New Hampshire Educators Pleased Federal Court Rules to Allow Lawsuit
Against State’s ‘Divisive Concepts’ Law to Proceed
AFT-NH: A Victory for New Hampshire’s Teachers and Students
CONCORD, N.H.—The American Federation of Teachers and AFT-New Hampshire reacted to news today that a federal court will allow AFT-New Hampshire’s lawsuit against the state’s so-called divisive concepts law to proceed, with the judge writing that teachers should not be in a position where they must instruct students on certain concepts but face losing their jobs.
The controversial law, passed in 2021, is called the “Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education.” AFT-NH contends it violates teachers’ free speech rights when teaching as well as students’ First Amendment rights not to have censored instruction block their right to learn.
The lawsuit went on to argue that the divisive concepts statute is unconstitutionally vague and contradicts the U.S. Constitution as well as a state law mandating that public school curriculum include the teaching of accurate, honest history and social studies.
AFT-NH’s case against the law has been consolidated with a similar one brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. It was filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.
U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro used AFT-NH’s actual wording in its suit to agree that the law is flawed and the lawsuit should proceed.
AFT-NH Testimony on HB 61
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
Thank you, Chairperson Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee, for listening to my testimony 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 here today to speak wholeheartedly in favor of HB61 – Relative to Teaching on Discrimination in the Public Schools and in Public Workplaces. Make no mistake. My members enthusiastically support this legislation to repeal the so-called “Divisive Concepts” law passed in 2021.
This so-called “Divisive Concepts” law is unconstitutional; politically motivated and unfair to students who should be learning historical facts, not censored or sugar-coated history. It is intimidating and punitive to teachers who have an obligation to teach honest history. It should never have been, nor should ever be, a law in New Hampshire.
Timberlane Teachers Achieve Last Minute Deal, School Board Continues to Engage in Union Busting
Timberlane temporarily avoids catastrophe
PLAISTOW, NH— January 9, 2023 —The leadership of the Timberlane Teachers’ Association released the following statement:
In a final effort, the Timberlane Teachers’ Association has achieved a last minute deal for a one-year agreement with the Timberlane Regional School Board that avoids what would certainly have been a critically disastrous situation for the District. Timberlane educators are already working without a contract for this school year and have not seen any step movement or cost of living adjustments. This deal makes little headway in resolving the many issues facing Timberlane including under-valued wages, working conditions, and earned benefits. This agreement is only a one year deal, which stabilizes the situation and brings the parties back to the bargaining table in the Spring.
Happy New Year and welcome to 2023. We hope you had a relaxing and restorative holiday season with family and friends.
The first week of January means that the legislative session is officially back in the swing. After the November elections, Republicans controlled the Senate 14-10 and the House was as closely divided as it has ever been in history with 201 Republicans and 197 Democrats currently in the House. One tied race in Rochester Ward 4 will be decided in a special election in February. AFT-NH has endorsed Chuck Grassie for this seat. Another resignation by a newly reelected House member from Nashua will be filled by a special election on a date yet to be set.
Divisive Concepts Law The House Education Committee once again has over 100 bills to be heard and will be especially busy in the upcoming session. They are starting out this session quickly by hearing House Bill 61 which would repeal the divisive concepts law on Thursday, January 12th at 9:30 AM in Representatives Hall. The divisive concepts law passed two years ago in the budget was designed to prevent the teaching of honest history and is negatively impacting our students’ ability to learn critical information. As we all know this bill has already had a chilling effect on teachers, staff, and students. AFT-NH is currently suing the state over this horrendous law, but we all agree it would be better for the legislature to just stop this policy and its harmful effects in its tracks.
Timberlane Regional School Board Walks Away from Contract Negotiations
Timberlane educators face a second year without a contract that respects their work
PLAISTOW, NH— January 5, 2023 —The leadership of the Timberlane Teachers’ Association released the following statement:
The Timberlane Teachers’ Association, AFT #4796, is gravely disappointed that for a second time in two years, the Timberlane Regional School Board has given up on trying to reach a tentative agreement with the Union that respects the work and dedication that Timberlane Educators have given to the children and families of the District. The two parties have been meeting since June 2021 to try to reach an agreement that recognizes the contributions and sacrifices that the educators of Timberlane have made for the District while also respecting the needs of the taxpayers. Timberlane educators have been working without a contract since July 2022 with no pay increases or cost of living adjustments while facing rising inflation and rising cost of living, and will continue to face shrinking paychecks for another year. The Union has presented more than a dozen substantial proposals and counter proposals, endured two mediation sessions, and made significant concessions and compromises over the last two years. The last proposal offered by the Union constituted an increase in cost over the previously agreed upon first year in the prior tentative agreement of less than one-half percent of the proposed District’s annual budget. Sadly, the School Board has made little compromise and refused to meet the Union on common ground. Even as of the date of this press release, the School Board continues to push forward proposals that were rejected by the Union membership for being insultingly inadequate to what Timberlane is worth instead of negotiating with the Union.
State Education Commissioner Sued Over Funding of Voucher Program
CONCORD, N.H.—New Hampshire is violating the N.H. Constitution and state law by using state lottery dollars and money from the Education Trust Fund to fund the state’s private school voucher program called the Education Freedom Account program, according to a complaint filed today in state court against state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.
The complaint (https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/2022/Howes-v-Ed…) is asking the Merrimack County Superior Court for an injunction against use of these funds intended for New Hampshire public schools for the voucher program.
It says: “If the state desires to operate an Education Freedom Account or similar program, whereby it grants public money for parents to utilize for private use, it must separately fund it through additional taxation or another source of funds,” noting there currently is no mechanism for doing so.