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AFT-NH  Legislative Bulletin (2023-04) Action Alert We hope you are all faring well now that winter has made its way into New Hampshire this week.  Our snowblower got quite a workout, as did our generator. We have had snow, power outages, wind and rain – but none of it stopped the NH House and Senate from working on bills in committee last week. Voucher Accountability Coming to the Senate This Week  Conservatives and taxpayer advocates often speak of making sure government funds are spent well and are spent on what they were intended for. That standard seems to apply to a lot of things, but it has never applied to the school voucher program. Many of these same conservatives and taxpayer advocates are also ardent supporters of the state’s voucher program despite it being over budget and without necessary checks to make sure public money is being spent is being spent as it was intended. We also know that in other states with similar voucher programs we have seen a disturbing trend of an abuse of funds and outright fraud. MORE
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AFT-NH Testimony on HB440 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH Thank you, Chairman Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee, for reading my testimony. My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers-NH. AFT-NH represents 4,000 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. I am writing today in opposition to HB440, relative to the uses of education trust fund. The Education Trust Fund was set up to specifically fund public education, public schools, and the public school districts of New Hampshire. It was created to distribute adequate education aid to the public school districts as a part of the NH Legislature’s response to previous NH Supreme Court rulings on the inadequacy of state education funding for public schools. Those rulings established that NH students absolutely have a constitutional right to a public education and that the state has an obligation to fund it. This is not just my opinion but an obligation that is outlined in the language of the New Hampshire Constitution and reaffirmed by multiple court rulings. MORE
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AFT-NH Testimony on HB 533 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH To the NH House Judiciary Committee: Thank you, Chair Lynn and Members of the House Judiciary Committee, for hearing my testimony today. I am honored to have the chance to address you today. My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers-NH. AFT-NH represents 4,000 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. I am writing today in opposition to HB533, relative to public school human rights complaints.   Two years ago, in the budget, the House passed the so-called “divisive concepts” law. This law, aimed at preventing teachers from teaching robust and honest history curriculum, has now been in place for nearly two years. After the law passed, guidance was put out that said we could still teach about discrimination as a “historical concept” as part of a larger course of history. There was no clear guidance on how to make connections between historical events and their consequences through time, a part of bringing context to historical facts and an important piece of the education process. The law said that a person who felt an educator had taught, or even implied, a so-called “divisive concept” deliberately or even unknowingly, could file a complaint through the NH Commission on Human Rights or with the Department of Justice. And the consequences of being found guilty of violating this law comes with the penalty that could include losing your teaching license and therefore your job. You could lose your job for actually just doing your job! If that wasn’t enough of a chilling effect on teachers and school staff, an outside right-wing group put an actual bounty on teachers and the Department of Education put a complaint form on the front page of its website to help parents file complaints. MORE
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AFT-NH Testimony on HB 272 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH Thank you, Chair Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee, for hearing my testimony this morning. My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers-NH. AFT-NH represents 4,000 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. I am writing today in opposition to HB272, relative to increasing public school per pupil funding. Despite its title, this bill does not increase state funding for all public schools. This bill only increases funding for chartered public schools, which only serve a small fraction of the students our traditional neighborhood public schools serve. According to recent figures from the New Hampshire Department of Education from Oct. 2022, there are 161,827 students attending district public schools. Only 5,530 students attend public charter schools. The focus of this committee, this legislature and our expenditure of taxpayer money MUST be on ensuring the robust education promised to those more than 160,000 students in public district schools under the NH Constitution. MORE
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AFT-NH Testimony on HB 309 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH To the 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 4000 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. I write to you in opposition to HB 309 as it is written. This is not because we are opposed to teaching about the Civil Rights Era, but because we are opposed to the packaging and teaching of the Civil Rights Era out of its proper context in the full sweep of United States history. AFT- NH firmly believes in providing all students a robust, engaging and factual US history education so they can understand how our nation was formed, the changes it has undergone through the years, and how those changes have impacts and echoes down into current time. To teach the Civil Rights Era as a closed topic that ended in 1968 does a great disservice to our students, and to their parents who are relying on us to not only help students learn the facts but understand their significance. MORE
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Voucher Expansion Heard at the State House This Week  This week the House Education Committee heard two bills that would dramatically increase the amount of money spent on school vouchers in New Hampshire. Though the claim has always been that the purpose of this program is to help low-income families both of these bills would allow middle to high income families use of the voucher program. The voucher program, originally slated to cost just a few hundred thousand dollars has already ballooned to $30 million dollars and these bills would rise that cost even more and drain more money from our local public schools. We will have more actions for HB 464 and HB 367 as these bills continues to work their way through the legislature.  Thank you to all of you who took time to let the House Education Committee know that New Hampshire does not want to see this program expanded. You read the written testimony from AFT-NH President Deb Howes at the following link: Testimony Opposing HB 464 and HB 367. MORE