Weekly Legislative Update: Amendment fully restores stabilization, House Ed works on funding formula

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The legislative session started strong, and both chambers are quickly moving through over 100 education-related bills. The Reaching Higher NH team has been live-streaming committee hearings, executive sessions, and work sessions to keep you informed and up-to-date. Remember to follow us on Facebook to watch the videos in real-time, or if you missed an important session, watch it in the archives!

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This week was a busy one at the Legislative Office Building (LOB), with the House Education Committee voting on almost 20 bills, subcommittee work sessions on education funding-related bills, and more. Here’s a brief look at the past week and a glance at next week’s schedule:

Education FUNding

The House Education Committee dealt with key education funding-related bills this week:

  • OK’d an amendment for HB 177, that would restore stabilization grants to their original levels before the annual 4% reductions. The amendment is available here, and would provide an additional $26 million in state aid to districts in 2020. (Vote: OTPA, 17-3)
  • OK’d HB 184, which would fully fund full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire while severing it from Keno revenues. Currently, kindergarten funding is partially dependent on the amount that the state raises from Keno. Kindergarteners count as half-day students for adequacy purposes, so districts receive about $1,800 per kindergartener from the state. In 2018, lawmakers voted to provide $1,100 in additional funding per student through proceeds from the newly-authorized Keno lottery game, with up to $700 additional per kindergartener depending on how much revenue Keno generated. In 2018, it raised $2 million for education: far less than would cover the base grant of $1,100. (Vote: OTP, 12-6)
  • Unanimously OK’d HB 176, which would lift the moratorium on the school building aid fund and change the amount in the fund from a maximum of $50 million per year to a minimum of $50 million per year. For over 50 years, the state has helped districts with school building aid projects, from sharing the costs of building new schools to major renovations of existing schools. Currently, the state does not help districts with new projects and only funds the “tail” of school building aid projects–the existing payments on already-approved school building aid projects. (Vote: OTP, 18-0)
  • The House Education Committee held multiple work sessions on HB 709, HB 678, HB 713, and HB 711, all of which would make changes to the education funding formula. The committee is attempting to meld elements from these various bills into one, with the hope of crafting an intermediate term solution (2021-2023) to the property tax challenges that some communities are facing. Regarding a larger and longer term solution, House Education is looking to create a study commission, HB551, that would take the second half of calendar year 2019 and all of 2020 to more fully research and work on potential long-term sustainable solutions. They’ll continue to work on this topic next week, with the plan of a final bill to vote on the week of February 18th.

House Finance held a hearing on HB 734, which would hold stabilization grants at their current 88% for the next two years. Note that this bill went straight to House Finance, and not to House Education like the others. There’s no word yet on when the committee will vote on the bill.

Learn more about the way we pay for our schools with our education funding series!

Workforce Development

  • The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 570, which creates a bipartisan commission to study pathways from full-time postsecondary programs like City Year in Manchester to higher education and employment opportunities. “I’ve been on board of directors for 10 years and I’ve come to appreciate the value of City Year. We’re talking about young people coming into the state who have come in and said, I am giving up a year of my life to others. The service they provide is invaluable. The service is invaluable to those they serve,” said Chairman Mel Myler. The committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday, February 12.

Special Education

  • The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 721, which would guarantee that special education student placements would be determined by their LEAs and IEP teams. This was a result of SB 8, also known as the “Croydon Bill,” that allows school districts with no public schools to send students to nonsectarian, private schools. Santina Thibodeau from the NH Department of Public Education worked with committee members on the wording of the bill and its amendment. “It’s not a parent’s responsibility to ensure students’ IEPs are fulfilled,” she said about the bill. The committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday, February 12.

School Administrative Rules

  • The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 569, which would allow districts to convert their public schools into “innovation schools” or open new “innovation schools.” According to Representative Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro), the bill would allow innovation schools to apply for waivers from administrative rules, including rules related to curriculum, teacher credentialing, accountability and assessment, special education services, and more. “Administrative rules limit innovation,” Representative Cordelli told the committee. “This bill language is straight from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)… This is an end run around school districts and administrations. There is no definition of innovation in the bill. School districts can already be innovative in many important ways, and they are,” Dr. Carl Ladd, Executive Director of the NHSAA, told the committee. The committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday, February 12.

Check out our Legislation 101 infographic to learn more about the legislative process!

Next Week

  • The House Education Committee is scheduled to hold another marathon executive session on Tuesday, February 12, with roughly 15 bills on the docket.
  • House Ways and Means will hold an executive session on HB 686, which increases the amount of adequate education grants to districts, on Tuesday, February 12.
  • The House Education Committee will hold a hearing on HB 101, which would allow school districts to adopt gun-free school zone policies, on Wednesday, February 13 at 9 am, and will follow it with a hearing on HB 564, which prohibits carrying a firearm in a safe school zone, at 10 am.
  • The House Ed Subcommittee will continue its work session on funding-related bills on Wednesday, February 13 at 1 p.m. They will have to wrap up their work sessions before their deadline of February 19th, when they will have to make recommendations on them.

In case you missed it, Reaching Higher NH has expanded our policy team! We welcome two new staff members, Greg Bird as our Senior Data Analyst, and Laura Gates as our Director of Research and Implementation! And we’re excited to have Liz Canada as our new Director of Policy and Practice! Read more about them here.

Have questions? Email us at staff@reachinghighernh.org and we will forward it to the appropriate team member!