NH Education Roundup, Sept. 18

In this issue of Reaching Higher NH’s Education News Brief: Upcoming events give young people a chance to speak out on school funding; The NH Supreme Court will hear the ConVal Lawsuit; Reaching Higher shares research with the School Funding Commission; and the House upholds Governor’s veto of HB 1454.

Have something to share? Email us at staff@reachinghighernh.org
Youth Voice Events Scheduled for School Funding Commission — Young people will have several opportunities to make their voices heard on the topic of school funding in the coming weeks. The Commission to Study School Funding has scheduled Youth Public Commenting Sessions for Sept. 23 and Oct. 7, from 4 to 5 p.m. Young people are invited to prepare a short statement for the Commission about their thoughts on public school funding. Additionally, NH Listens is hosting focus groups for current high school students and recent graduates on Oct. 13 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 14 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Register for the focus groups here

Department of Education Requests Reconsideration of Charter School Grant — The NH Department of Education asked the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee to reconsider a $46 million federal grant for charter schools at its Friday, Sept. 18, meeting. The Committee had voted in November to table the $46 million federal grant, citing concerns about long-term sustainability and the implications of increasing the number of schools amid declining statewide student enrollment. The new request included a detailed analysis and spending projections. The motion to remove the item from the table failed in a 3-7 vote. 

ConVal Lawsuit Heads to Supreme Court: The New Hampshire Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the ConVal Lawsuit on Thursday, Sept. 24. The ConVal School District sued the state over its contribution to education funding last year in Cheshire County Superior Court. The court ruled mostly in the district’s favor, but both sides have appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Numerous other districts have signed an amicus brief indicating support for the lawsuit. Oral arguments can be livestreamed here

Reaching Higher Shares Survey with Funding Commission — RHNH’s Interim Deputy Director Liz Canada shared findings from a recent public survey with the School Funding Commission’s Engagement Work Group on Monday, Sept. 14. The 28-question survey, released in the winter of 2020, sought to gather data on the public’s perception of how public schools across the state are funded, as well as how residents feel the schools in their districts are performing. In addition to sharing their opinions of school funding, respondents were asked to estimate their district’s per pupil spending and where the revenue came from, and these estimates were compared with true spending.

NH Listens also shared findings from a July educators survey with the Engagement Work Group on Sept. 14. The survey sought to gauge educators’ biggest concerns around school funding through open-ended questions. Teacher and staff quality, class size, technology, sufficient financial resources, curriculum, teacher and staff salaries, equity, and special education were among the most-often cited concerns. 

House Sustains Governor’s Veto — On Wednesday, Sept. 16, the New Hampshire House of Representatives sustained Gov. Sununu’s veto of HB 1454 in a 193-140 vote. This bill would have established a process for vetting and approving vendors for programs like Learn Everywhere, and given local school boards discretion over accepting credit from state-level approved alternative, extended learning and work-based programs. With this veto, public high schools and charter schools will be required to accept credit from alternative programs approved by the State Board of Education. The bill passed 15-9 in the Senate and 193-136 in the House before being vetoed by the Governor in July.

Meet Our New Director — While settling into her new role as Reaching Higher NH’s Executive Director, Dr. Karen M. Scolforo took a few minutes to chat about the impact of education in her own life and the lives of young people she’s worked with through the years, as well as sharing her goals for our organization. “I am passionate about the public education mission to serve the greater good. I believe that our public schools serve a critically important purpose: to prepare graduates for college and careers, and to ultimately become contributing members of society,” she said. “Their successes are important to the future of our communities, our state, our nation, and the world.” Read the full interview here.   
What We’re Reading

Q&A With an Educator: Lauren Henry Thrives on Connecting in Pivotal Moments
Concord Monitor, Eileen O’Grady, Sept. 14, 2020

N.H. Schools Won’t Get FEMA Aid For COVID Expenses
NHPR, Sarah Gibson, Sep. 16, 2020

The Costs of Cutting School Spending
Education Next, C. Kirabo Jackson, Cora Wigger and Heyu Xiong, Aug. 4, 2020

How COVID-19 is Hurting Teacher Diversity
Education Week, Madeline Will, Sept. 14, 2020