June 24, 2022 ~ Bow, NH
In each biennium of the New Hampshire Legislature an issue is identified early that will be the focus of both the House and Senate. This year it became very clear immediately after Republicans took control of both chambers that the issue they were going to focus on was public education. There have been bills to control what can be taught and how teachers and students talk about it. There have been bills to take tax money from supporting the learning of all students attending public schools and divert it so a few students could attend private schools or programs. There have been many bills to limit the authority of locally elected school boards because partisan activists did not like the responses they were getting from these locally elected officials. This, as we know, did not happen in a vacuum. Public education has become a political issue nationally with everything from misinformation to disinformation to outright lies being used to rally a political base at the expense of our children’s education.
Strong finish to the Legislative Session
HB 1431 Defeated
May 27, 2022 ~ Bow, NH
WE DID IT! In a victory for our students, this week we officially defeated HB 1431 in the House. Schools will remain a place where LGBTQ+ kids can have conversations with trusted adults and where they can feel safe having those conversations. The session is now done, and it was a great way to end it! 13 Republicans joined with all the Democrats and the two independents in the House to defeat the bill. The language we heard from opponents of this bill was truly disturbing, to put it mildly, but in the end, it was great to see this bill defeated.
With the session now over, we turn our attention to candidate filing. The New Hampshire House needs strong supporters of public education. If you are interested in running for office, you should contact President Deb Howes at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help with the process. The filing period opens on the 1st and closes on the 10th. We really do need you to step up for your communities and our schools and run for office.
As we said above the session is now over. The end of the school year is just 3 weeks away. We hope everyone can take a break this summer and recharge. You have certainly all earned it.
May 20, 2022 ~ Bow, NH
Despite the objections of a high-ranking member of their own party, House Republican leadership pushed the Parental Bill of Rights, which clearly is NH’s “Don’t Say Gay at School” through the Committee of Conference. HB 1431, would force teachers and school staff to disclose to parents any information that students share at school about their gender identity, if they join an inclusive club or even if they ask to be called by a different name or pronoun. If HB1431 becomes law, it will endanger the mental health, safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth in NH. We must continue to speak out against this bill to try and stop it. The full NH House and Senate must vote May 26th on whether to accept the Committee of Conference result.
Statement from AFT-NH President Deb Howes on House Bill 1431
Bow, NH ~ We are outraged that extremist Republicans from the New Hampshire House and Senate moved New Hampshire’s version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill forward. Under the pretext of restoring parental rights many of which are already in law, HB1431 would cause real harm to NH LGBTQ+ students. It would force teachers and school staff to out LGBTQ+ students by reporting to their parents anything they disclosed about their gender identity or sexual preference to trusted adults at school. For some LGBTQ+ students who do not come from safe and loving homes, this could lead to serious emotional duress, mental health issues, or physical harm.
We are greatly encouraged that the Governor recognizes how dangerous this bill is and has pledged to veto it, however, make no mistake this bill does not deserve the support of our legislature and should be immediately defeated.
The harmful “Parental Bill of Rights” HB 1431 which would grant such sweeping rights to parents to be informed of anything and everything their child does while at school that it would take away the child’s ability to have a confidential conversation with a school counselor or discuss a concern with a teacher or other trusted adult at school has one more stop to make before it reaches Governor Sununu. This means we have another chance to stop it! The NH House and Senate passed different versions of this bill. Neither one of them is good for students, particularly LGBTQ students, because it requires that teachers and school staff inform parents of any important information about a child’s health, education and well-being. Among other things, the bill requires reporting on clubs and extracurricular activities as well as if the student requests to be called by a different name or pronoun at school. We know that LGBTQ students are at greater risk of physical or emotional harm if they come from a family who does not accept them for who they are. HB1431 would take away trusted adults at school from LGBTQ students when they might not have a trusted and supportive adult at home.
HB 1431 (parental bill of rights) Despite pleas from education, child advocacy and human rights organizations, the majority in the NH Senate voted final passage on HB 1431 guaranteeing sweeping and uninterrupted parental rights in education while putting vulnerable children at risk of harm. The bill needlessly puts vulnerable children who do not come from safe homes with loving, caring adults at risk of harm and even death by limiting the rights of kids and of the State to protect them. We wish this were hyperbole, but it is not. The bill requires any teacher or school staff to disclose any important information they learn about a child’s health or well-being to a parent, making it impossible for a student to have a conversation or share a concern with a trusted adult in the school setting that they are not ready or not able to share at home. For LGBTQ+ students it can take away a safe place for them at a time in their lives when that space is vital. Without access to trusted adults and safe spaces at school, vulnerable children will be in danger: emotionally and possibly physically.
April 29, 2022 ~ Bow, NH
We can start with some celebration! For the second week in a row, we saw HB 1393 get defeated, this time by the entire Senate on a voice vote. HB 1393 would have established rigid, per-pupil school budget tax caps that could have only been adjusted to inflation and would have been extremely harmful to school budgets. However, the celebration is dampened by the fact that the House has taken the language from 1393 and attached it to a bill currently in the House (more on this below).
The first bit of good news this week—is April break! We hope you all get to spend this week off relaxing and recharging for the last two months of school. We can continue with some good news from the legislature this week—HB 1393 a convoluted bill that would have imposed school district budget caps that would have only been allowed to be adjusted to inflation, was voted ITL out of committee 4-1. The bill still has to clear the full Senate, but an ITL motion means it is closer than ever to being defeated. If you haven’t contacted your state senator yet, please take a quick action to let your senator know you oppose this bill.
April 16, 2022 ~ Bow, NH
Some good news. We get to start this week’s bulletin with some good news! HB1434—the bill that would have required teachers to keep, and share all curriculum lesson plans, and all instructional materials with any person who lives within the school district, was recommended for interim study by the Senate Education Committee. An interim study motion out of the full Senate will mean the bill is defeated. Most districts already have policies and methods for sharing approved curriculum. As professionals we all welcome two-way communication with parents about what students are learning in class and how the work is going. That is how we work together as a team to help students succeed! However, 1434 could have been used as a tool to harass teachers with endless requests by individuals who had no connections to students in the class, taking time away from teaching and learning. We are glad to see the interim study recommendation.
Testimony of AFT-NH on HB 1393
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
To the Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee Dear Chairman Gray 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.
I write to oppose House Bill 1393. This bill would impose burdensome budget constraints on our schools at a time when they should be focused on helping students recover from the pandemic. By setting up a “fast track” process for local school budget caps to be proposed and voted on - potentially by only a small minority of residents - this bill could hamstring district budgets and drain funding from our public schools before most parents or voters even know the ramifications.