NH Education Roundup, May 10, 2021

Members of the Senate Finance Committee hear public testimony on the state budget via Zoom on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

In this week’s NH Education News Roundup: Public hearing on state budget draws strong opposition to voucher bill; local leaders call for fair school funding; new study finds NH teacher salaries below national average; and three school districts denounce HB 544.

Reaching Higher to hold Virtual Town Hall on NH’s School Voucher Bill — Reaching Higher NH will host a virtual town hall on Senate Bill 130, the statewide school voucher bill, on Tuesday, May 18 from 3-4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_TCVbvelYQIaYHjGkvAv6sw 

If you have questions that you’d like answered during the event, email them to christina@reachinghighernh.org and we’ll do our best to incorporate them. 

Public speaks out against vouchers at state budget hearing — The public came out in force to speak out against Senate Bill (SB) 130, the statewide voucher bill, in back-to-back public hearings on the state budget on Tuesday, May 4. More than 135 people testified before the Senate Finance Committee at the virtual hearings, which together lasted nearly nine hours.

While the hearings included input on all aspects of the proposed budget for the 2022-23 biennium, a large percentage of testimony centered on education-related issues, particularly opposition to the school voucher bill, which would allow taxpayer funds to pay for private school tuition. Every person who testified on the issue urged Senators to leave it out of the budget, where it wouldn’t receive the same amount of scrutiny and would prevent lawmakers from tackling it as a single issue.

“This committee should not wrap into [the state budget] such a complex bill for all its unintended consequences, unless and until they can do the kind of multi-month deep dive into the specifics of the bill that House Finance did in 2018 and fix it,” David Doherty, a former state representative from Pembroke, said during his testimony. “Throwing it in the budget at this stage of the process rather than allowing for a detailed study of it by both House Finance and Senate Finance as a stand-alone bill during a non-budget year would be irresponsible and a disservice to the people of New Hampshire.”

The public also pressed Senators to fully address pandemic-related school funding gaps and to remove HB 544, a bill that would prohibit businesses and institutions that receive funding from the state from teaching about system racism and sexism and other “divisive concepts.”

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to begin its work sessions next Monday. Additional public hearings are not expected, but the Committee will accept emails throughout the next few weeks. Contact information for Committee members can be found here.  

Letters from local leaders urge lawmakers to provide equitable school funding, scrap school voucher bill — Two groups of local officials penned letters to the Senate Finance Committee last week as it prepared for public hearings and work sessions on the state budget. Somersworth City Councilor Matt Gerding presented the Senate with a letter signed by 80 community leaders, calling for increased education funding in the school budget. “After more than two decades of inaction, many NH communities, students, and taxpayers are still being neglected by the State,” it reads. “With the recent conclusion of the Commission to Study School Funding, as well as the ongoing 2022–2023 biennial budget discussions, we find it critical to encourage action by the State regarding education funding disparities that harm our communities.”

Additionally, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, and several other local leaders penned a joint letter to the Senate Finance Committee voicing concerns over SB 130 and its cost to local school districts. The letter cites Reaching Higher’s analysis of the bill. 

New study complements Reaching Higher’s teacher salary research — Teacher salaries vary widely in the state and are a major factor in teacher turnover rates, which are linked to reading and math scores, according to research conducted by Reaching Higher. New national research finds that New Hampshire teachers earn about 8% less than the national average. The National Education Association’s latest Rankings and Estimates Report finds that the state puts New Hampshire in 21st place among the states in average teacher pay and 28th for average starting teacher salaries. The national average salary for a classroom teacher for 2020-21 was $65,090, an increase of about .9% when adjusted for inflation, according to the report. The average teacher salary in NH was $59,622.

New Hampshire also finished in last place for state spending on education and saw steeper than average drops in average daily attendance last year. The study comes at a time when lawmakers are debating how best to address budget gaps created in part by decreased enrollment due to the pandemic.

Three school districts officially oppose ‘Divisive Concepts’ bill — The Oyster River School District has signed onto a letter opposing HB 544, making it the first school district in the state to do so. The letter, signed by more than 200 NH businesses and organizations, including Reaching Higher, calls for “open and honest exploration of racism and sexism,” and denounces HB 544, a bill that would prohibit organizations that receive state funding from teaching or conducting trainings about systemic racism and sexism. The Concord School Board and SAU 70, which serves Hanover (and Norwich, Vt.), have both approved resolutions opposing the bill. 

Alliance to host Higher Education Roundtable — The NH Alliance for College and Career Readiness will host a Higher Education Roundtable on Wednesday, May 19, at 1 p.m. to provide important information on state, regional, and national trends in higher education, particularly around workforce development, access, and institutional consolidations. The roundtable aims to inform the dialogue around the proposed merger of the University System of New Hampshire and the Community College System of NH.  The Alliance has purposefully invited new voices to this event in an effort to expand the dialogue and engage with guests not directly involved with the proposed merger of NH’s two systems.  

Speakers for the event include:
-Michael Turmelle, Director of Education and Career Initiatives, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation
-Brian Prescott, Vice President, National Center For Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS)
-Joyce Judy, President, Community College of Vermont

The panel will be moderated by Nicole Heimarck, the Executive Director of the NH Alliance for College and Career Readiness.This event is open to the public and will be held virtually via Zoom. Registration is free, but required. Register via Zoom: https://bit.ly/NHhigheredroundtable.

This Week’s Legislative Schedule

Monday, May 10, 2021

Senate Finance Budget Work Session 1:00pm
Click Here to Join the Zoom

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to hold its first work session on the state budget. Education is not listed, but the committee is expected to discuss the Community College and University System budgets. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Senate Education 9:00 a.m.
Click Here to Join the Zoom

This is an Executive Session for pending Senate legislation:

Senate Finance Budget Work Session 1:00 p.m.
Click Here to Join the Zoom

This is an executive session, and then a budget work session, the Department of Education is not listed, but the agency list is subject to change without notice.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

House Education Committee Work Session 9:00 a.m.
Click here to Join the Zoom

  • SB 44, establishing the New Hampshire workforce pathway program; 
  • SB 147, adopting omnibus legislation relative to student aid, the central registry, transportation of students, and special education costs; 
  • SB 148, adopting omnibus legislation relative to vocational and career education, environmental education, and emergency plans for sports injuries; 
  • SB 135, which would allow the NH Department of Education to use the greater ADM figure between the 2019-2020 school year and 2020-2021 school year to calculate school funding for the 2021-2022 school year.  .

Friday, May 14, 2021

Senate Finance Budget Work Session 1:00 p.m.
Click Here to Join the Zoom

This is a budget work session, where the committee is expected to discuss the Department of Education budget.


Manchester takes an expansive view of COVID-era summer learning 
NH Bulletin, Ethan DeWitt, May 7, 2021

School districts fighting for the same workforce while in dire need of more help
Union Leader, Kimberly Houghton, May 6, 2021

Bill would require schools to show they are adequately addressing needs of students
Concord Monitor, Eileen O’Grady, May 8, 2021

New Law Gives Career, Tech Centers More Hiring Flexibility
Associated Press, May 9, 2021  

Why Teachers Leave — or Don’t: A Look at the Numbers
Education Week, Liana Loewus, May 4, 2021