Weekly Legislative Update: Keno-garten, restrictions on rulemaking, and legislative approval of academic standards up for a vote on Thursday

Over the past week, the hot topics in Concord have been the state budget and lawmakers’ work in the Committees of Conference to strike deals on outstanding bills. The so-called “Keno-garten” bill got a lot of attention–it would provide additional funding for full-day kindergarten programs through the newly-legalized online lottery game Keno. But there were four other ed-related bills that went through the Committee of Conference, and all five are up for a vote on Thursday. 

First, let’s quickly review the purpose of a Committee of Conference. When the Senate and the House can’t agree on the language of a bill, but agree that it shouldn’t be killed or tabled, it goes to a “Committee of Conference.” There, a small group of Senators and Representatives hash out a deal on the bill’s final language. Once they reach a compromise (note: the agreement does NOT have to be unanimous; rather, a simple majority has to agree), the bill goes to the full chambers for a vote. There are no public hearings or further meetings on the bill.

Bills up for a vote on Thursday, June 22

HB 556 would require public schools to post information on how to report child abuse and updates requirements regarding background checks for employees, volunteers, staff, and other educational personnel. In the committee of conference, the House members agreed to the Senate’s version of the bill and then both chambers’ representatives submitted an additional amendment covering background check requirements for individuals enrolling in teacher preparation programs.

HB 620 would restrict the State Board of Education from adopting rules that exceed federal minimums. In the committee of conference, they removed an amendment that had been added by the Senate and then revised language to impose a blanket prohibition against rules that exceed federal minimums and impose or require “unreimbursed expenditures or administrative burdens” of school districts (the bill had previously required the State Board to take the fiscal impact of rules into consideration). Check out our policy brief on HB 620 here.

SB 43 deals with parental consent regarding student participating in any non-academic questionnaire or survey. In the committee of conference, the House members agreed to support the initial Senate version of the bill (which requires parental consent prior to any student participation in a non-academic survey or questionnaire).

SB 44 would prohibit the State Board of Education and the Department of Education from requiring school districts to adopt the common core state standards. In the committee of conference, the Senate members agreed to support the House version of the bill (which added a requirement that a legislative oversight committee review any proposed revisions to state standards by the State Board prior to adoption).

SB 191 would authorize the online lottery game Keno in New Hampshire and would use those funds to provide additional funding for full-day kindergarten for the districts that offer it. About 70% of districts in the state provide full-day programming, but all districts currently receive 50% of the state funding per student for each kindergarten student. All districts that provide full-day kindergarten would receive at least $1,100 in additional funding per student, and if Keno revenues are higher, they would receive up to $1,800 in additional funding.

We strongly encourage the public to read the revised bills and to provide input to your representatives and senators. There have been significant changes made during the committee of conference, particularly with HB 620 and SB 191, that will impact students and families across the state. Find out who to contact here: Senator (contact information here) and State Representatives (contact information here).

Of course, we’ll be following more developments and will post updates on Thursday on both Facebook and Twitter. Follow us!

Do you find this information useful? If so, please consider donating to Reaching Higher NH so that we may continue bringing you weekly news on New Hampshire public education.