AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1113 ( prohibiting the NH DOE and State Board of Education directing or limiting school instructional options, such as remote learning)

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From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH To NH House Education Committee

Dear Chairman Ladd and Members of the Committee,

My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers – NH. AFT-NH represents 3,500 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education staff across New Hampshire.

I am writing to urge support of HB 1113. Make no mistake about it, my members want to be in the classroom with their students in person. They want to be engaging students in lessons face to face, seeing their reactions, being able to respond to questions, give feedback and encouragement on the spot. But we also know that with COVID widespread in communities across the state and substitutes for any position in insufficient supply, keeping schools open reliably without interruptions is next to impossible.

The State Board of Education just adopted a top-down rule that would prevent local districts from using remote learning as a planned part of its toolkit and count it towards its required instructional time. HB1113 would allow local districts to vote to adopt whatever learning model the school board decided was appropriate for local circumstances and be able to count the hours as instructional time.

Right now, we have schools struggling to stay open despite high staff and student absences. In an effort to keep in-person schooling going, paraeducators are being pulled from their normal jobs supporting students to cover classes. If there isn’t an adult available to cover a class, the students are split up amongst several classrooms, disrupting their routine and lessons. In some schools, there are so many staff out that they have to combine several classes together in the gym and the students work independently. Many students are also sick and missing school. One teacher described it as a juggling act of always having to have multiple assignments going for each class, every single day: new material for the students who had been in class the previous day and make up assignments for the students who had been absent. There is not a lot of quality instruction able to take place under these circumstances.

Please, give local school boards the tools they need to keep students learning. I urge you to vote this bill Ought to Pass.

Sincerely,

Debrah Howes

President AFT-NH