Weekly Legislative Update: House to vote on a bill that drastically impacts special education in NH

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This week was quiet–no hearings or votes. But next week will be a busy one–The House will meet to vote on nearly 20 bills. One of note, HB 620, prevents the State Board of Education from adopting rules that exceed those outlined in state and federal statute–which would deeply and immediately impact our special education services. And the Senate Education Committee will hold hearings on several bills, including alternative assessment and notification of “objectionable” course material. 

Next Week

On the House’s regular calendar (meaning they’ll vote on them one by one):

  • HB 620, which prohibits the State Board of Education (SBOE) from proposing rules that districts adopt a federally mandated curriculum, instructional methods, or assessment program that isn’t fully paid for by state or federal funds. HB 620, as it is written now,  would immediately and drastically impact students, especially those who need special education services. The SBOE provides guidance in the form of rules (with the input of parents, teachers, and the public) relating to special ed services. In the past, SBOE has proposed rules that require special education evaluations be conducted only by individuals who are licensed and certified and that a school district respond to a parent’s request for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting within 21 days. HB620, if passed, would give the House and Senate unprecedented control over public schools and special education services, requiring a bill to passed  every time an issue has to be addressed or even clarified. The committee recommends passing the bill (narrowly).
  • HB 557, which allows districts to send students to nearby private schools. It’s the House’s response to the controversy in Croydon, the small town that sends several students to a nearby private Montessori school. The Senate passed a similar bill, SB 8, last week. Opponents of the bill are concerned with accountability–not all private schools are required to take the statewide annual assessment, so districts can’t hold them accountable. But supporters of the bill say that the school is accountable directly to the student and parents. The committee recommends passing the bill.
  • HB 395, which put the authority over home school programs under the Home Education Advisory Council rather than the State Board of Education. The committee recommended killing the bill, since they heard from many home schoolers that the process works well as it is.
  • HB 293, requiring that charter school mission statements include details about the school’s specific goals and the current, unmet needs that the school would address in it’s district. The committee recommended killing the bill.

On the House’s consent calendar (meaning all bills are packaged together and voted on at once):

  • HB 210, which creates a code of ethics for teachers
  • HB 216, which requires districts to give students the assignments they’d miss with suspensions of 10 days or less
  • HB 226, which requires districts to submit their lesson plans for third grade non-proficient readers. The idea is that schools can share what works in helping kids and what doesn’t.
  • HB 304, which reinforces districts’ ability to choose whether or not to adopt academic standards recommended by the State Board of Education, including the Common Core State Standards.
  • HB 412, which expands the pre-engineering curriculum to K-12. Right now, only 6-12 graders have a pre-engineering curriculum.

In the Senate

The Senate won’t vote on any bills next week. But, they’ll hold hearings on several bills, including:

  • HB 166, a bill that allows districts to choose the method of assessment they use. The statewide assessment (currently Smarter Balanced) would be used once in elementary school and once in middle school, but it provides flexibility in how districts assess their students in the other grades. Some districts, like Sanborn Regional School District and Epping School District, participate in an alternative assessment program called PACE. It allows teachers to develop performance assessments like this one in place of a bubble-style test. They’ve been shown to be a valid, reliable measure of student performance and are calibrated in a way that makes the results comparable across classrooms, schools, and districts. Check out the video on how it works here.
  • HB 103, which requires districts to adopt a policy to provide at least two weeks’ notification to parents before teaching, talking about, or providing materials about “questionable” material (a.k.a. sex ed).

It’s a big week next week, especially in the House. If you want to weigh in on one, two, or all of these bills, call or email your legislator! Find your State Reps here and Senator here. Feel free to email us if you have any questions!