This was a mixed week for public education. Let’s start with the good news.
Town election day was March 14th for most SB 2 towns and school districts across the state. Of course, an epic nor’easter that dropped 8 to 38 inches of heavy, wet snow and knocked out power to thousands altered those plans for many. Luckily, a recent state law allows voters to vote absentee the day before Town Meeting Day if a winter storm warning has been declared, so they don’t have to endanger themselves to get to the polls. In the interest of public safety, seventy towns postponed their elections for two weeks and rescheduled for March 28th. For those who persevered and held voting, the results showed that even in a raging snowstorm, Granite State voters showed up to support public school students, teachers, and school support staff and their local, neighborhood public schools.
At AFT-NH, we were following closely several elections and ballot questions:
- Weare voters approved a two-year contract for the Weare Educational Support Staff. This contract makes significant improvement in pay for our paraeducators.
- Voters in the Timberlane Regional School District (towns of Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow, and Sandown) approved a three-year contract for the Timberlane Support Staff Union and a one-year contract for the Timberlane Teachers’ Association.
- In Wolfeboro, voters passed a petition warrant article rejected banning books in public schools or the public library by a 2 to 1 margin.
- In Croydon, Angi Beaulieu, a key organizer of the fight to restore the school budget and keep public school available for all grade levels handily won a seat on the school board. Jody Underwood, who was seen as tied to the efforts to slash the budget in half was unseated.
House Action This week HB 514, the Cordelli Book Ban and HB 104, the trans bathroom ban were tabled by the full House. That prevents any further actions on them for now, but we need to remain vigilant. Those bills could still come off the table but after next Thursday it will take a 2/3rds vote of the House for that to happen, something which is almost impossible in an evenly divided House.
Voucher Bills The House Education Committee dead-locked on HB 331 a bill that would allow a student to take a voucher no matter what the income level of the family is. This bill could have retirees who are struggling to pay their property taxes and keep their homes subsidizing the private school tuition – through vouchers – of the children of hedge fund managers who attend Phillips Exeter Academy. The House Education Committee also deadlocked on HB 538 a bill that would bring vouchers to the local level again with no income cap leaving local property taxpayers to foot the bill for the ultra-wealthy who want to send their kids to private or parochial schools. Both of these bills will come to the floor for a vote by the full House next week.
Parental Bill of Rights Also coming to the floor next week is HB 10, the so-called Parental Bill of Rights. An almost identical bill, SB 272 passed the Senate this week, making it even more important the House take a strong stand. We have talked about this bill before and its shortcomings. No one argues that parents have many strong rights when raising their children and these two bills attempt to explain those rights. They also attempt to make teachers and school staff extensions of each individual parents’ authority and subject to each individual parents’ wishes in how they want to raise their children. This is where the bills get problematic. We all know that when schools and parents work as partners to support students, the students achieve the best academically and thrive. These bills, unfortunately, don’t allow for partnership, only obedience or punishment. Additionally, the penalties for a violation of this law are completely out of line. Teachers can receive up to a year in prison, a $2,000 fine, loss of license and a private right of action for any violation of HB 10. The bills are also problematic because they require teachers and school staff to discriminate against students, specifically to treat a student differently if they are (or are believed to be) LGBTQ+ than if they are not. The NH Legislature should NOT be passing any laws that require teachers to discriminate against their students.
These are not the only bills that are important to public education next week, but they are some of the most important. The House calendar for next week is lengthy. We encourage you to review the calendar at this link, NH HOUSE CALENDAR.
Please Contact Your Representatives. We implore you to reach out to your Representative and tell them to vote no on these bills so New Hampshire can continue to have some of the strongest public schools in the nation.
You can find your representative at this link Contact Your Representative. Thank you for all that you do.
For breaking news and other legislative information, please be sure to like us on Facebook at AFT New Hampshire or follow us on Twitter @AFTNewHampshire to receive the latest news. Please share this with friends so they can sign up for this bulletin at http://nh.aft.org/.
You can also read written testimony submitted to the legislature at STATE HOUSE NEWS.