New Hampshire Department of Education 306 Rules FAQ
Next week, on Wednesday, at the State Board of Education meeting, the 306 rules, the rules that govern our local neighborhood public schools, are on the agenda. These rules have been worked on, mostly in secret, for nearly three years now. The first draft that was released last March was terrible for public students, teachers and staff. We do not know yet what will come out of the meeting on Wednesday but wanted to prepare you with a one pager on the 306 rules and prepare you for action after the next draft of the rules are released. Please watch this space for further updates and actions. Here is a Q&A on the process and rules.
Question: What Are The 306 Rules
The 306 rules are also known as the minimum standards for public schools are best thought of as a comprehensive set of rules that govern our neighborhood public schools. They cover everything from how many students each teacher can teach, to teacher certification, staff professional development, academic standards, and building facilities, maintenance, and safety requirements. By law these rules must be revisited every 10 years and though the 10-year cycle is not yet complete the Commissioner and State Board begun the process of rewriting the rules.
Question: If these rules are so important, Why haven’t I heard much about this process?
If you feel like you haven’t heard or seen much about the rewriting of the minimum standards, you are not alone. Generally, rules are developed through a series of public meetings with public input from all stakeholders. That would include talking to teachers, paraeducators and school staff, administrators, school board members students and parents and community leaders about what is working well in our public schools and what needs improving. Instead of following that well established process, Commissioner Edelblut and the State Board of Education hired a private company to draft these rules. Until March of 2023, the first draft of these rules was kept out of the public eye by the private company drafting them and review and feedback on the draft was permitted by invitation only.
Question: Why do the 306 rules matter so much?
Having robust minimum standards for our neighborhood public schools helps to ensure that all students regardless of zip code receive a quality public education. When you strip down the minimum standards to a bare bones document, as the first draft of the new rules does, it jeopardizes that goal. The State of New Hampshire has a constitutional obligation to fund the opportunity to receive a robust public education for all of its children, no matter which city or town they live in. It falls far short of meeting this obligation to date, despite losing several NH Supreme Court cases on this very issue. The matter is currently in the NH court system again. Grossly watering down these minimum standards is quite possibly an attempt to skirt that obligation once again.
Question: As drafted, what do the new rules do?
The rules as drafted create a lot of problems for New Hampshire Public Schools. Many academic standards are weakened by being made optional for districts to provide. Having teachers specifically for art, music and physical education teachers at the elementary level also becomes optional.
Reaching Higher New Hampshire has an excellent breakdown of the rules that can be found here. Reaching Higher NH - About the School Approval Rules - Takeaways from the NHED Proposed Overhaul
Question: What Happens Next?
In March, the State Board of Education tabled a discussion of the draft 306 rules. They can now be removed from the table at any time. The organization that drafted the rules is scheduled to speak to the State Board of Education at their October Meeting on Oct 11. If the State Board approves the draft of the rules in October, they will schedule a public hearing at least 45 days after their initial vote on the rules. Once a public hearing is held the State Board can revise the rules and then must vote on them again. The rules then go to the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR). Once JLCAR approves the rules they go back to the State Board for a final vote and then they become the rules that govern our local public schools.
Question: What Can I do?
It will be important that once the State Board of Education votes to grant initial approval and puts these rules out for public comment, we need for you to make your voice heard loud and clear. Our Granite State students deserve a robust public school education so they can learn and thrive. Our teachers, paraeducators and school staff deserve reasonable class sizes where they can focus on student learning. Both students and staff deserve clean, safe, well-maintained facilities. AFT-NH will provide concreate actions and outreach to the board to make sure they know that educators in New Hampshire do not support shortchanging Granite State students and families.
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