Weekly Legislative Update: House sends key education bills to next phase of the legislative process, House Finance begins work on funding bills

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The House and Senate committees didn’t meet last week, but the House had a two-day voting marathon on key bills on February 27 and 28. High-profile education funding bills are moving quickly through the chambers: on Wednesday, the House passed three bills–including a bill that would fund full-day kindergarten–and the Division II House Finance Committee is holding work sessions on them on Friday, March 1 and Monday, March 4.

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Education Funding

The House followed the Education Committee’s recommendations and passed one comprehensive bill, HB 709, that fully restores stabilization grants to 2016 levels next year and replaces them with two new aid programs in 2021. Fiscal Capacity Disparity Aid would aid towns with the lowest capacity to raise revenue through property taxes (“property-poor communities”), and a separate funding stream for districts with higher concentrations of poverty.

HB 709 would provide 193 districts with $143 million in additional education funding over the next two years. Read our breakdown of the bill’s fiscal impact here.

The House also approved the second part of the House Education Committee’s strategy to address funding: HB 551, an independent commission of legislators and selected members of the public to study the current funding formula and make recommendations. The independent commission would be tasked with determining whether the current formula provides New Hampshire children with the opportunity for an adequate education, and identify ways to make the formula more equitable and uniform. The bill moved to House Finance following the vote, and the House Finance Division II held a work session on it on Friday, March 1.

Other key house votes include:

  • HB 177 passed, which restores stabilization grants to 2016 levels (something that is also done in HB 709). The duplicate bill ensures that the House has another opportunity to keep the intent alive, even if the House Finance Committee retains HB 709 or removes the part about stabilization grants. If HB 709 proceeds intact, HB 177 will likely be killed later in the legislative process.
  • HB 686 passed, which increases the base per-student funding (known as “base adequacy”), restores stabilization grants to their original levels, and reduces the statewide education property tax (SWEPT) rate by 25%. The bill also extends the current 5% Interest and Dividends Tax to capital gains income.
  • HB 713 passed, which would require districts to provide transportation for kindergarteners who live more than 2 miles from school. Current law states that districts can choose whether to provide transportation to students who live more than 2 miles from school, and kindergartners and high school students regardless of how far away they live.
  • HB 711 died. The bill was one of four referred to House Education that would have increased funding for our public schools, but the House Education Committee recommended killing HB 711 in order to move forward with only one, comprehensive funding bill (HB 709).

School Safety

The House passed HB 564, which bans guns in safe school zones, by a vote of 194-154 after a lengthy debate. The bill now goes to the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Safety.

The House laid HB 101 on the table. The bill would allow school districts, SAUs, and charter schools to choose whether to allow guns in their schools. The bill will stay on the table until it is either removed, when the Representatives will vote on it, or die if it isn’t taken up at the end of the session.

Full-day Kindergarten

The House passed HB 184, which would provide districts with the same amount of funding for kindergarten students as other students. Currently, districts receive half of the $3,700 per student for kindergartners, regardless of whether they offer full- or half-day programs. In 2017, lawmakers created a grant program where districts would receive an additional $1,100 per kindergartner, paid for through the newly authorized Keno lottery game. HB 184 provides full adequacy payments ($3,700) for kindergartners regardless of Keno revenues.

On Friday, March 1, the House Finance Committee-Division II held a work session. Watch the recording of the session here.

Workforce Development

The House passed HB 570, which establishes a commission to study career pathways from full-time service year programs to post-secondary education and employment opportunities in support of New Hampshire’s future workforce needs. The commission would be tasked with look at current programs, like City Year NH, Stay Work Play NH, and National Service and AmeriCorps employers, and make recommendations on how to expand programs.

The House also passed HB 689, establishing a student career and college investment program. Under the program, students who complete a financial literacy class, administered by local schools and the Department of Education, would receive an initial $250 scholarship deposited into a Career and College Investment Program account.

This Week

  • On Monday, March 4, the House Finance Committee-Division II will hold a work session on HB 686, which increases the amount of state funding per student and taxes capital gains; HB 709, which creates two new funding streams for the state’s most vulnerable communities; HB 177, which restores stabilization grants to their full 2016 levels; and HB 713, which changes the requirements for student transportation.
  • On Tuesday, the House Ways & Means Committee will continue their public hearing on HB 632, which eliminates the education tax credit program in 2020. The bill allows businesses and individuals to receive a tax credit for donations to organizations that provide scholarships for children to attend private and/or religious schools and homeschoolers. Read more about the Education Tax Credit in our brief.
  • On Tuesday, the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee will hold a public hearing on SB 199, which would require teachers to have annual training in suicide and bullying awareness and prevention.
  • On Thursday, the House will vote on HB 383, which extends anti-discrimination laws to private schools that contract with public schools; HB 545, which prohibits law enforcement officers from questioning minors at school without a parent or guardian present; and HB 676, which repeals the statewide education property tax (SWEPT).

Have questions? Email us at staff@reachinghighernh.org and we will forward it to the appropriate team member!