In this week’s NH Education News Brief: Lawmakers introduce a sweeping voucher bill; districts wrestle with state revenue losses; Reaching Higher offers new resources for students; and Gov. Sununu approves school district meeting delays.
Voucher bill debate returns to NH — A new bill that would create the country’s first nearly universal voucher program has been introduced as the top priority for lawmakers in the 2021 session. House Bill 20 (HB 20) would require the state to use state dollars currently allocated for public education to fund “Education Freedom Accounts” that could be used toward private school tuition or homeschooling expenses. There are no provisions in the bill that would protect students from discrimination, and there are minimal accountability measures to ensure public funds are used appropriately. Unlike most voucher programs, which are limited in scope, HB 20 would be open to almost all students. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 1:15 p.m.
Facing loss of state funds, districts forced to weigh budget cuts, tax increases — As they head into budget season, school districts are trying to compensate for significant losses in state funds by shaving dollars off of already lean budgets or reluctantly raising property taxes. The losses come from enrollment declines, the expiration of a one-time boost in funds for vulnerable districts, and reduced participation in the federal school lunch program due to a well-intentioned waiver. Proposed legislation may provide some relief, but in the meantime, some school leaders and educators are frustrated and worried.
Reaching Higher introduces Student Voice Toolkit — Decisions made at the State House are often felt most profoundly in the classroom. That’s why Reaching Higher is developing tools and resources to inform students about education funding and other issues and give them a place at the table. Following up on our popular school funding video, “Different School, Different World,” we’ve created a Student Voice Toolkit that explains how education laws and policies are made and offers tips and resources for getting involved in the decision-making process. We’ve also created a space on our website dedicated to resources for students and educators.
Gov. Sununu allows officials to postpone meetings — In an executive order signed on Jan. 22, Gov Sununu ordered that school districts and towns may postpone their annual meetings and ballot voting days due to COVID-19 concerns. Towns and districts have taken a variety of approaches to annual meetings this year, with some planning to hold traditional meetings in person and others opting for remote meetings. Some multi-town school districts are facing logistical challenges.
Research suggests effective schools emphasize social emotional learning — Schools that focus on social emotional learning and student behavior in addition to test scores seem to have higher graduation rates, higher rates of college enrollment, and fewer student arrests, finds a new report by Northwestern University economist Kirabo Jackson. Studying 190,000 Chicago ninth graders for six years, Jackson created a composite index that combined test scores, disciplinary issues and social-emotional development. Schools that ranked high on the composite index had better graduation rates and college attendance rates and fewer student arrests. The working paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, did not investigate how schools were improving behavior and social-emotional development.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Has the Public Turned on Teachers?
Education Week, Madeline Will, Jan. 25, 2021
How the pandemic is propelling demand for short-term college programs
PBS News Hour, Hari Sreenevasin, Jan. 27, 2021
Two for one: How Biden’s plan to cut child poverty could boost student learning
Chalkbeat, Matt Barnum, Jan. 27, 2021
‘I can’t do this anymore’: How four middle schoolers are struggling through the pandemic
The Hechinger Report, Caroline Preston, Jan. 26, 2021