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?
Good news/ bad news on voucher expansion. The Senate Education Committee passed HB 367 which raises the income cap to 350% of the federal poverty level on the over-budget, zero accountability voucher program. That is not great news. However, they also voted to defeat HB 464 which had the potential to be completely devastating for our local neighborhood schools. HB 464 was a bill that had no income limit for multiple categories of people and could have bankrupted the education trust fund. Even senators who usually support vouchers steered away from this one!
The next step for HB 464 is a vote of “inexpedient to legislate” by the full Senate next Thursday (May 18). HB 367 will also be voted on next week by the full Senate. If HB 367 passes, the Senate will either send the bill to be included in the budget or they can decide not to send it to finance, and it will head to the governor’s desk for his signature. The way the voucher law is written allows for the irresponsible, unbudgeted spending we have seen in this program since it started.
Senate Bill 272 - So Called Parental Bill of Rights will be voted on by the full House next week on Thursday May 18th. This bill and its counterpart, HB10 (so-called parental rights that was introduced in the House) have dominated this session. The argument boils down to this; are you comfortable with a school staff member violating the trust of a student and putting themselves in between the parent-child relationship or do you believe that schools should continue to be a place where kids and young adults should be able to feel safe and thrive? This bill also dangerously raises the reporting level for teachers. Under this bill they would need “clear and convincing’ evidence to withhold information that might cause harm to a child, a much higher standard than currently exists. Make no mistake, this bill will erode trust in our public schools and puts kids in harms way. By singling out only students in the LGBTQ community, or those who appear to be so, for surveillance by school staff and required “complete and truthful” reporting to parents, this bill also requires teachers and school staff to discriminate against those students.
URGENT ACTION NEEDED
Please take action now to defeat Senate Bill 272. Please CONTACT YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE AND ASK THEM TO VOTE ITL ON SB 272. It is critical for our schools and all New Hampshire kids that this bill fails next week.
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You can also read written testimony submitted to the legislature at STATE HOUSE NEWS.