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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2022-06

February 19, 2022 ~ Bow, NH

Good News on Local Voucher Bill   This week we are going to try something new and start with good news.  HB 607 (local school vouchers) which was put on the table during the last legislative session on January 6th remained there with no attempt by House Republicans to try to advance it. Strong turnout from both Democratic and Republican supporters of public education and local property taxpayers prevented pro-voucher forces from taking action. Since HB 607 would need to go to House Finance next, it will take a 2/3rd majority vote of the House to move it forward. HB 607 would have been a huge blow to taxpayers, our students, teachers, and school staff and we want to say thank you again to all those who stood with our public schools.

AFT-NH President Deb Howes Testimony on HB 1683 (repeal of statewide vouchers)

I am here to urge passage of HB1683. Last summer, with no fiscal analysis, opportunity for a public hearing or public comment on the financial impact, supporters of school choice at any cost pushed through (as part of the state budget) a costly and unaccountable state voucher program. Now initial numbers are in, and it’s clearly time to repeal this program before more damage is done.

At the time these state vouchers were proposed, AFT-New Hampshire and other child advocacy groups warned that this program would be one of the most expansive, unaccountable, and potentially costly voucher proposals in the nation. It was clear even then that the voucher program would drain millions every year from our neighborhood public schools, downshift more costs from the state to local taxpayer and hike our property taxes.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2022-05

February 12, 2022 ~ Bow, NH

Next week the House and Senate will meet in legislative session. The House will meet on Wednesday and Thursday and the Senate on Wednesday. 

Last year, parents and community leaders voiced overwhelming opposition to a massive state-level voucher bill. That bill was slipped into the budget anyway, by proponents of outsourcing and privatization.

For Round Two, those same politicians came back with House Bill 607, a second, massive new voucher bill funded entirely with local property tax dollars.

HB 607 would have devastated funding for neighborhood public schools, bypassed local control to force towns to have votes on local-level vouchers, and inevitably led to property tax hikes.

AFT-NH President Deb Howes' Statement on Repealing Divisive Concepts Bills

Howes: “The Legislature should have the courage to stand up for all Granite Staters and  make a major course correction and repeal the so-called divisive concepts law.”

 CONCORD, N.H.—Statement by AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes urging the House to pass HB 1576, which would repeal the so-called divisive concepts law, and HB 1090, which would repeal that law and specifically allow school employees to teach historical or current experiences of any group protected from discrimination:

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2022-04

February 5, 2022 ~ Bow, NH

The Education Committee continued its busy schedule this week-though we were granted a quick reprieve from bills attacking public education because of the snowstorm on Friday. We none-the-less will continue to have busy weeks with the unprecedented amount of bills heard by the House Education Committee this year. 

AFT-NH President Deb Howes Testifies on HB 1588 (relative to children attending public school with mask mandates etc.)

AFT-NH President Deb Howes testified today before the House Education Committee on HB 1588, a bill relative to children attending public school with a mask mandate without an emergency order.

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.

On behalf of my members and the children and communities we serve, I urge you to vote against HB 1588. This bill ignores New Hampshire’s long and cherished tradition of local control and local democracy that gives educators and parents a voice in their schools and communities. This bill inserts the state into health and safety decisions that should be left to families and communities to work out with their elected school boards. Yes, Granite Staters on both sides of the mask issue feel strongly. But the state won’t improve matters by stepping in with this expensive, and frankly, coercive bill. Educators and parents have always worked together to solve issues at the local level in New Hampshire. Placing the state’s thumb heavily on one side of the scale to prohibit these stakeholders from reaching an appropriate local decision in the best interest of the students and staff who work in the schools, as well as the safe and orderly functioning of those schools is not the New Hampshire way.

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.