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January 29, 2018 - Bow, NH

Legislative activity, particularly committee hearings, are in full swing now in Concord, NH, meaning this past week was quite busy and the upcoming looks to be more of the same.  Here is a quick review of what happened and what lies ahead, from the perspective of AFT-NH.

SB 193   The “elephant in the room” remains SB 193, what many label the “voucher bill.”  SB 193 proposes taking  public money from public schools and transferring it to a private agency which will then set up “education savings accounts” to defray the costs of home-schooling or sending children to private (including religious) schools.  The purpose of this convoluted approach is to “launder” the money in an effort to wash it of its public character, thereby avoiding constitutional prohibitions on public funding of religious schools.  The bill had more hearings this week in the Finance Committee, which is trying to ascertain the cost to the State and to local taxpayers, who would need to replace the lost funds.  Since the bill’s provisions are so broad a large percentage of NH students might be eligible, and efforts by the Finance Committee to obtain estimates of costs going beyond the first year have been stymied by bill supporters and the State’s own Department of Education, led by education privatization advocate, Commissioner Frank Edelblut.  The key hearings will likely occur this coming week when the Office of Legislative Budget Assistant is likely to bring forth its estimates of costs running thirteen years out (to full implementation of SB 193).  In case you missed it, please be sure to read AFT-NH’s report on SB 193 entitled Following the Wrong Path: What Can Education Savings Account Programs In Other States Tell New Hampshire About SB 193? 1-16-18

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January 19, 2018- Bow, NH

From our perspective, the central event of the week was the hearing before the House Finance Committee regarding SB 193, the bill remove funds from public schools in order to fund home-schoolers and those sending children to private and religious schools.  The focus of the hearing was on the financial implications of the bill, not the policy itself, and after four hours of testimony it was rather clear the proposal will force the State and local taxpayers to foot the bill through new or increased taxes. 

The hearing featured a leading advocate of the bill understating

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My name is Douglas Ley, and I am one of the members from Cheshire County, District 9, representing the towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, and Roxbury.  I am also president of American Federation of Teachers-NH, and I have filed all the requisite paperwork with the Legislative Ethics office and intend to participate in the discussion of HB1415.   

As we know, NH Statutes currently authorize a death benefit of $100,000 for families of police officers and firefighters killed in the performance of their duties.  That is a good thing, and I am proud to have helped pass that legislation.  Today, we consider establishing a similar death benefit for the families of school employees killed in the line of duty, and on behalf of AFT-NH I am here to voice our support for this proposed statutory addition.

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[Note: The entire written testimony is provided but actual testimony was abbreviated due to time constraints and to avoid duplicate testimony. Per President Ley, many school boards, school board members, superintendents and policy experts tore into the bill in great and meticulous detail. AFT-NH applauds their efforts.]

Let me begin by offering my thanks to the Committee Chair and to the Finance Committee for taking the time to hear my testimony. 

For the record:  Douglas Ley, representing District 9-Cheshire County, towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, & Roxbury. In addition, I am here as president of American Federation of Teachers-NH, and have filed the requisite paperwork with the Legislative Ethics Office.

Speaking on behalf of myself and the 4,000 members of AFT-NH, I come before you in opposition to SB193.  The written report provided to you focuses upon financial aspects of SB193 and places the proposed program into a broader national context by looking at its financial provisions as compared to those in other states with similar Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).  Please read the report by clicking the link Following the Wrong Path.


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January 12, 2018

Bow, NH

The New Hampshire legislature is beginning to return to its accustomed rhythms and routines as both the House and the Senate met in session.  More important, committees began holding hearings on this year’s avalanche of proposed bills and these hearings will continue unabated for the next six or seven weeks.  It is in committees where the majority of the work of the Legislature is done, through listening to testimony, considering bills and amendments, and shaping recommendations for action on the floor of the House or the Senate.  If you have never done so and if you have the time, look at the House or Senate calendars, find a hearing that might be of interest, and consider attending to observe or even testify.  Testimony from members of the public is always welcomed, especially as it brings a perspective different from that of the usual lobbyists and fellow legislators.  You might even conclude that you too can be a citizen legislator—believe me, there are no prerequisites other than a willingness to put in a lot of time for virtually no pay.  But it can be satisfying and is certainly interesting.  

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Re: Written Testimony in Opposition to Senate Bill 193

First, I would like to thank Representative Kurk and the Committee for the opportunity to address our opposition to Senate Bill 193, an act establishing education freedom savings accounts for students.

As President of the Nashua Teachers’ Union, I write this letter on behalf of more than 1,000 teachers and with unanimous support of my Board of Directors.  We adamantly oppose any type of education freedom savings account or voucher programs in our state.  This bill would take away state per pupil aid and give it to non-public, unregulated schools.  There is no meaningful accountability for those students that are no longer in public schools, creating a different standard for our students across the state.


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