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AFT-NH and its members want to see an investment in our states’ pension system with a portfolio that considers both strategic and responsible investments to ensure the best sustained return over the long term. HB 1267 would artificially limit what investments could be considered by the trustees of the retirement system. This is not a rational strategy for assessing long, or medium term risk, or even potential for growth. Assessing exposure to lawsuits for environmental clean-up or evaluating the promise of new and emerging technology to solve pressing environmental problems are examples of analysis that could be both within this bill’s proscribed realm of ESG, yet still be exercising sound financial management when considering investments. This bill leaves no room for an investment strategy that is both.

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This bill is carefully crafted to make anyone who opposes wholesale censorship and book banning and stands up for the rights of students to access a wide variety of materials look like they are somehow on the wrong side of this issue. But a careful reading of the bill shows why that impression is mistaken. The bill opens with a graphic catalogue of the kinds of content this bill’s authors deem obscene. It’s pretty disturbing how this bill dwells so much on defining graphic material. What’s even more disturbing though, is the damage it will do in our schools. It will take away parental voice and local control. The sneaky way it broadens the definition by adding subjective categories harmful to minors and age-inappropriate material until that could apply to almost anything. The way it demonizes, instead of supporting, reading.

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SB 375 looks to limit students to playing on student athletic teams that coincide with their ”unambiguous sex” at birth. Human life is not nearly that simple or unambiguous, and we cannot all be neatly divided into one category or another, nor can the students in our schools. AFT-NH stands in opposition to this bill because in order for students to be successful in school they need to feel welcome, safe, and a part of the school community.  When children and young adults play sports, it is often a place where they feel they belong most, a place where they are taught work with a team and a place where they forge peer relationships with others their own age.  Please note there was a similar bill in the House, HB 1205, which AFT-NH opposed as well.

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While the courts have ruled that it is legal for the State to not contribute, that does not mean it is right. The State should lower local property tax burdens and support HB 1279. This bill does not bring us back to the 40% the State originally contributed, but just to 7.5% to help ease municipal budgets and to give Granite Staters a break on their property tax bills.

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HB 1205 looks to ban students who consistently and persistently identify as transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. AFT-NH stands in opposition to this bill because in order for students to be successful in school they need to feel welcome, safe, and a part of the school community.  When children and young adults play sports, it is often a place where they feel they most belong, a place where they are taught work with a team and a place where they forge  peer relationships with others their own age.

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HB 1311, also known as the Freedom to Read bill, strikes the right balance in recognizing the needs, interests and responsibilities of students, families, and schools. It requires that all school districts adopt clear policies on how they build their library collections and on what steps to take if a parent or guardian feels material is in the collection that doesn’t belong there or is at the wrong age level. This is the right balance, respecting the interests of all involved.

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More Book Banning and Retirement Bills

Week in Review    The noise and activity of the presidential primary campaigns have cleared out, but the NH legislature continues to churn in Concord. This past week the legislature heard, and committees voted on, dozens of bills including one bill that would expand the school voucher program so that municipalities would have to foot the bill and one bill that would eliminate all but history, math, English and social studies from mandatory public school curricula. This bill, as introduced, would further exacerbate the gap in our public schools where schools in property rich communities will be able to continue offering a robust variety of subjects important to a well-rounded education like art or music, advanced sciences and upper-level math or in-person financial literacy. Students in property poor towns won’t have those as dedicated subjects, although they could get a passing mention in a core class. Their public education will suffer because of it, yet they are still Granite State citizens with the same constitutional right to an equally robust public education regardless of which district they reside in New Hampshire.

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AFT-NH President Deb Howes testified in support of SB 525 which would provide for annual income verification for eligibility for the school voucher program. Supporters of the voucher scheme claim it is targeted to only those neediest families, to allow them more educational options, but that is not exactly true. Without getting into an argument over where to draw the line for which families are considered needy, the voucher program only has means testing in the first year. It does not look at family income level at all in any year after that, yet a student could be in the voucher program for 13 years. While a family may be under 350% when a student starts the voucher program, they could easily be over it any year, or every year, after that. Unlike every other means tested program, these folks will keep getting public funds designed for public schools.

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Yet, instead of rising to this challenge, some New Hampshire politicians are considering House Bill 1691, a bill that drastically narrows what public schools would be required to teach to four core domains: English Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. If this bill passes, public school students across the state could find classes in computer science and digital literacy,   personal finance literacy, engineering and technology, world languages, music and art education,   as well as physical education, health, and wellness treated as nonessential luxuries which are no longer part of a state mandated “adequate education.” Yet these are all subjects and content areas  that are instrumental to the academic and personal development of students and the economic and technological development of our state as part of a global economy.

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HB 1652 would create a local voucher program that could easily decimate our local neighborhood public schools and rapidly increase already burdensome property taxes across New Hampshire. The new program will further impoverish our neighborhood public schools, leaving our students with only a threadbare education. AFT-NH President Deb Howes testified in opposition to this bill before the House Education Committee today.

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