To the New Hampshire 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 3,500 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees, and higher education staff across New Hampshire.
AFT New Hampshire strongly opposes HB 1679. This bill is a centralized, top-down attempt to mandate the break-up of cooperative and regional school districts that shows no respect for the local voters and taxpayers in the towns and school districts involved. Such a drastic move would arbitrarily and unfairly disrupt the education of thousands of public-school students, destroying an educational and operational model that has been successful for decades in our state.
Cooperative and regional school districts work. They allow small towns to band together to share school buildings, teachers, staff, operating and administrative costs, and capital expenses. Cooperative school systems give students in smaller towns access to academics, sports, art, music, and other services and programs their town alone can’t offer. But ignoring the common-sense, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule, HB 1679 would require that cooperative and regional school districts dissolve themselves by June 30, 2025. It gives cooperative districts less than a year to create a dissolution plan. It also bans the formation of new cooperative/regional school districts.
Students will suffer if this bill passes. They could find themselves suddenly without the teachers, staff, schools, programs, peer friendships and social supports they’ve always had. Plus, ending shared services could result in students losing services such as school nurses, social workers, and enrichment programs. After everything our children have been through with the pandemic, inflicting more disruption and uncertainty on them and their families is simply cruel.
The bill’s sponsors can’t offer any sensible reason for creating chaos in school districts that were governing themselves just fine. In fact, the bill makes no mention of how this upheaval would improve education or help children. One straw man argument – the rare possibility that districts may want to exit cooperative agreements – is already addressed in an existing state law (NH RSA 195: 26-20) which provides for a withdrawal process. HB 1679 is a sledgehammer when a scalpel would do.
This consequence of this bill, intended on not, will be more pressure to privatize public schools – forcing districts to tuition students out, forcing families into the voucher program and forcing local taxpayers to foot the bill. This is not what Granite Staters want. In a Dec. 2021 Hart Research Associates poll, New Hampshire registered voters solidly opposed spending public dollars for private schooling. They overwhelmingly said the legislature should focus on making public schools better for all kids instead of using tax money on vouchers to benefit a few.
Our children need so much right now: stability, social and emotional supports, and safe and welcoming schools so we can help them not only recover from the disruptions of the past 18 months but thrive.
Please stop HB 1679 in its tracks and focus on investing in the great public schools our kids deserve.
Debrah Howes President, AFT-NH