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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2023-05 Action Alert Well, it finally feels like winter. The temperatures this weekend will be dangerously cold, and we hope you are all able to stay warm in your homes and safe. If you do have to go out, please bundle up and be safe! And if you believe the groundhog, we will have 6 more weeks of winter! Next week will be another big and busy week for education in the State House. This week the House Education Committee voted to expand the voucher program from 300% of federal poverty to 350%, despite the program already being over budget and without any accountability. We must stop this bill on the floor and will provide actions next week! In the meantime, below we have highlighted priorities for next week and actions to help push back and protect public education. The Edelblut/Cordelli Book Ban  Next week the House Education Committee will hear the Edelblut/Cordelli Book Ban. One part of HB 514 bans public schools from displaying or disseminating “obscene material” without, of course, a definition of what obscene material means. In an interview on WMUR just a couple of weeks ago, Frank Edelblut alluded to wanting to see books banned in public schools and we have already seen some school boards or school board members look to implement this disgusting practice. Obscene materials policies and book banning is also generally aimed at the LGBTQ community and banning books is often an attempt at erasing the LGTBQ community. MORE
AFT-NH Testimony on SB 141 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH Thank you, Chairperson 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, public service employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. I am writing today in support to SB141, relative to administration of the education freedom accounts program Let me be clear. I do not think that we should be having taxpayer funded education vouchers at all. I do believe that parents have a choice in where to send their children to school, or whether to educate them at home. I disagree with the notion that taxpayers have an obligation to fund that choice. I particularly disagree with the idea that taxpayers have an obligation to fund that choice with no real assurances that the money is being spent wisely or for the purpose intended. To that end, this bill would improve some gaps in the existing voucher program. MORE
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AFT-NH  Legislative Bulletin (2023-04) Action Alert We hope you are all faring well now that winter has made its way into New Hampshire this week.  Our snowblower got quite a workout, as did our generator. We have had snow, power outages, wind and rain – but none of it stopped the NH House and Senate from working on bills in committee last week. Voucher Accountability Coming to the Senate This Week  Conservatives and taxpayer advocates often speak of making sure government funds are spent well and are spent on what they were intended for. That standard seems to apply to a lot of things, but it has never applied to the school voucher program. Many of these same conservatives and taxpayer advocates are also ardent supporters of the state’s voucher program despite it being over budget and without necessary checks to make sure public money is being spent is being spent as it was intended. We also know that in other states with similar voucher programs we have seen a disturbing trend of an abuse of funds and outright fraud. MORE
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AFT-NH Testimony on HB440 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH Thank you, Chairman 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. I am writing today in opposition to HB440, relative to the uses of education trust fund. The Education Trust Fund was set up to specifically fund public education, public schools, and the public school districts of New Hampshire. It was created to distribute adequate education aid to the public school districts as a part of the NH Legislature’s response to previous NH Supreme Court rulings on the inadequacy of state education funding for public schools. Those rulings established that NH students absolutely have a constitutional right to a public education and that the state has an obligation to fund it. This is not just my opinion but an obligation that is outlined in the language of the New Hampshire Constitution and reaffirmed by multiple court rulings. MORE
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AFT-NH Testimony on HB 533 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH To the NH House Judiciary Committee: Thank you, Chair Lynn and Members of the House Judiciary Committee, for hearing my testimony today. I am honored to have the chance to address you today. 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. I am writing today in opposition to HB533, relative to public school human rights complaints.   Two years ago, in the budget, the House passed the so-called “divisive concepts” law. This law, aimed at preventing teachers from teaching robust and honest history curriculum, has now been in place for nearly two years. After the law passed, guidance was put out that said we could still teach about discrimination as a “historical concept” as part of a larger course of history. There was no clear guidance on how to make connections between historical events and their consequences through time, a part of bringing context to historical facts and an important piece of the education process. The law said that a person who felt an educator had taught, or even implied, a so-called “divisive concept” deliberately or even unknowingly, could file a complaint through the NH Commission on Human Rights or with the Department of Justice. And the consequences of being found guilty of violating this law comes with the penalty that could include losing your teaching license and therefore your job. You could lose your job for actually just doing your job! If that wasn’t enough of a chilling effect on teachers and school staff, an outside right-wing group put an actual bounty on teachers and the Department of Education put a complaint form on the front page of its website to help parents file complaints. MORE
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AFT-NH Testimony on HB 272 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH Thank you, Chair Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee, for hearing my testimony this morning. 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. I am writing today in opposition to HB272, relative to increasing public school per pupil funding. Despite its title, this bill does not increase state funding for all public schools. This bill only increases funding for chartered public schools, which only serve a small fraction of the students our traditional neighborhood public schools serve. According to recent figures from the New Hampshire Department of Education from Oct. 2022, there are 161,827 students attending district public schools. Only 5,530 students attend public charter schools. The focus of this committee, this legislature and our expenditure of taxpayer money MUST be on ensuring the robust education promised to those more than 160,000 students in public district schools under the NH Constitution. MORE
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AFT-NH Testimony on HB 309 From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH To the NH House Education Committee Dear Chairman Ladd and Members of the Committee, My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers – NH. AFT-NH represents 4000 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. I write to you in opposition to HB 309 as it is written. This is not because we are opposed to teaching about the Civil Rights Era, but because we are opposed to the packaging and teaching of the Civil Rights Era out of its proper context in the full sweep of United States history. AFT- NH firmly believes in providing all students a robust, engaging and factual US history education so they can understand how our nation was formed, the changes it has undergone through the years, and how those changes have impacts and echoes down into current time. To teach the Civil Rights Era as a closed topic that ended in 1968 does a great disservice to our students, and to their parents who are relying on us to not only help students learn the facts but understand their significance. MORE
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Voucher Expansion Heard at the State House This Week  This week the House Education Committee heard two bills that would dramatically increase the amount of money spent on school vouchers in New Hampshire. Though the claim has always been that the purpose of this program is to help low-income families both of these bills would allow middle to high income families use of the voucher program. The voucher program, originally slated to cost just a few hundred thousand dollars has already ballooned to $30 million dollars and these bills would rise that cost even more and drain more money from our local public schools. We will have more actions for HB 464 and HB 367 as these bills continues to work their way through the legislature.  Thank you to all of you who took time to let the House Education Committee know that New Hampshire does not want to see this program expanded. You read the written testimony from AFT-NH President Deb Howes at the following link: Testimony Opposing HB 464 and HB 367. MORE
 AFT-NH testimony on HB 464 and HB 367 from Debrah Howes, AFT-NH President Thank you, Chairman 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. I would ordinarily present testimony on these bills in person, but due to a prior work travel commitment, I cannot. Michael O’Brien of Preti Strategies who works on behalf of AFT-NH at the State House will present for me.   I am writing in opposition to HB 464 and HB 367, both of which would make more students eligible for the state of New Hampshire’s school voucher program. MORE
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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2023-02 Granite Staters Push for Repeal of Divisive Concepts Law   It was a good week for advocates of public education this week. We had our first big hearing of the year with the repeal of divisive concepts being heard. The proponents of repealing this ridiculous and punitive law showed up with enormous strength and told compelling and personal stories of why we should get rid of the law. Of the people who gave testimony over 95% of them were in favor of repealing this terrible law. We thank you all for reaching out, emailing, and sharing your story and support of repeal with the committee. Ruling from U.S. District Court on Divisive Concepts Lawsuit    Shortly after the public hearing the District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro struck down the state’s attempt to throw out the divisive concept’s lawsuit brought by AFT, AFT-NH, NEA-NH and ACLU of New Hampshire. Not only did the judge allow the lawsuit to continue, but the language in his order was also strong and seemed to be persuaded by our arguments.   MORE