AFT-NH Testimony on HB 272
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
Thank you, Chair Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee, for hearing my testimony this morning.
My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers-NH. AFT-NH represents 4,000 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. I am writing today in opposition to HB272, relative to increasing public school per pupil funding.
Despite its title, this bill does not increase state funding for all public schools. This bill only increases funding for chartered public schools, which only serve a small fraction of the students our traditional neighborhood public schools serve. According to recent figures from the New Hampshire Department of Education from Oct. 2022, there are 161,827 students attending district public schools. Only 5,530 students attend public charter schools. The focus of this committee, this legislature and our expenditure of taxpayer money MUST be on ensuring the robust education promised to those more than 160,000 students in public district schools under the NH Constitution.
Charter schools already receive more funding than neighborhood public schools. Yet the cost of transporting charter school students to their schools and providing any needed Special Education and related services remains with the public school district budget, which the per pupil aid distributed to charter schools does nothing to support. This bill increases the amount of money charter schools receive while keeping New Hampshire’s status as the worst in the nation for state funding of our public schools overall, most of which are traditional neighborhood public schools.
Two years ago, New Hampshire accepted a grant to expand the number of charter schools in the state. The total grant would in fact double the amount of charter schools New Hampshire had at the time. This despite clear warning signs that the current charter schools in the state were both not at capacity and were struggling to remain open. Not to mention that 7 of the 10 lowest academically performing schools in the state on the statewide assessment test are charter schools. The fiscal note on SB272 does not take into account a larger influx of charter schools which would drain more resources from the education trust fund. This on top of the already ballooning costs of the voucher program.
There is no way around the fact that New Hampshire has a school funding problem. We are repeatedly told that charter schools in New Hampshire are public schools just like any other public school in the state. If this is true, much like the title of the bill suggests, ALL public schools should be receiving a boost in state funding, not just a small subset of them.
We encourage the education committee to use this bill to have serious conversations around school funding reform so that all of our schools can benefit from better state funding and property taxpayers can see some needed relief.
We urge to vote HB272 inexpedient to legislate and focus on robustly funding the neighborhood public schools to make sure that all our students can thrive.
President, AFT-New Hampshire