NH Education Roundup, April 5, 2021

In this week’s NH Education News Roundup: House to vote on budget, school funding amendments; RHNH’s new podcast explores assessment during the pandemic; new state-by-state guide on privatization policies published; and opponents of HB 544 speak out.

Education funding proposals head to full House — The House Finance Committee approved amendments to HB 1 and HB 2, the bills to set the state’s 2022-23 biennial budget, on Wednesday, March 31. The amendments include proposals to address concerns around public school funding, as well as changes to the school building aid and public school infrastructure program. 

The most significant education-related issues in the budget include a provision that would restore $16.7 million in K-12 public school funding, restoration of the Governor’s STEM Scholarship Program for dual and concurrent enrollment classes, the shifting of $28 million in school infrastructure funds to the School Building Aid program, and a reduction in the Statewide Education Property tax.

The Committee will provide a briefing of its proposal to the full House of Representatives on Monday, April 5, and the House is scheduled to vote on it during its three-day session beginning on Wednesday, April 7. 

Altogether, the Committee cut about $130 million from the original budget proposed by Gov. Chris Sununu. The Governor criticized the cuts in an interview last week and called on the Senate to restore funding. House Democrats were also displeased that the budget fails to address most pandemic-related funding losses.

New podcast episode explores pros and cons of assessments — Learning loss may be a buzzword this year, but it’s not a particularly accurate or helpful term, according to Scott Marion, executive director of the Center for Assessment in Dover. Marion is the featured guest on the latest episode of “School Talk,” Reaching Higher’s monthly podcast. Marion also discusses the pros and cons of conducting standardized tests this year, the problem of accountability, and the need for assessment literacy. 

New state-by-state report offers guidance on private school choice policies — A new publication by the Education Commission of the States provides a state-by-state comparison of policies specific to private school choice, including vouchers, education savings accounts, and private school tax credits. New Hampshire lawmakers are considering several proposals to direct taxpayer funds to private schools this year, including a bill that would create the most expansive voucher system in the country. Several other states are considering similar proposals.  This publication equips policymakers with the most up to date information on school choice efforts across the 50 states.  

Senate approves civics competency graduation requirement — The Senate approved a proposal to require a civics competency assessment as a high school graduation requirement by a 3-2 vote last week, after amending the effective start date to July 2023. Advocate of the bill had argued that citizens need to understand the functions of government in order to effectively participate in a democracy. Opponents were mainly concerned about creating an additional high-stakes graduation prerequisite. 

School leaders not consulted over school reopening order — School leaders say they were taken by surprise by Gov. Chris Sununu’s announcement last week that all schools must be open full time by April 19. “This came completely out of the blue, and we were not consulted,” Dr. Carl Ladd, executive director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, told NHPR. At the press conference where he announced the order last Thursday, Sununu said that he had not consulted teachers’ unions about the decision. Many schools are already back to full-time classes, but some are operating in hybrid mode. Some teachers will not be fully vaccinated by April 19. 

At the press conference, Sununu also responded to questions about his controversial decision not to include out-of-state college students in the state’s vaccination rollout. Out-of-state students are not included in the state’s census data, he said. He also indicated that he may consider re-visiting that demographic in the future, once all full-time residents who want a vaccine have scheduled one.

Resistance to HB 544 intensifies — A growing number of businesses and organizations, including Reaching Higher NH, have signed onto a letter opposing HB 544. The bill would restrict businesses that contract with the state and organizations receiving funding from the state — including public schools — in how they teach and provide training on racism and sexism. The Division I House Finance Committee inserted the bill into the state budget last month, a move that means the bill will receive less scrutiny. Gov. Sununu has indicated that he does not support the proposal. More than 75 New Hampshire businesses, institutions and non-profits have so far signed onto an open letter, crafted by New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility, opposing the bill. 

School Summit offers strategies for safe reopening — Educators and leaders from around the country gathered on March 24 for the Department of Education’s National Safe School Reopening Summit. The program featured remarks from President Biden, Vice President Harris, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Secretary Cardona, and Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Rochelle Welensky, as well as panels of students, educators, and school district leaders. The summit was one in a series of steps the Department is taking to provide support and resources to K-12 schools as they work to reopen and equitably address the academic, social, and emotional needs of students most impacted by the pandemic. View the video here.

House budget revises Governor’s college merger proposal — As part of the amended budget it passed on Wednesday, March 31, the House Finance Committee revised Gov. Sununu’s proposal to merge the University System of New Hampshire and the Community College System of New Hampshire. Its proposed budget funds both entities separately through 2023 and creates the Higher Education Merger Assessment Commission (HEMAC). The commission, which will consist of four members appointed by the University System, four members appointed by the Community College System, and three members appointed by the Governor, will be charged with determining if a unified system is beneficial to all NH citizens and recommending legislation accordingly. Its recommendations will be due by Jan. 1, 2022. 


Monday, April 5, 2021

House Finance 1:00 p.m.
Join the Zoom Webinar
House Budget Briefing 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Senate Education Executive Session 9:00 a.m.
Join the Zoom Webinar

  • Bills to be announced

Wednesday, April 7- Friday, April 9, 2021

House Session 10:00 a.m.
Listen in through the GenCourt Website 

On the Consent Calendar (Representatives vote on these bills with a single vote)

  • HB 152, relative to the apportionment of costs in cooperative school districts 
  • HB 202, relative to school lunch payment policies
  • HB 215, permitting school districts to contract with independent schools and private schools
  • HB 401, relative to the duty of school superintendents regarding criminal history records checks
  • HB 409, relative to filling certain vacancies among members of school boards and other school district offices
  • HB 441, requiring The Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be placed in all public schools
  • HB 500, relative to reducing school food waste and addressing child hunger
  • HB 581, relative to the burden of proof in special education hearings
  • SB 20, relative to one-year certificates of eligibility to teach

Regular Calendar (These bills are voted on individually)

CACR 3, relative to use of money raised by taxation for education. Providing that money raised by taxation may be applied for the use of religious educational institutions

  • HB 69, relative to the display of the national motto in schools
  • HB 71, relative to school district emergency special meetings 
  • HB 140, relative to private rights of action regarding pupil safety
  • HB 182, relative to approval of coursework completed at other approved schools 
  • HB 278, relative to the use of unused district facilities by chartered public schools 
  • HB 282, relative to a private school that is approved as a tuition program
  • HB 319, requiring students in the university and community college systems of New Hampshire to pass the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services civics naturalization test 
  • HB 321, requiring school districts to submit an annual report concerning gifted students 
  • HB 388, relative to changing a pupil’s school or assignment because of a manifest educational hardship
  • HB 458-LOCAL, relative to provision of menstrual products for students in need 
  • HB 464, relative to the commission to study school funding

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Senate Session 10:00 a.m.
Listen in on the session 

Consent Calendar

  • HB 442, relative to penalties for a school’s failure to file department of education reports. The bill sponsor noted that this provision would mainly affect charter schools 

Regular Calendar

  • HB 194, relative to the release of student assessment information and data
  • HB 609, establishing “innovation schools” that would allow districts to apply for waivers from certain laws and rules
  • HB 320, requiring a civics competency assessment as a high school graduation requirement

Education Up Close

As Pandemic Upends Teaching, Fewer Students Want to Pursue It
New York Times, Emma Goldberg, March 27, 2021

What They’ve Lost
Have You Heard (podcast), Jennifer Berkshire, March 25, 2021

Summer school programs are set to grow. Here are 6 tips for making them successful
Chalkbeat, Matt Barnum, March 30, 2021

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