AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2022-21
End of Session Edition
June 24, 2022 ~ Bow, NH
In each biennium of the New Hampshire Legislature an issue is identified early that will be the focus of both the House and Senate. This year it became very clear immediately after Republicans took control of both chambers that the issue they were going to focus on was public education. There have been bills to control what can be taught and how teachers and students talk about it. There have been bills to take tax money from supporting the learning of all students attending public schools and divert it so a few students could attend private schools or programs. There have been many bills to limit the authority of locally elected school boards because partisan activists did not like the responses they were getting from these locally elected officials. This, as we know, did not happen in a vacuum. Public education has become a political issue nationally with everything from misinformation to disinformation to outright lies being used to rally a political base at the expense of our children’s education.
New Hampshire became a fertile ground for this effort, not just because of the trifecta control of state government but also because of the cheerleader for these efforts is Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. Although his job is to lead the entire NH Department of Education, he has done everything he can to dismantle public education and left the more than 160,00 students and their families who trust and rely on their public schools unrepresented in his NHDOE. The commissioner has been a constant voice in support of vouchers, so-called learn everywhere, and minimizing public education to four core concepts but you will never find his voice in support of our public schools. He went as far as to speak to a group that put a literal bounty on teachers’ heads while refusing to speak to members of AFT-NH.
However, even in the face of unprecedented attacks, a strong coalition of public education advocates was able to form in order to push back against some of the worst and most damaging policies to come out of this legislature. We were able to form a coalition of legislators in the House and Senate and work with them to defeat many of the bad bills that happened over the last two years.
Additionally, those who wish to undermine public education also were just too aggressive. A hard lesson to learn about the legislature is that time is not on your side. Though they can feel long and arduous, legislative sessions are actually very short and deadlines are firm. By trying to pass so many bills, especially in the 2nd year of the session, they simply ran out of time to continue to push their agenda.
Lastly, an interesting thing happened at town meetings across the state in March that we do believe gave at least some Republicans pause—people who supported public schools won local school board races, even in difficult districts, and union contracts passed overwhelmingly. For many of us, we felt strongly that those who wish to destroy public education were a small but vocal minority. Town meetings offered further proof. People are generally happy with their children’s education and do not wish to see it change drastically.
The next pages will detail just some of the bills we faced this year. We must be vigilant—without a strong public education majority elected many of these bills will return and we could be fighting the same fights over again.
Review of Bills
establishing local education savings accounts for students
This bill took the idea of the statewide voucher program and applied it to local school spending raised by property taxes. HB607 could have crippled school budgets across the state.
LAID ON TABLE
Relative to Innovation schools
HB609 was a bill passed in the first year of session. Its goal like many is to chip away at public education by creating “innovation schools.” The bill also attempts to amend bargained contracts.
requiring a public employer to provide notice of a new or amended collective bargaining agreement.
Exactly as the title suggests HB348 would have required a new or amended CBA—even if it was in draft form. This would have created a myriad of problems during collective bargaining.
LAID ON TABLE
establishing the Richard "Dick" Hinch education freedom account program.
This was the original vehicle for the statewide voucher program. While this bill itself was laid on the table, as we know the statewide voucher program was inserted in the budget and passed.
LAID ON TABLE/ PASSED IN BUDGET
relative to collective bargaining agreement strategy discussions under the right-to-know law.
This bill would have required that all negotiations by public employees and their employers be done in public which could cause massive disruptions in contract negotiations.
Inexpedient to Legislate
relative to the propagation of divisive concepts
This was the original bill to ban CRT/ divisive concepts from the classroom. We know that CRT is not taught in the classroom but we do know we expect our teachers to teach honest history to our students which benefits our students most of all.
LAID ON TABLE, PASSED IN BUDGET
relative to facial covering policies for schools/ relative to school district policies on facial masks of students in schools
Both bills would have banned masks in schools. HB1371 would have allowed you to move your student to another public school or EFA program. The other bill would have caused a teacher to be fired if the followed the school board recommendation of implementing masks or certainly be fired if they didn’t follow the school board mandate.
HB1371—Inexpedient to Legislate
establishing the parental bill of rights
There is a lot we could say about this bill, and we did! But the amongst the myriad of problems the biggest is it would have legally mandated that a teacher “out” a student to their parents making schools less safe for our LGTBQ+ students.
Conference Report Failed in House
repealing the law relative to certain discrimination in public workplaces and education/ relative to teaching on discrimination in the public schools
These bills would have repealed the divisive concepts legislation put into the budget last year. 1576 would have been a full repeal while 1090 was a partial repeal.
Both bills were laid on the table.
relative to eligibility for the education tax credit
This bill would have raised the income cap from 300% to 500% on the education tax credit. The biggest fear with this is it would have allowed them to try to change the EFA program from 300% to 500%.
INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE
relative to civil rights education in public elementary and secondary schools
Another bill surrounding the divisive concepts debate that would have limited when you could teach civil rights education.
LAID ON TABLE
relative to teachers' loyalty
This bill would have said that no teacher could teach a “negative account or representation of the founding and history of the United States..”. Had a teacher been deemed to violate this they would have been subject to an ethics violation.
INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE
prohibiting a school district from mandating a COVID-19 vaccination for school attendance
Doing exactly what the title says this bill prohibits a school district from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school
relative to the adoption of school district budget caps
This bill would have allowed for school budget caps that had not floor and were only allowed to be adjusted to inflation. It could have costs students the opportunity for a public education
INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE
relative to the dissolution and repeal of cooperative school districts
This bill would have mandated dissolution of all cooperative school districts. Towns across this state depend on cooperative school districts and this bill would have caused many towns to not be able to afford their own public school.
relative to the content of an adequate education
As introduced this bill would have cut the required core subject areas to Math, English, Social Studies and Science. The bill was amended in committee instead to expand core areas rather than cut them.
PASSED (NOT YET SIGNED BY GOVERNOR)
Please continue to check our website at http://nh.aft.org/ for updates on how we can protect public education, public services, the NH Retirement System, and advance initiatives as we work to continually improve it.
For breaking news and other legislative information, please be sure to like us on Facebook at AFT New Hampshire or follow us on Twitter @AFTNewHampshire to receive the latest news. Please share this with friends so they can sign up for this bulletin at http://nh.aft.org/.
You can also read written testimony submitted to the legislature at STATE HOUSE NEWS.
NH Retirement Security Coalition The NHRSC will be tracking all bills related to the NH Retirement System and continuing advocacy for our members. You can find the legislation tracker following retirement bills by clicking on the following link NHRSC UPDATES. AFT-NH is a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition (NHRSC).