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State House News

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AFT-NH: Students Would be Harmed and Not Protected by House’s Parental Bill of Rights CONCORD, N.H.—The following is a statement from AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes on the upcoming House vote on SB 272, the Parental Bill of Rights bill: “Schools are sometimes the only safe and welcoming places for some students, who should be able to count on teachers and school staff to protect them. The Senate’s parental bill of rights legislation blows that up. This bill puts certain students in danger, especially LGBTQIA+ students and those who are dealing with gender-identity issues. If a parent asks a teacher if their child is a member of a gay-straight alliance, the teacher would have to divulge what the student said, even in confidence. A teacher or other school employee also would have to have ‘clear and convincing’ evidence that a child would be harmed—for instance, by parents who objected to finding out their child joined a school club for gay students—before the school could keep the student’s trust instead of automatically complying with the parents’ request for information about activities that do not break any school rules or endanger the student in any way. “This bill puts teachers in the awful position of investigating student behavior that some parents find concerning, and snitching on those students, if asked by the parents, almost without regard for the consequences. We shouldn’t have to wait until we see actual bruises to help protect a child. MORE
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SB272: The So-Called Parental Bill of Rights What is it? The so-called parental bill of rights is a bill that would require teachers, if asked to “out” their students. The bill also changes the standard of reporting suspected child abuse for teachers. Currently as mandatory reporter’s, teachers report if they have a “reason to suspect” a child is being harmed or in imminent danger of being harmed. Under this bill the standard changes to teachers needing “clear and convincing” evidence of such harm before they can withhold information from parents that could potentially lead to the child being harmed by their parents or guardians. The bill also allows a private right of action against the school or staff member from the school if a parent feels their rights have been violated. Simply put, a parent could sue you for considering the potential harm to the student if it is judged not to be based on “clear and convincing” evidence instead of disclosing the information the parent wants. The bill is not unique to New Hampshire. So-called Parental Bill of Rights bills have been introduced in states across the country and in a federal bill that was introduced in the US Congress this year. These bills are targeted at the LGBTQ+ community but also continue to try to weaken our neighborhood public schools by eroding the trust between schools, teachers and students. MORE
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Take Action to Help Defeat SB 272 (So-Called Parental Rights Bill) Thirty years ago in the Claremont Decision, the NH Supreme Court ruled that the language of our state constitution guaranteed every child in NH the right to an adequate education through the public schools and that the state had a responsibility to fairly fund this education. This means that you should not get a significantly worse public education in one district of the state than another, based on your district’s ability to raise local taxes. The NH Legislature has spent a lot of time over the years debating what goes into an adequate public education but has yet to actually fund it fairly. Instead, what they have done two years ago is create a program that diverts tax money away from neighborhood public schools and the 165,000 students who rely on them and gives it to private schools, homeschooling families, tutors, educational technology companies and of course a 3rd party vendor who runs the voucher program at a 10% cost of all the tax money spent. Remember, this voucher scheme does not require that the student get a complete and robust education for the tax dollars spent. Nor does use of the voucher – public tax money – mean that a private school has to accept a student who doesn’t fit their “mission.” There is no independent fiscal accountability to make sure money is actually being spent on student’s learning needs or that families who are eligible still meet the program guidelines. So, with 165,000 public school students and their families still waiting after 30 years for fair public school funding, why is the NH Legislature spending so much of its time trying to expand the voucher scheme that currently applies to 3200 students? MORE
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AFT-NH testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on the State Budget Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH Thank you, Chair Gray and Members of the Senate Finance Committee, for reading my testimony. 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, higher education faculty and town and municipal employees across New Hampshire. My members work with nearly 30,000 of the 165,000 public school students in New Hampshire in one way or another as well as working with thousands of public university students. Every child in New Hampshire deserves a great education, on that I think we can all agree. We all want our children and grandchildren to learn reading, math and science, be inspired by music, art and literature, and have small class sizes, individual attention from a caring, teacher who is an expert in her subject and learning support from highly skilled paraeducators when needed. We also want our students to participate in hands on, experiential and project based learning, learn how to use new technologies to prepare them for jobs, life skills or for college. We want our children to have a well-stocked school library and know how to use it, understand all the lessons of history and the workings of civics so they can be full participants in our communities at all levels. MORE
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Take Action to Stop Expansion of School Vouchers in NH Now is the time for action to stop school voucher expansion in NH.   The State of New Hampshire has had 30 years since it lost the first Claremont lawsuit to fix the broken way we fund public education in the Granite State. The NH Supreme Court found that the funding system which relied overwhelmingly on revenue from local property taxpayers to provide a public education was unconstitutional because taxpayers in some towns got a much better education while paying much lower tax rates than those in other towns. Every two years the NH Legislature must decide how much of the state tax money it will give each public school district to provide an adequate public education. The funding formula passed by the NH House, while not perfect, at least provides the most financial support to schools in the cities and towns that need it the most. MORE
AFT-NH testimony on HB 464 and HB 367 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH Thank you, Chair Ward and Members of the Senate Education Committee, for reading my testimony. 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, higher education faculty and town and municipal employees across New Hampshire. My members work with nearly 30,000 of the 165,000 public school students in New Hampshire in one way or another as well as working with thousands of public university students. I am writing in opposition to HB 464 and HB 367, both of which would make many more students eligible for a state education voucher each equivalent to what the State of New Hampshire pays the local public school district for the education of a single student. As we know, and the New Hampshire courts have repeatedly agreed, our state has a constitutional duty to provide the opportunity for an adequate – even robust - public education to the children of every city, town and school district in the Granite State. It has yet to live up to that duty, as evidenced by ongoing court proceedings as recent as last week. By competing for the limited tax dollars available to the state, HB 464 and HB 367 make it even more difficult for NH to fulfill its obligation to the 165,000 students and their families who rely on neighborhood public schools to get their constitutionally  MORE
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School vouchers back up for consideration    School vouchers are a failed policy. These programs take tax money away from public schools and give it to families to spend as they choose on private schools that can reject students as well as on educational supplies, online classes, technology, enrichment programs, tutors or whatever. School vouchers have been shown in numerous studies in states across the country to be damaging to student achievement, increase school segregation and drain much needed resources away from neighborhood public schools. In fact, the overall negative impact on student achievement has been measured as equal to or greater than Hurricane Katrina or the disruptions of the COVID epidemic! So why would the notoriously frugal Granite State be pursuing expanding a policy that shows such poor return on the use of our valuable tax dollars?  The NH Senate will be considering expanding eligibility for NH’s existing school voucher system.  Next week on Tuesday, April 25th at 9:00am and 9:30am respectively, HB 367 and  HB 464 will be heard by the Senate Education Committee. It has been a while since we have talked about these bills, so let’s recap. HB 367 increases the eligibility of the voucher program to 350% of the federal poverty rate up from the current 300%. HB 464 increases the eligibility for certain subgroups, including whole geographic areas, some of which could potentially encompass most of the state, by totally removing the income cap from the voucher program. MORE
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AFT-NH Testimony on SB 272 From Debrah Howes, President of AFT-NH Thank you, Chair Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee, for reading my testimony. 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. My members work with approximately 29,000 of the 165,000 public school students in New Hampshire in one way or another as well as working with thousands of university students. I am writing today in opposition to SB 272, establishing the parental bill of rights. I urge you in no uncertain terms to vote “no” on SB 272 the so-called “Parental Bill of Rights.” This bill has very little to do with actually helping students or parents. Instead, it would force schools to divert their limited resources from teaching and supporting kids, into spying, reporting on and in some cases, actually endangering, children who are just trying to be themselves and live their lives in peace. It will hurt vulnerable students and drive good teachers and staff away from New Hampshire schools. It’s pure “performance politics.” MORE
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A budget is a statement of what a society values.  We know the Granite State has a poor track record in how it supports its public school students, and with your help we have been working hard to change that. We want to make sure that every public school student in New Hampshire has small class sizes, expert teachers, learning support from dedicated paraeducators and all the school support staff that help our children learn and thrive.

We need a state budget that:

  • helps towns and school districts with lower property tax bases by increasing the state education aid they get.
  • doesn’t expand the
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Public School Proud   This week showed what happens when you stand by your values, stand with your allies and call on lawmakers to stand up for the people in your communities. When you fight for what’s important you win, and this week, we did - for our, public schools, communities, and local property taxpayers. All About the Budget  At the beginning of the week, it looked like the NH House would take a vote on a state budget that was bad for public education. The budget that came out of House Finance this past week had a funding formula for public schools that hurt our communities that needed the most help, drastically expanded the over budget, unaccountable school voucher program and combined the Education Trust Fund – the dedicated piggy bank to pay for public education - with the General Fund. It also prevented new Community College System employees from joining the NH Retirement System. Thankfully, yesterday public education champions in the legislature fought to improve the budget and bring much needed changes. The funding formula was changed in the budget so that it helps all of our communities—especially those communities that need it the most. The voucher program was removed completely from the budget. The Community College employees will continue to be able to join the NH Retirement System. Unfortunately, the amendment to separate the Education Trust Fund from the General Fund again and protect it failed BUT the budget process is not over.  There will be time for the Senate to make that change and we will need your voices to make sure that happens. MORE