NH Education Roundup, Feb. 8, 2021

In this week’s NH Education News Brief: Voucher bill meets with public opposition; other states look at voucher bills; Executive Council confirms new State Board of Education members; and schools are under pressure to open.

Hearing on HB 20 extended due to high turnout — Opponents of a bill that would create the most expansive school voucher program in the country came out in force last week, compelling lawmakers to set aside an additional full day for public testimony. About 30 people testified over the course of the four-hour virtual public hearing on Tuesday, with another 100 waiting to speak. Additionally, about 3,800 signed on to indicate their position on the bill: 600 in favor, 3,198 in opposition and five testifying as neutral, or not taking a position. The second hearing on HB 20 will take place on Thursday, February 11, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Members of the public can still sign up to testify, or register their support or opposition to the bill without speaking, here.

Voucher bills rolled out across the country — New Hampshire isn’t the only state debating a voucher bill this legislative session. Lawmakers in at least 10 other states have introduced bills that would create or expand programs that send public funds to private schools. In Arizona, voucher advocates are promoting a major expansion to the current voucher program. A public hearing on a Kansas voucher bill took place last week. And in Florida, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier for families to opt in to the current voucher program. 

State receives $2.9 million STEM grant — The U.S. Department of Education has awarded New Hampshire with a $2.9 million grant designed to help students prepare for careers in science, technology, math and engineering fields. The funds will support the New Hampshire Out-of-School-Time Career Pathways Initiative, which works with industry partners in districts across the state. New Hampshire was one of four states to receive the grant.

Two new members confirmed to State Board of Education — The Executive Council confirmed Ryan Terrell of Nashua and Richard Sala of Dorchester to the State Board of Education last week. Terrell, whose first nomination to the Board was denied last spring, replaces Helen Honorow. Sala, a former attorney for the Department of Education, replaces Cindy Chagnon. Gov. Chris Sununu also nominated Frank Edelblut to a second four-year term as Commissioner of Education last week. His first term expires March 23. His nomination will have to be approved by the Executive Council as well. 

In New Hampshire and nationally, demands to open schools grow louder — As both frustrations over remote learning and optimism over COVID-19 vaccines mount, schools are feeling a renewed push to reopen for in person learning. In Nashua, a group of parents is trying to oust several school board members over their decision to keep schools in remote operation while community transmission levels remain high. States have taken a variety of approaches to prioritizing teacher vaccinations, and national lawmakers have proposed differing COVID-19 relief packages for schools. 


Education turns 180 degrees in a matter of months
Eagle Tribune, Garry Rayno, Feb. 1, 2021

Cardona’s Role in Connecticut’s Complex School Desegregation Efforts Becomes Focus: Will He Give Integration a National Platform as Ed Secretary? 
The 74, Mark Keierleber, Jan. 13, 2021

More young students are headed back to classrooms. Will high schoolers join them? 
Chalkbeat, Kalyn Belsha, Jan. 29, 2021

Students Respond to Adults’ Fixation on Learning Loss
Education Week, Larry Ferlazzo, Feb. 2, 2021

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