Weekly legislative update: budgets, snow delays, and full-day K!

This week, the House and Senate Education Committees heard several controversial bills, the Governor presented his biennial budget, and more. The Governor’s meeting with the State Board of Education was delayed until next Tuesday. We hope you had a great week and are enjoying all this snow! Here’s a brief look at the past week and a glance at the week ahead:

The Governor’s Budget

  • Governor Sununu presented his budget to the House on Thursday. He said that the central goal of the budget is to “expand educational opportunity and choice for kids and their families.” Get the full transcript here.
  • In the budget, he pledged $18 million to fund full-day kindergarten programs and an additional $15 million to New Hampshire’s charter schools. He also said that he would “boost” the school building aid program, where he’d target critical projects that address “critical” health and safety issues like lead and asbestos. We’ll give updates as we learn more about the details.

The Nomination of Frank Edelblut as Education Commissioner

  • The State Board of Education delayed their meeting with Governor Sununu and Mr. Edelblut until Tuesday due to the weather, though that hasn’t stopped people from writing to their local papers about it. We have the full coverage here, and will be live streaming on Facebook and live tweeting the meeting when it happens, so be sure to tune in!

Legislative Update

  • The House Education Committee voted to retain HB 155, which funds full-day kindergarten programs. Currently, the state gives 50% of the per-student funding for kindergartners, whether the programs are half- or full-day. The bill doesn’t mandate full-day kindergarten, but provides full funding for all kindergartners.
  • The House Ed Committee also voted to retain HB 525, which would remove the automatic reductions of stabilization grants. As of this year, towns get 4% less in stabilization each year until the program runs out. Not all towns get stabilization aid, but many do–and many are feeling the pinch of the reduction. For example, Derry will get close to $350,000 less next year in stabilization aid if the bill isn’t passed.

Coming up next week…

It will be a busy week for the House–they’ll vote on four funding-related bills. It will be a quiet week in the Senate chamber, but the ed committee might vote on bills when they meet on Tuesday.

On the Legislative Calendar

  • The House will vote on HB 354, which makes payments to the towns that were hurt by the adequacy cap put in place last year. The total payment is about $9 million. Remember when Dover sued the state because they imposed a cap on the amount of funding they could get, even though their increasing enrollment should have meant they got more state funding? This bill gives the other towns in similar situations the money they’re owed. The ed committee unanimously voted to pass it.
  • They’ll also vote on HB 597, which would reinstate the old 2008 funding formula. The committee voted to kill the bill because they think the entire formula should be reworked, but the minority said the bill would give substantially more funding to high-risk students.
  • There will also be a vote on the controversial HB 647, which would create “education freedom savings accounts” for children with disabilities. Under the bill, a parent would be able to receive 90% of the per-student state funding amount (that would normally go to the student’s school) as a scholarship to use for private schooling, home schooling, tutoring, and other education-related expenses. The ed committee voted to pass the bill but was split along party lines–the majority says it encourages parental control, but the minority thinks the bill would violate the NH Constitution and would create a voucher system.
  • On the consent calendar: HB 356, which creates a committee to study the way New Hampshire funds its schools. They’d have to make a proposal by November 1, 2018, meaning any action towards a new funding formula probably won’t happen until 2019, earliest.

Committee work

  • The House Ed Committee will hold a hearing on HB 620 on Tuesday at 10, which prohibits the State Board of Education from requiring any federally mandated curriculum, instructional methods, or assessments that aren’t fully paid for by state or federal funds. Currently, there is no “federally mandated” curriculum, instruction, or assessment program–the state chooses the assessment tool (right now, that’s Smarter Balanced), and curriculum and instruction decisions are made by districts themselves.
  • The House Ed Committee will vote on HB 207, prohibiting the state from requiring Common Core (it doesn’t); HB 226, requiring districts to submit details about their reader-improvement programs for third graders (so the DOE can see what’s working and what’s not); and four charter bills–HB 293 (setting requirements for charter school mission statements), HB 494 (limiting charter school applications to NH residents), HB 341 (repealing property tax exemptions for charter schools), and HB 505 (creating an independent commission to authorize applications to open a new charter school).

Follow us on Twitter at @ReachHigherNH and #NHpolitics for our live coverage of hearings, executive sessions, and full chamber voting. Check in on Fridays for more legislative updates!