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 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 thousands of university students. We are residents and taxpayers in the Granite State. I am writing today in support of HB 451, relative to the state board of education prohibition on discrimination.
This bill would update the necessary guardrails that protect students from unlawful discrimination in admissions and access to any publicly funded educational programs and activities. State law already prohibits such discrimination in public schools, of course. This bill specifically adds language prohibiting discrimination by any entity receiving state or federal funding—including private schools, online programs, or educational vendors that use voucher funds.
That’s important, because in recent years, our state legislature has passed bills creating one of the nation’s most expansive, costly, and unaccountable voucher programs. We need to ensure that these programs don’t allow discrimination on the taxpayers’ dime.
For most of our members who work in public schools you have made it to winter break. Hopefully whether your break was this week or is next, you find some time to relax and recharge. The legislature is also taking a break next week with most committees not meeting next week and the full House and Senate are taking a breather as well.
While the legislature is taking a break, it also means when it comes back activity will happen at a rapid pace. This week we have seen two dramatic voucher expansion bills. One bill that would eliminate the income requirement so anyone, no matter how much money they make, could take a voucher and have taxpayers subsidize private school tuition, gymnastics, music lessons, summer camp or any other “educational” expense. Another bill that would create a local voucher program which would require localities who opt in to pay out approximately $10,000 from local property taxes that fund the local neighborhood public schools for every person who takes a voucher. This could bankrupt many school districts and lead to barebones programs at your neighborhood public school and higher property taxes. When the legislature returns from the break, the House Education committee will vote on both of these bills.
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 thousands of university students. We are residents and taxpayers in the Granite State. I am writing today in opposition to HB 538, relative to establishing a local education freedom account program.
HB 538 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. As school districts struggle to cover costs, we’ll see massive cuts: Music, art, student learning support from paraeducators, library, transportation, and sports would all be on the chopping block as local communities struggle to keep up with cutbacks necessitated by having to fund two systems of education. The NH Constitution places a duty on the state to provide and fund a public education for all Granite State children. This bill would oblige local taxpayers to pick up the tab for a second system of education based on families’ individual choices. Since there is only so much money you can wring out of local taxpayers, the creation of this second system of education would lead to cutbacks in the constitutionally required public education system.
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 thousands of university students. We are residents and taxpayers in the Granite State. As such, I can unreservedly say we oppose HB 331, which would eliminate any income threshold for a family to be eligible for a school voucher.
By removing the income threshold HB 331 would create additional liability on the state of New Hampshire to fund whatever educational choices a parent wants without any regard for the taxpayers’ ability to pay. The state has long recognized its duty to provide a public education, so much so that it is enshrined in our state’s constitution. The original voucher program put taxpayers on the hook for parents’ educational choices, other than the public schools, for families below a certain income level. There are legal arguments why the original program was incorrect and a bad idea. Eliminating any income threshold just increases the state’s liability does nothing to address the legal shakiness of the program.
Governor’s Budget This week the Governor gave his budget address. It contained some headlines that sounded wonderful, but as always, the details are important. The budget proposal includes more than $200 million in increased spending on education overall and changes the formula for how state education aid is distributed. Not all of that goes to your neighborhood public school, however. It also doubles the amount of money that goes to the voucher program but of course does not strengthen the accountability or oversight of the program. In fact, more than one-quarter of the new spending in Sununu’s budget will go to his expanded voucher program, which serves a few thousand students. The neighborhood public schools that serve 165,000 Granite State students will get only about half of that $200,000. The budget also included increased funding for the University system of New Hampshire, a welcome departure from years of declining state support. We still do not have full details, including the source of the surplus Gov. Sununu is relying on to pay for all of this, since the full text of the budget has not been released.
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. We also educate thousands of university students. I am writing today in opposition to HB 514, relative to the dissemination of obscene material by schools and institutions of higher learning.
HB 514 is an affront to education, educators, parents, and public school students across the Granite State. It is also an attack on the rights of adults to read, learn and explore culture in New Hampshire. Simply put, HB 514 opens the door to banning books within our public schools. By requiring all local school boards develop a process to resolve disputes about “objectionable or obscene” materials this bill invites complaints and anticipates censoring books and other materials. Nationwide, we have seen laws like this used to limit access in schools to books that deal with a whole variety of topics but most often focusing on race, racism, and the experiences of LGBTQ people. Objectionable and obscene are both subjective terms which make it easy to challenge almost any material as long as you can find at least one parent to say they are offended. While parents have the right to decide what their own children can read, this goes further and lets them decide what ALL children in a public school can read. Good books are meant to challenge the reader’s mind. They are meant to show us things we wouldn’t normally see in our lives. They may change our mind on topics, they may reinforce what we already believe. One thing is for sure; they are crucial to a child’s education.
Voucher expansion is right around the corner. We thought we would see a vote of the full House on voucher expansion on Tuesday, February 14th, but it was not placed on the House calendar. The full House will have to vote by the week of February 20th. We need your help to make sure our legislators understand the out-of-control voucher program cannot be expanded and that they should be making sure all students have a robust public education system. The two bills which would expand the current voucher program are HB 464 and HB 367.
In case you missed it, you can read the written testimony submitted by AFT-NH on these two bills at the following link AFT-NH President Deb Howes' Written Testimony In Opposition to HB 464 and HB 367.
Update on Action Needed We need you to start today by contacting your state representatives even though the vote won’t be this week. Once you take action, please share the action with family, friends, and allies.
You can click on the following link to find the contact information for your own state representative.
AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin
Public Education is still under attack. It was another busy week of public hearings on education bills. The bills ranged from public school choice allowing attendance at any school district in the state to trans bathroom bans to book bans. Extremism by anti-education politicians was in full force this week. Those bills and many others will be voted on in committee next week and we will keep you up to date on how the committee deals with these bills.
AFT-NH Testimony on HB 441
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
Thank you, Chairperson 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. I am writing today in opposition to HB441, eliminating residency requirements for public school attendance.
We often say that all Granite State students should have access to a great public education regardless of which zip code they live in, and we mean it. New Hampshire has a long tradition of cherishing public education. It is so important, we enshrined public education in our constitution. Despite cherishing public education, New Hampshire has a problem with how it funds public education, as the courts have found repeatedly. And that is where the problem with this proposal comes in. NH ranks last in state funding for public schools. In fact, out of every dollar spent by a local school district, about $0.64 comes from local property taxes, $0.31 comes from state funding and the remaining $0.05 comes from federal funding, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
CONTACT THE NH SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE TODAY!
On Tuesday, the NH Senate Finance committee will begin discussing SB57: relative to the reduction in the calculation of state retirement annuities at age 65. This bill is one we have seen several times in the last few years because it moves the 10% reduction Group I members receive in their pension benefit at age 65 to social security age, which currently is 67.
Below there is a link to talking points with historical information as well as an email/call template for your outreach Most importantly, this year we are the CLOSEST to passing such legislation and WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Please take a moment to email and call the members of the Senate Finance committee who will vote on this bill next week. This bill impacts ALL active Group I members, but those closest to retiring could see an impact very soon. This bill would allow you to collect 20% more pension benefit between age 65-67.
Currently, the average Group I benefit average is approximately $20,000. This would mean if passed a Group I member will be able to collect an additional $4,000 between age 65 and 67 that they currently lose due to this law.