Senate Bill (SB) 8 was signed into law by Governor Sununu on June 29th, 2017 with an effective date of August 28, 2017. SB 8, commonly referred to as the “Croydon” bill, addresses situations where communities in New Hampshire do not provide a local public school for certain grades. Although SB 8 received a significant amount of press coverage, much remains unclear or misunderstood about the actual impact of the new law.
In order to help communities better understand what SB 8 means for their local schools, Reaching Higher NH is releasing a report that dives into the details of the legislation and highlights the practical implications for New Hampshire public education.
What does SB 8 do?
At its most basic level, SB 8 allows school boards to contract with private, nonreligious schools for grades that aren’t offered by the local school district. So, if a district does not have a school for grades 5-8 for example, the school board can contract with a local private middle school, as long as the school is nonsectarian. The district is responsible for 100% of the tuition for the private school.
SB 8 enables private, nonreligious schools to receive public school students (and therefore public taxpayer dollars) through contracts under certain conditions. One of these conditions is that private schools must agree to administer an annual assessment, though it doesn’t have to be the same assessment that the state uses.
What Does SB 8 Not Do?
SB 8 does not require any school board or school district to change how it currently conducts business; in fact, there are no mandates in SB 8. Similarly, SB 8 does not provide for any form of a voucher or tuition subsidy to offset costs of attending private school for individual students. Finally, SB 8 does not provide funding for students currently enrolled in private school in New Hampshire.
Areas for Additional Focus
One area of education law that was not fully-addressed in SB 8 is special education. It is unclear whether private schools will be required to provide services for students with disabilities, 504 plans, and/or Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). State (RSA 186-C) and federal (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act) law state that all students with disabilities have a right to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. But private schools have significantly different obligations under special education laws – for instance, private schools are not typically mandated to provide all services required by a student’s IEP – and so it will need to be worked out how to ensure that students with learning disabilities are not disadvantaged by tuition contracts allowable via SB 8.
The report also addresses some frequently asked questions and highlights some additional considerations that school boards and the state will need to consider with SB 8.
To download the full report, click here.