NH Education News Roundup, June 7, 2021

In this week’s NH Education News Roundup: Help support Reaching Higher’s mission; webinar on school funding in the state budget today; Senate passes vouchers as part of budget; and House passes college and career readiness legislation.

Support our work this week with NH Gives — Reaching Higher strives to ensure that all NH children have access to a high quality education by serving as a public education policy and community engagement resource for New Hampshire families, educators, and elected officials. This Tuesday and Wednesday, June 8 and 9, we’re participating in NH Gives, a statewide, 24-hour fundraising event for non-profits, and we’d love to have your support. If you’ve benefited from our newsletters, webinars, policy updates and analyses, community engagement events, stories, or resources, please consider making a tax-deductible donation by visiting our NH Gives page.

Webinar on education in the state budget today — Join Reaching Higher on Monday, June 7, at 3 p.m. for a webinar examining the proposed state budget. We’ll be walking through the big education-related issues, including the voucher proposal and school funding, and will have open space for questions and discussion. Register here.

Reaching Higher’s new town-by-town analysis finds schools $24.8 million short despite revenue bump —  A new analysis by Reaching Higher NH indicates that the budget approved by the Senate last week will result in a $24.8 million cut in state funding for public schools this coming fall, with losses concentrated in districts with lower property tax bases like Derry, Rochester, Claremont, and Milford.

View the town-by-town analysis here

The Senate approved its version of the state budget for the 2022-23 biennium on Thursday, June 3. It preserves funding for schools due to temporary changes in enrollment and school meal program participation and creates a “relief fund” that would provide $17.5 million each year in additional aid to districts that have high proportions of students navigating poverty; however, despite a half a billion dollar jump in state revenues, the Senate version of the budget would result in a $24.8 million drop in state funding for public schools in the 2021-2022 school year due to the expiration of one of the two targeted aid programs.

School Vouchers, ‘Divisive Concepts’ bill included in Senate budget –– The Senate added school vouchers as part of the budget it passed on Thursday, June 3. Introduced as separate bills in both the House and Senate, the voucher proposal, which would use taxpayer money to fund private and religious schools through “education freedom accounts,” or vouchers, was rolled into the budget, evading the close scrutiny a bill of this size would receive under the normal legislative process.  One of the most expansive voucher proposals in the country, it was strongly opposed in public hearings and polls. 

The Senate also approved a proposal to prohibit teaching of so-called ‘divisive concepts’ such as institutional racism and sexism. HB 544 was also rolled into the budget after first being introduced as a separate bill. An attempt to remove the bill from the budget failed, and lawmakers debated the ramifications of the bill at length, with some Republicans insisting that it will not prohibit the discussion of concepts such as implicit bias.

State Department of Education seeking public input on school year –The New Hampshire Department of Education is inviting the public to participate in a survey on the 2020-21 school year. Released last week and available online for 30 days, the survey is open to families of K-12 students, school staff, and community members, and results may inform decisions for the coming year. Last year, more than 56,000 people responded to a similar DOE survey. 

New teachers describe a year of historic challenges and lasting lessons — The first year of teaching can be a wild ride under the best of circumstances, never mind in the middle of a historic pandemic. We asked two new teachers — a student teacher and a first-year teacher — what this school year was like for them.

“I have been learning so much and asking as many questions as I possibly can,” said Megan Estes, a fourth grade student teacher in Somersworth. “It has been difficult being a remote teacher during my first experience teaching, but I hope it’ll make me more marketable, and I am learning a lot of new things about incorporating technology into my teaching.”

“I feel like I have grown so much as a teacher under the pressure,” said Brett Wilson, a first-year special education teacher at Merrimack High School. “The most important part of doing remote learning is entering the experience with a positive attitude.”

Read the full story here.

New Hampshire House passes legislation promoting FAFSA, career and technical education —  At a session on Thursday, June 3, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed two omnibus bills with implications for college and career readiness. Senate Bill 148 provides $9 million in transportation and tuition reimbursement for career and technical education centers, a move intended to enable more students to attend CTE programs. It clarifies that the sending district is responsible for providing and paying for transportation costs and authorizes the state to fully reimburse those costs.

The bill adds career and technical education courses to the state’s established dual and concurrent enrollment program, which allows high school students to take classes for simultaneous high school and college credit. It also expands the dual and concurrent enrollment program to include students in grade 10. 

The House also approved SB 147, a portion of which promotes in-person assistance with the Free Application for Federal Assistance (FAFSA) by adding it to the list of indicators of an adequate education. The original bill had made the FAFSA a requirement for graduation (with a waiver option), but the House Education Committee amended the language. 

This Week’s Legislative Schedule

The House will meet on Thursday, June 10, to form Committees of Conference for pending legislation. The Senate passed HB 1 and HB 2, the budget bill and its “trailer” bill, and it’s now in the House’s chamber. Reports suggest that the House will opt to send the budget to a Committee of Conference, which will have a week to work through the disagreements before a final chamber vote on June 24. 

Education Up Close

Rethinking the 16-week Semester: Is a Shorter Semester More Equitable? And for Whom? 
Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Jessica Ruf, June 2, 2021

School Leaders Say Stimulus Cash Will Go a Long Way — But Deep Funding Challenges Remain
Education Week, Mark Lieberman, June 1, 2021

The Common Ground on Race and Education That’s Hiding in Plain Sight
Education Next, Michael Petrilli, Spring 2021

Nation’s skeletal school mental health network will be severely tested
Hechinger Report, Kate Rix, May 30, 2021

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