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AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1603 (defining certain school information as governmental records under the right to know law)

Testimony on HB 1603

From: Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH

To: NH House Judiciary Committee

Dear Chairman Edward Gordon 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.

We write to you in opposition to HB1603. While we welcome the active participation of parents in the education of their children, we also know that there are already multiple ways to review curriculum. Many school districts make curriculum available through their websites. Schools also address the curriculum that will be used through Open Houses and print or online newsletters. Teachers and school administration are always just a phone call or email away if a parent ever has a question about curriculum, whether it is a particular assignment that has come home, or the overall scope and sequence of a course. Local school boards have presentations, discussions and voting in open meetings when a new curriculum is adopted. We want parents to understand what their children are learning and feel comfortable supporting that learning at home. The richest learning experiences happen when parents and schools can work together as partners.

The reason we oppose this bill is we don’t want curriculum to become a static artifact and have teachers locked into a set list because that is what has been posted on a website or disclosed after a parent request. Good teachers know that sometimes you have to follow student need and give extra practice on a skill. You may need to add additional readings to the curriculum to practice a skill until students reach proficiency. Other times a good teacher takes an all too rare opportunity to follow student interest and go beyond what is in the set curriculum. As a reading teacher, there were times when I would reward my students with a bonus story in a genre they enjoyed, always following district policy on acceptable materials. My students loved these learning treats! They would be practicing a skill they needed but exploring a topic or writing style that interested them. Those kinds of joyful learning experiences become much harder to manage, and less likely to happen if the teacher has to worry about making sure each article and book is officially recorded.

Those examples show two of the unintended consequences of this bill. Curricula is almost never stagnant, nor should it be. Teachers update it throughout the year based on many factors including current events and the needs and interests of the students in their classroom. What may be true at the beginning of the year could change even 5 weeks into the school year. If a request is made and then the curricula changes after the information has been received, what happens then? This particular piece of legislation is neither warranted or needed and will just cause additional stress on our teachers.

We urge you to vote ITL on HB 1603.

Sincerely, Debrah Howes

President AFT-NH

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