New Hampshire Education Roundup, Nov. 9

In this issue of Reaching Higher NH’s Education News Brief: The School Funding Commission discusses Career and Technical Education and other categorical aid programs; The U.S. Department of Education Releases a digital learning guide for families; and rising coronavirus cases force schools to reconsider their learning models. 

School Funding Commission Addresses Categorical Aid Programs — The Commission to Study School Funding wrestled with how to craft recommendations for key educational programs that fall outside the adequacy formula at its meeting on Monday, Nov. 2. Programs such as Career and Technical Education, Building Aid, and Early Childhood Education are not part of the current adequacy formula or of the estimated cost model adopted by the Commission. Commission members generally agreed that such programs cannot be effectively incorporated into the formula but expressed strong support for more robust funding, particularly for Career and Technical Education. Career and Technical Education is currently funded through categorical aid, which can fluctuate based on legislative decisions.  

“The only way we’re going to get this program to grow, the only way we’re going to get these kids onto these career pathways, is to fund this program,” said Rep. Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill). 

The Commission’s Adequacy Work Group will dig further into the topic at its next meeting, on Monday, Nov. 9. 

The Commission also deliberated over district size as one of the “weights” for which districts receive additional per pupil funding based on the education cost model that was developed by American Institutes for Research (AIR) and accepted by the Commission. 

“I do think we have to acknowledge in some way that we’re paying a really high price for the inefficiencies of very small districts,” said Commission member Christine Dwyer.

To address that reality, Commission members agreed to add a clause to the Adequacy Work Group’s recommended actions, suggesting that future legislation may consider removing the weights from districts that choose to remain small. 

Rising COVID Numbers Put Pressure on Schools — Although coronavirus transmission within schools has remained low since schools reopened, an increase in community cases around the state has forced some schools to go remote or consider doing so, NHPR reported last week. That’s because many school reopening plans hinge on community transmission levels. Additionally, some districts are transitioning to remote learning for the holiday season in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus due to holiday travel or family gatherings. “We just want to make sure as the environment around us changes, our model perhaps should change with that,” Rochester Superintendent Kyle Repucci told Foster’s Daily Democrat last week. 

Digital Learning Guide Launched for Families — The U.S. Department of Education introduced a new Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide last week to aid families in making the most of remote learning. Created with guidance from a working group of education leaders and researchers, the guide “aims to help all parents and caregivers, including those who have limited experience with digital tools, those who are expert with these tools, and anywhere in between.” It includes sections on personalized learning, competency-based learning, and building partnerships, as well as addressing the technical aspects of digital learning. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

Analysis: Did School System Retirements Spike in 2020? Data From 7 State Pension Plans Show They’ve Actually Decreased
The 74, Chad Aldeman and Alex Spurrier, Nov. 1, 2020

Keeping COVID Rates Low in Schools: Advice From a Pandemic Expert
Education Week, Madeline Will, Sept. 24, 2020

Four Ways Leaders Are Keeping Teachers Motivated Through Pandemic Disruption
Education Dive, Shawna De La Rosa, Oct. 29, 2020