Public News Service - March 20, 2023
Educators in New Hampshire say a proposed "parental bill of rights" before lawmakers discriminates against LGBTQ students.
The legislation requires schools to inform parents of a student's sexual orientation or gender identity should a parent inquire. Educators could be sued in civil court, face fines or even jail time if they fail to truthfully respond.
Deb Howes, president of the American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire, said teachers should not be forced to "out" students, and parents should talk with their children themselves.
CONCORD, N.H.— Today, Governor Sununu delivered his budget address. During the budget address the governor announced more money to our neighborhood public schools while also increasing public money to the ballooning, unaccountable and unproven voucher program. AFT-NH President Deb Howes released the following statement:
“The money to our local neighborhood public schools is welcome and long overdue. Our public schools have long been some of the least funded in the country and local property taxpayers have been forced to pick up the tab. We are happy to see more state funds going to support the educational needs of our students in our local neighborhood schools by increasing the base adequacy aid and free and reduced aid per student.
However, the governor’s budget also included a dramatic increase of funding for the state’s voucher program. The funding for the program, which is already massively over-budget, should not come out of the education trust fund, which is constitutionally obligated to fund only our public schools.
CONCORD, N.H.—The following is a statement from AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes on HB 514, a bill to provide a procedure for people to complain about so-called obscene materials in K-12 and higher education classes and public libraries but that does not even clearly define what would be considered obscene:
“For all intents and purposes, this legislation about the dissemination of obscene materials is a book ban bill. Incredibly, the bill’s sponsors don’t even have the guts to clearly define what would be considered obscene, so it’s really meant to intimidate teachers and deprive students—both school-aged and adults—of books that one person who files a complaint deems objectionable. It practically begs parents or guardians to complain about a particular book to their local school board in the case of public schools, opening the way to a chaotic free-for-all. For public universities, public libraries and museums, it adds the Department of Education to the agencies that can initiate legal hearings to find material ‘obscene’ after receiving anonymous citizen complaints. Higher education faculty actually could be arrested, charged and indicted if they are found to be using a book that is judged to be obscene, whatever that means.
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.
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.
AFT-New Hampshire Tells Federal Court Its Lawsuit Against Divisive Concepts Law Should Proceed
CONCORD, N.H.—AFT-New Hampshire urged a federal court today to allow its federal lawsuit against the so-called divisive concepts law to proceed, arguing the law is unconstitutionally vague and violates teachers’ and students’ free speech rights.
According to the lawsuit, AFT-NH contends the “Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education” law 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 state has asked the U.S. District Court in Concord to dismiss AFT-NH’s lawsuit and a similar one by the American Civil Liberties Union.
CONCORD, N.H.— Today, the Department of Education released its latest data on the voucher program enacted by Republicans in last year's budget.
AFT-NH President Deb Howes released the following statement:
“The numbers show a disturbing trend of the vast majority of vouchers being used by students who were already in private school or already being homeschooled. The voucher program has cost the state $14.7 million since its inception, a tab local property taxpayers will be forced to absorb in their city and town budgets. All of this while we know our local neighborhood public schools continue to support the majority of our students in New Hampshire. The state should be focusing on how to support the almost 170,000 public school students so that every child in New Hampshire is receiving the best education possible instead of just focusing on a few students who use a voucher.”
School Assessment Scores Show New Hampshire Public Schools Are In A Strong Position With More Work To Be Done (AFT-NH President Deb Howes)
CONCORD, N.H.— Yesterday, the New Hampshire Department of Education released assessment data showing that New Hampshire’s public schools continue to make improvements getting closer to pre-pandemic levels of achievement. AFT-NH President Deb Howes released the following statement:
“It is no secret that the last three years have been difficult on students, teachers, school support staff, and administrators. This past year in particular teachers had to focus not just on the content that they are required to teach but also on content that may have been missed due to hybrid and remote learning. Teachers, support staff, and students worked overtime re-establishing safe learning communities and focusing both on relationships and academics.
AFT-NH President Howes issued the following statement on the tragic events in Uvalde, TX
“AFT-NH is heartbroken by the incomprehensible violence that took 19 precious students and 2 educators in Uvalde, TX yesterday. We offer our profound condolences to the families of the students and educators lost, as well as the whole community that is struggling to understand what happened. Those children were in a place where they should have been safe, learning together, laughing together, counting down the hours to the end of the school year. They should have gone home at the end of the day to their families who love them. Those families will now mourn for them, along with their school community and a town that are forever changed. We cannot accept that this kind of violence is the price of freedom. Children have a right to live and grow up. We mourn with the families and school community of Uvalde but also demand better solutions from our lawmakers at all levels so that our schools can be safe places for our students and educators."
CONCORD, N.H. – The broad coalition of educators, advocacy groups, and law firms challenging the state’s ‘banned concepts’ law filed on Friday a new court brief objecting to the state’s attempt to dismiss the case. The brief highlights consistent and renewed concerns that the law discourages public school teachers from teaching and talking about race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity in the classroom. The current case before the Court consolidates two lawsuits, one filed by educators Andres Mejia and Tina Kim Philibotte and National Education Association – New Hampshire, and one from the American Federation of Teachers.
Andres Mejia and Tina Kim Philibotte, both New Hampshire school administrators for diversity, equity, and inclusion, are among the plaintiffs in the case represented by ACLU-NH, and argue that the vague law is an unconstitutional chill on educator’s voices that prevents students from having an open and complete dialogue about the perspectives of historically marginalized communities.