February 19, 2022 ~ Bow, NH
Good News on Local Voucher Bill This week we are going to try something new and start with good news. HB 607 (local school vouchers) which was put on the table during the last legislative session on January 6th remained there with no attempt by House Republicans to try to advance it. Strong turnout from both Democratic and Republican supporters of public education and local property taxpayers prevented pro-voucher forces from taking action. Since HB 607 would need to go to House Finance next, it will take a 2/3rd majority vote of the House to move it forward. HB 607 would have been a huge blow to taxpayers, our students, teachers, and school staff and we want to say thank you again to all those who stood with our public schools.
Other House Action on Education Bills That wasn’t the only good news from the House session this week as bills that dealt with everything from charter schools, to masking and the ability to move your child out of schools and into an EFA program due to mask policies were defeated in the House. The bills defeated would have done real damage to public education and we are glad to see them be voted down.
Great News on Retirement System Bills There were also victories on retirement bills. The House passed HB 1417-FN which will restore state payments of 7.5% of the employer share of NH Retirement System costs will save cities and towns millions and will reduce the pressure on local property taxpayers. HB 1535-FN providing a COLA for retirees also passed. Both bills go next to the House Finance Committee so they are not yet done in the House. Please stay tuned for updates.
Bad News on the Public Education Front Now for the not so good news. On Tuesday, the House Education Committee heard HB 1671. HB 1671 is just another in a long line of attempts to gut public education in New Hampshire, written by a commissioner who would enjoy nothing more than watching our public education system fall apart. The bill as written would restrict core curriculum to just four parts—English, Math, Science and Social Studies. Everything else in public schools would become optional and remove the core academic domains for art, health and physical education, engineering, computer science, digital literacy, and world languages. For students across this state that means they could lose their music, art, computer or foreign language classes. For the student who struggles in these core subject areas but has music to look forward to—they would lose the part of school they loved the most. This is truly setting low expectations for public school students and ill preparing them for life outside of school. Our students deserve rich and full education, and this bill would disincentivize that. HB1671 would be a tremendous blow to our public schools and students. We should be finding ways to enrich their educational experiences—not to restrict them.
Action Request The House Education Committee could act on this bill as soon as next week, so we would ask you to email the house Education Committee at House Education Committee members and ask them to defeat HB 1671 and maintain the core academic domains as part of a robust public education.
Looking Ahead Next week there will be a series of bills which will be voted on in executive session. Additionally, they are going to hold the House hearings on banning masks in schools. As we have said in the past, we would all prefer to go back to not having to wear masks but the reality is for a select number of districts that masks are a way to ensure that kids can remain in classrooms. Ultimately, this is a local control matter and it should be treated that way.
Lastly—the governor gave his state of the state speech this week and as we predicted, he thanked himself and took credit for almost everything. He even managed to give himself credit for schools staying open. We know who the credit belongs to for that, and it is not the governor. Schools have stayed open due to the hard work and determination of our members across the state who have gone above and beyond to keep things running. He also praised the new school voucher program- a program 8 million dollars over budget—so much for fiscal conservatism. You can read AFT-NH President Deb Howes’ statement at AFT-NH President Deb Howes' Reaction to Governor’s State of the State Address.
Once again, Thank you for all that you do.
Please continue to check our website at http://nh.aft.org/ for updates on how we can protect public education, public services, the NH Retirement System, and advance initiatives as we work to continually improve it.
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You can also read written testimony submitted to the legislature at STATE HOUSE NEWS.
NH Retirement Security Coalition The NHRSC will be tracking all bills related to the NH Retirement System and continuing advocacy for our members. You can find the legislation tracker following retirement bills by clicking on the following link NHRSC UPDATES. AFT-NH is a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition (NHRSC).
Legislative Schedule for Week of February 19, 2022