unions.

Wed 2/17 1:30 PM

HB 504

 

Relative to The State Education Property Tax and The Low and Moderate Income Homeowners Property Tax Relief Program.