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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2022-03

We had another busy week in the State House.  HB 1679, the bill that we highlighted last week which would dissolve cooperative and regional school districts was heard before the House Education Committee. AFT-NH President Deb Howes’ testimony at the hearing on HB 1679 can be read here. In addition to this bill, there were numerous other bills surrounding public and charter schools.  The attacks on public education are relentless and appear to be never-ending but we know that supporters of public education will not waver in their defense of a pillar of our democracy.

Mask bills delayed.  Last week, in addition to the numerous bills that were heard around charter schools and others, there were supposed to be billed on banning masks in schools but at the last minute due to a large, expected turnout, the chairman of the House Education Committee had to postpone those hearings. Those meetings have not yet been rescheduled but we need your voice in opposition.  We understand that masks are an important public health mitigation tool and while all of us would like to go back to a world where they are not required, we also understand there are times when they are necessary for the health of our students and educators and necessary to keep our schools open. We strongly feel that local school boards are the decision-makers best able to determine, in consultation with public health officials, when there should be mask requirements. We do not think any state law should take this mitigation tool away from local school districts. 

AFT-NH President Deb Howes Testifies on HB 1679 (Dissolution of Cooperative and Regional School Districts)

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.

AFT New Hampshire strongly opposes HB 1679. This bill is a centralized, top-down attempt to mandate the break-up of cooperative and regional school districts that shows no respect for the local voters and taxpayers in the towns and school districts involved. Such a drastic move would arbitrarily and unfairly disrupt the education of thousands of public-school students, destroying an educational and operational model that has been successful for decades in our state.

AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1434 (relative to the availability of school curriculum materials)

I write to you in opposition to HB1434. The reason we oppose this bill is we don’t want curriculum to become static artifacts: teachers locked into a regimented set of materials because that is what has been posted on a website or disclosed after a parent request. Good teachers know that sometimes you have to follow student need and give extra practice on a skill. You may need to add additional readings to the curriculum to practice a skill until students reach proficiency. Other times a good teacher takes an all too rare opportunity to follow student interest and go beyond what is in the set curriculum. As a reading teacher, there were times when I would reward my students with a bonus story in a  genre they enjoyed, always following district policy on acceptable materials. My students loved these learning treats! They would be practicing a skill they needed but exploring a topic or writing style that interested them. Those kinds of joyful learning experiences become next to impossible to manage, and less likely to happen if the teacher has to worry about making sure each article and book is officially recorded, especially if it is by a deadline in November.

AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1313 (relative to rights to freedom from discrimination in higher education)

I am writing in opposition of HB 1313. This bill is unconscionable and antithetical to the nature and purpose of higher education. Despite attempts by the bill’s sponsors and supporters to minimize the scope of the legislation, claiming that it would merely prevent individual faculty members from professing their personal beliefs or presenting theories as fact, the passage of the legislation would be a gross violation of the academic freedom rights of every public college and university professor in New Hampshire.

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)

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.

AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1015 (relative to school district policies regarding objectionable material)

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 write to you in opposition to HB1015. This bill would take a narrowly tailored law aimed at giving parents advance notice of materials used for instruction around human sexuality and human sexuality education in health and biology classes and expand it so it would cover any class taught at any grade level in any subject in public schools. The original law allowed parents 2 weeks of time to review materials for those limited specified topics. If parents found the materials objectionable, they could request alternative materials to cover the topic while their student opted out of the planned lesson. If this bill passes removing the phrases human sexuality and human sexual education, there will be no limit to the topics about which 2 weeks advance curriculum course materials will be required by state law.

AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1603 (defining certain school information as governmental records under the right to know law)

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.

We write to you in opposition to HB1603. While we welcome the active participation of parents in the education of their children, we also know that there are already multiple ways to review curriculum. Many school districts make curriculum available through their websites. Schools also address the curriculum that will be used through Open Houses and print or online newsletters. Teachers and school administration are always just a phone call or email away if a parent ever has a question about curriculum, whether it is a particular assignment that has come home, or the overall scope and sequence of a course. Local school boards have presentations, discussions and voting in open meetings when a new curriculum is adopted. We want parents to understand what their children are learning and feel comfortable supporting that learning at home. The richest learning experiences happen when parents and schools can work together as partners.

AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1147 (relative to governmental records available upon request)

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.

We write to you in opposition to HB 1147. While we welcome the active participation of parents in the education of their children, we also know that there are already multiple ways to review curriculum. Many school districts make curriculum available through their websites. Schools also address the curriculum that will be used through Open Houses and print or online newsletters. Teachers and school administration are always just a phone call or email away if a parent ever has a question about curriculum, whether it is a particular assignment that has come home, or the overall scope and sequence of a course. Local school boards have presentations, discussions and voting in open meetings when a new curriculum is adopted. We want parents to understand what their children are learning and feel comfortable supporting that learning at home. The richest learning experiences happen when parents and schools can work together as partners.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2022-02

eacher Loyalty Bill   This week was another packed week at the State House with the House Education Committee hearing almost forty bills. This week’s bills included HB 1255, Relative to Teachers Loyalty. The bill is frankly an insult to every hardworking teacher in this state. The sponsor of the bills spoke to teachers indoctrinating their students but was of course unable to provide any concrete examples of teachers doing that. The committee heard the bill but has yet to vote on it so there is still time to make your voice heard.

AFT-NH Testimony on Teacher Loyalty Bill (HB 1255)

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 write to you in opposition to HB1255. This bill would outlaw advocating anything that “promotes a negative view of the founding or history of the United States.” Just like the Divisive Concepts law that our union is challenging in court, this bill is so vague that it would put teachers’ licenses and jobs at risk for teaching even the most basic facts about American history. Our members are dedicated to meeting students’ needs by engaging them in honest history lessons that teach them to think critically about information. It would be a disservice to our students to limit class materials or discussions to only the parts of our history that show our nation in a positive light.