Governor’s Budget This week the Governor gave his budget address. It contained some headlines that sounded wonderful, but as always, the details are important. The budget proposal includes more than $200 million in increased spending on education overall and changes the formula for how state education aid is distributed. Not all of that goes to your neighborhood public school, however. It also doubles the amount of money that goes to the voucher program but of course does not strengthen the accountability or oversight of the program. In fact, more than one-quarter of the new spending in Sununu’s budget will go to his expanded voucher program, which serves a few thousand students. The neighborhood public schools that serve 165,000 Granite State students will get only about half of that $200,000. The budget also included increased funding for the University system of New Hampshire, a welcome departure from years of declining state support. We still do not have full details, including the source of the surplus Gov. Sununu is relying on to pay for all of this, since the full text of the budget has not been released.
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. My members work with approximately 29,000 of the 165,000 public school students in New Hampshire in one way or another. We also educate thousands of university students. I am writing today in opposition to HB 514, relative to the dissemination of obscene material by schools and institutions of higher learning.
HB 514 is an affront to education, educators, parents, and public school students across the Granite State. It is also an attack on the rights of adults to read, learn and explore culture in New Hampshire. Simply put, HB 514 opens the door to banning books within our public schools. By requiring all local school boards develop a process to resolve disputes about “objectionable or obscene” materials this bill invites complaints and anticipates censoring books and other materials. Nationwide, we have seen laws like this used to limit access in schools to books that deal with a whole variety of topics but most often focusing on race, racism, and the experiences of LGBTQ people. Objectionable and obscene are both subjective terms which make it easy to challenge almost any material as long as you can find at least one parent to say they are offended. While parents have the right to decide what their own children can read, this goes further and lets them decide what ALL children in a public school can read. Good books are meant to challenge the reader’s mind. They are meant to show us things we wouldn’t normally see in our lives. They may change our mind on topics, they may reinforce what we already believe. One thing is for sure; they are crucial to a child’s education.
Voucher expansion is right around the corner. We thought we would see a vote of the full House on voucher expansion on Tuesday, February 14th, but it was not placed on the House calendar. The full House will have to vote by the week of February 20th. We need your help to make sure our legislators understand the out-of-control voucher program cannot be expanded and that they should be making sure all students have a robust public education system. The two bills which would expand the current voucher program are HB 464 and HB 367.
In case you missed it, you can read the written testimony submitted by AFT-NH on these two bills at the following link AFT-NH President Deb Howes' Written Testimony In Opposition to HB 464 and HB 367.
Update on Action Needed We need you to start today by contacting your state representatives even though the vote won’t be this week. Once you take action, please share the action with family, friends, and allies.
You can click on the following link to find the contact information for your own state representative.
AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin
Public Education is still under attack. It was another busy week of public hearings on education bills. The bills ranged from public school choice allowing attendance at any school district in the state to trans bathroom bans to book bans. Extremism by anti-education politicians was in full force this week. Those bills and many others will be voted on in committee next week and we will keep you up to date on how the committee deals with these bills.
AFT-NH Testimony on HB 441
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
Thank you, Chairperson Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee, for reading my testimony.
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. My members work with approximately 29,000 of the 165,000 public school students in New Hampshire in one way or another. I am writing today in opposition to HB441, eliminating residency requirements for public school attendance.
We often say that all Granite State students should have access to a great public education regardless of which zip code they live in, and we mean it. New Hampshire has a long tradition of cherishing public education. It is so important, we enshrined public education in our constitution. Despite cherishing public education, New Hampshire has a problem with how it funds public education, as the courts have found repeatedly. And that is where the problem with this proposal comes in. NH ranks last in state funding for public schools. In fact, out of every dollar spent by a local school district, about $0.64 comes from local property taxes, $0.31 comes from state funding and the remaining $0.05 comes from federal funding, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
CONTACT THE NH SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE TODAY!
On Tuesday, the NH Senate Finance committee will begin discussing SB57: relative to the reduction in the calculation of state retirement annuities at age 65. This bill is one we have seen several times in the last few years because it moves the 10% reduction Group I members receive in their pension benefit at age 65 to social security age, which currently is 67.
Below there is a link to talking points with historical information as well as an email/call template for your outreach Most importantly, this year we are the CLOSEST to passing such legislation and WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Please take a moment to email and call the members of the Senate Finance committee who will vote on this bill next week. This bill impacts ALL active Group I members, but those closest to retiring could see an impact very soon. This bill would allow you to collect 20% more pension benefit between age 65-67.
Currently, the average Group I benefit average is approximately $20,000. This would mean if passed a Group I member will be able to collect an additional $4,000 between age 65 and 67 that they currently lose due to this law.
AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin
Well, it finally feels like winter. The temperatures this weekend will be dangerously cold, and we hope you are all able to stay warm in your homes and safe. If you do have to go out, please bundle up and be safe! And if you believe the groundhog, we will have 6 more weeks of winter!
Next week will be another big and busy week for education in the State House. This week the House Education Committee voted to expand the voucher program from 300% of federal poverty to 350%, despite the program already being over budget and without any accountability. We must stop this bill on the floor and will provide actions next week! In the meantime, below we have highlighted priorities for next week and actions to help push back and protect public education.
The Edelblut/Cordelli Book Ban Next week the House Education Committee will hear the Edelblut/Cordelli Book Ban. One part of HB 514 bans public schools from displaying or disseminating “obscene material” without, of course, a definition of what obscene material means. In an interview on WMUR just a couple of weeks ago, Frank Edelblut alluded to wanting to see books banned in public schools and we have already seen some school boards or school board members look to implement this disgusting practice. Obscene materials policies and book banning is also generally aimed at the LGBTQ community and banning books is often an attempt at erasing the LGTBQ community.
AFT-NH Testimony on SB 141
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
Thank you, Chairperson Ward and Members of the Senate Education Committee, for reading my testimony.
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 support to SB141, relative to administration of the education freedom accounts program
Let me be clear. I do not think that we should be having taxpayer funded education vouchers at all. I do believe that parents have a choice in where to send their children to school, or whether to educate them at home. I disagree with the notion that taxpayers have an obligation to fund that choice. I particularly disagree with the idea that taxpayers have an obligation to fund that choice with no real assurances that the money is being spent wisely or for the purpose intended. To that end, this bill would improve some gaps in the existing voucher program.
AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin (2023-04)
We hope you are all faring well now that winter has made its way into New Hampshire this week. Our snowblower got quite a workout, as did our generator. We have had snow, power outages, wind and rain – but none of it stopped the NH House and Senate from working on bills in committee last week.
Voucher Accountability Coming to the Senate This Week Conservatives and taxpayer advocates often speak of making sure government funds are spent well and are spent on what they were intended for. That standard seems to apply to a lot of things, but it has never applied to the school voucher program. Many of these same conservatives and taxpayer advocates are also ardent supporters of the state’s voucher program despite it being over budget and without necessary checks to make sure public money is being spent is being spent as it was intended. We also know that in other states with similar voucher programs we have seen a disturbing trend of an abuse of funds and outright fraud.
AFT-NH Testimony on HB440
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
Thank you, Chairman Ladd and Members of the House Education Committee, for reading my testimony.
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 HB440, relative to the uses of education trust fund.
The Education Trust Fund was set up to specifically fund public education, public schools, and the public school districts of New Hampshire. It was created to distribute adequate education aid to the public school districts as a part of the NH Legislature’s response to previous NH Supreme Court rulings on the inadequacy of state education funding for public schools. Those rulings established that NH students absolutely have a constitutional right to a public education and that the state has an obligation to fund it. This is not just my opinion but an obligation that is outlined in the language of the New Hampshire Constitution and reaffirmed by multiple court rulings.