NH Education News Roundup, July 6, 2021: School Year in Review

In this week’s special edition of the NH Education News Roundup: It’s been an eventful year in education, to say the least. In celebration of summer — and to catch readers up on anything they may have missed — we’re sharing highlights of the past school year.

August 2020

“It’s penny wise and pound foolish” — Just one measure of the disparities that exist between New Hampshire’s public schools, teacher compensation has far-reaching implications that go beyond hiring headaches. School officials say the turnover rate that plagues lower-paying districts profoundly influences instructional quality and school culture, and arguably costs schools more than they save in compensation packages. Read Reaching Higher’s story on teacher salaries. 

September 2020

State Board of Education approves VLACS expansion — On Thursday, Sept. 10, the State Board of Education approved an amendment request by the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) to increase its K-12 enrollment capacity by 2,295 students to address a surge in demand for online classes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The same day, Gov. Sununu announced that the state was directing $7 million in CARES Act funds to VLACS to support its expansion.

House sustains Governor’s veto on ‘Learn Everywhere’ guardrails — 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. 

State Supreme Court ears ConVal case — No school district can provide an adequate education with the funding provided by the state, Michael Tierney, the attorney representing the ConVal School District and three other school districts who sued the state over its contribution to public education, argued before the NH Supreme Court on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Filed in March 2019, the lawsuit landed at the Supreme Court after both sides appealed a ruling by the Cheshire County Superior Court in June 2019. Twenty-six school districts and the NH School Boards Association signed onto an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.

John Tobin, the attorney who filed the amicus brief, spoke with Reaching Higher earlier in the month about what’s at stake for New Hampshire schools and communities. Listen to the interview here.

October 2020

Educators express funding frustrations to Education Committee — A panel of school superintendents, principals, school board members, and other educators presented to the Joint Legislative Education Committee, describing a variety of pandemic-related challenges they’d faced since schools reopened. Among their chief concerns were insufficient CARES Act funding to cover pandemic-related expenses, declines in enrollment that could affect adequacy funding, substitute teacher shortages, and back orders in technology and personal protective equipment. 

Sununu announces $45 million for schools, advisory board requests more — New Hampshire schools will receive an additional $45 million in relief funds that can be spent through 2021, Gov. Sununu announced in a press conference. CARES Act funds totalling $35 million will be distributed to schools on a per pupil basis of approximately $200 per student and can be spent on technology or other resources needed to conduct hybrid or remote learning, he said. 

In response to the announcement, the bipartisan Legislative Advisory Board for the Governor’s Office For Emergency Relief and Recovery voted 4-2 on Friday, Oct. 16, to ask the Governor for an additional $30 million in funds to help schools deal with pandemic-related expenses.

New Hampshire schools experiment with outdoor learning — As schools continued trying to balance student needs with public safety, some educators took lessons outside, where the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus was lower. Teachers said the outdoor classrooms afforded many educational benefits in addition to keeping students safer. 

November 2020

Elections change the state’s legislative landscape — The Nov. 3 elections brought a shift of party control in the NH House and Senate, which in turn portended significant changes in education policy. The Commission to Study School Funding, which was created the prior year by a Democrat-controlled Legislature, now had to craft its recommendations for a Republican-controlled governing body. The Executive Council, which is responsible for approving Gov. Sununu’s appointments to the State Board of Education, also came under Republican-majority control. 

Rising COVID numbers put pressure on schools — Although coronavirus transmission within schools had remained low since schools reopened, an increase in community cases around the state forced some schools to go remote or consider doing so, NHPR reported. That’s because many school reopening plans hinged on community transmission levels. Additionally, some districts decided to transition to remote learning for the holiday season in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus due to holiday travel or family gatherings. 

Families, advocates share special ed concerns with State Board of Education — Students with special needs continue to face challenges in accessing appropriate instructional support, parents and advocates testified to the New Hampshire State Board of Education. As districts raced to implement remote learning last spring, “many students were an afterthought,” said Lisa Beaudoin, Executive Director of Able NH. Additionally, she said, special education supports had remained inconsistent from district to district, due in part to the open-ended nature of state guidance on students with disabilities.

December 2020

Fewer families filling out lunch forms could endanger federal aid — In response to the pandemic, school districts around the state had been taking advantage of a USDA waiver that allowed all students to receive free lunch. As a result, fewer families were filling out eligibility forms, and schools became concerned about jeopardized state and federal funding. 

Commission to Study School Funding presents final report — After a year of research and discussion, the Commission to Study School Funding released its final report to the public on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The report emphasized student and taxpayer inequities in the current funding model and recommended significant changes. Notably, it proposed a cost model that uses student outcomes instead of school “inputs” to set funding and attaches “weights” to factors such as free and reduced lunch eligibility, English learner percentages, and district size.  Reaching Higher provided in-depth, original coverage of the Commission’s work, including articles, infographics, and a podcast.

Reaching Higher releases its new school funding video — As part of our effort to keep the public informed about education policy and issues, Reaching Higher created a new video short, “Different School, Different World: An Introduction to School Funding in New Hampshire.” The animated video explains school funding through the experiences of a fictional high school student and is designed to provide a foundation for young people and other community members interested in the education policy debate. 

State Board approves its first Learn Everywhere program — The New Hampshire Academy of Science in Lyme became the first school approved by the State Board of Education to offer courses under the new Learn Everywhere program. The Learn Everywhere program went into effect in August, in spite of considerable public opposition.

Fiscal Committee accepts $46 million charter school grant — On Friday, Dec. 11, the Joint Fiscal Committee voted to accept the first portion of a $46 million, five-year federal Charter School Program (CSP) grant. The goal of the grant is to double the number of charter schools in the state and expand existing charter schools. 

January 2021

Teacher of the Year runs community support network — Danielle Boutin, an English Language teacher at Ledge Street Elementary School in Nashua, makes sure her students are ready to learn by first ensuring they have clothes, shoes, food, and other necessities. Last year, she and the rest of the EL team expanded their food pantry into a weekly outdoor farmers’ market to meet the growing needs of their community. She was named 2021 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year in October. 

Coalition forming in opposition of “donor town” model — A group of communities began building a coalition to fight school funding proposals that would redistribute property tax revenues among towns. The coalition, proposed by the city of Portsmouth, would pool money for a lobbyist and other experts to oppose any efforts to re-establish so-called donor towns: property wealthy towns whose tax revenues are redirected in part to less wealthy towns. The School Funding Commission did not outright recommend any specific revenue model in its final report published last month, but it highlighted a proposal prepared by an independent research group that called for increasing the statewide property tax and redistributing it to districts based on need. 

Without Legislative action, NH schools face $89 million in cuts — New Hampshire schools will see an estimated $89 million reduction in adequacy aid in FY 2022, according to a Department of Education report. The cuts stemmed primarily from decreased student enrollment, a decrease in paperwork filed for the federal school lunch program — due to a waiver created during the pandemic — and the expiration of one-time funding for the state’s most vulnerable communities.  

Mayors team up to voice school funding concerns — The mayors of 13 New Hampshire cities signed on to a letter to Gov. Sununu and other officials raising concerns about school funding amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many districts anticipated funding shortfalls in the coming year due to declines in enrollment during the pandemic as well as reductions in the number of students filling out applications for free and reduced price lunch. Additionally schools were struggling to shoulder rising retirement and pension costs that have been downshifted from the state to local districts. 

Extended Learning Opportunities continue to grow — Over the past 16 years, schools have increasingly embraced Extended Learning Opportunities as a vehicle for personalized, competency-based learning and college and career preparation. In spite of the difficulties of the past year, ELO programs are still going strong, long-time ELO directors told RHNH in a story celebrating ELO month in NH. 

February 2021

Voucher bill debate returns to NH — A new bill that would create the country’s first nearly universal voucher program was 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 were no provisions in the bill that would protect students from discrimination, and there were 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.

Reaching Higher introduces Student Voice Toolkit — Following up on our popular school funding video, “Different School, Different World,” Reaching Higher 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 also created a space on our website dedicated to resources for students and educators

Facing loss of state funds, districts forced to weigh budget cuts, tax increases — As they headed into budget season, school districts tried 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.

Hearings on HB 20 bring historic turnout — Opponents of a bill that would create the most expansive school voucher program in the country came out in force, compelling lawmakers to set aside an additional full day for public testimony.  Altogether, 5,218 people signed on in opposition to the bill and 1,107 signed on in support over the course of the two-part hearing.

Governor’s budget funds infrastructure fund, makes up for lunch waiver — Governor Chris Sununu released his proposed budget for the 2022-2023 biennium, which included $30 million for the Public School Infrastructure Fund (PSIF) and used federal funds to recoup the roughly $19 million drop in school funding due to a school lunch paperwork waiver. The budget proposal did not address an additional $70 million funding drop due pandemic-related enrollment declines and the expiration of targeted funding. The budget also included a proposal to merge the University System of New Hampshire with the Community College System of New Hampshire. 

Two new members confirmed to State Board of Education — The Executive Council confirmed Ryan Terrell of Nashua and Richard Sala of Dorchester to the State Board of Education. Terrell, whose first nomination to the Board was denied last spring, replaced Helen Honorow. Sala, a former attorney for the Department of Education, replaced Cindy Chagnon. Gov. Chris Sununu also nominated Frank Edelblut to a second four-year term as Commissioner of Education last week. 

A thriving school district confronts budget hardships in new podcast episode — Over the course of a few decades, the town of Hopkinton became the kind of place people move to expressly for the schools. But last spring the district faced a reckoning when voters twice rejected the school budget in drive-through meetings. Reaching Higher’s podcast “On Our Own” investigates how the tension between high quality schools and rising taxes came to a head. 

HB 20 retained for further study; Senate voucher bill hearing announced — The House Education Committee voted unanimously to retain a controversial voucher bill that drew unprecedented public opposition during two days of public hearings. Moments after the vote, the Senate announced a hearing for SB 130, a nearly identical bill, creating the most expansive school voucher program in the country.

March 2021

Committee passes bill that would limit teaching about racism, sexism in school — The House Executive Departments and Administration passed a bill that bans “the propagation of divisive concepts” by any entity that contracts with the State of New Hampshire. HB 544 places restrictions on how schools, among other state-funded programs, can teach about racism and sexism. It prohibits teaching that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” or that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.” Opponents raised numerous concerns about the bill, including that it violates the First Amendment and that it denies the realities of discrimination, at a contentious Feb. 11 hearing.

House Ed Committee holds hearings on menstrual product bill, other controversial proposals –– The public weighed in on a variety of education-related bills before the House Education Committee. HB 276, which reversed a bill passed in 2019 requiring public schools to provide free menstrual hygiene products in women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms, drew strong opposition, with students, medical professionals, and other advocates arguing that lack of access to these products presents a barrier to a free and equitable education. Supporters of the bill claimed that the requirement represents an unfunded mandate. 

HB 198, which would prohibit biological males from competing in all-female sports, also drew heated opposition. Altogether more than 1,100 people signed on in opposition of the bill, while just 24 signed on in support. 

Voting day brings mixed results for NH schools — Numerous communities voted on their school district budgets, with many opting to cut school funding rather than raise taxes. In Pittsfield, voters opted for a stripped down operating budget that will likely result in job losses as opposed to the default budget endorsed by the school board. In Epsom, voters also rejected a budget supported by the school board. Weare voters, on the other hand, approved their proposed budget as well as a new teacher contract.

Senate presses pause on school funding — The Senate killed a bill that would have adopted the recommendations of the Commission to Study School Funding, which would distribute the statewide education property tax (also known as SWEPT) based on a new formula that targets funding based on community needs and student outcomes.  They sent a short-term school funding proposal back to the Education Committee, which would have preserved the additional funding for towns with lower property values. 

Voucher bill likely to show up in budget — The New Hampshire Senate first passed, then tabled SB 130, a highly controversial school voucher bill, paving the way for the proposal to be rolled instead into the state budget. The vote capped weeks of debate over “Education Freedom Accounts,” introduced in both the House and Senate and met with unprecedented public opposition.

A Reaching Higher analysis  found that the voucher bill as written would cost the state $69.7 million in new spending over a three-year period, while resulting in a $13.6 million loss of funds for public school districts. 

NH Supreme Court sends ConVal case back to lower court for full trial — The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a ruling on the ConVal lawsuiton Tuesday, March 23, ordering the case back to the Cheshire County Superior Court for a full trial. Filed in March 2019 by the ConVal School District in Peterborough, the suit claims that the state does not fully fund a constitutionally “adequate” education. The ruling means school districts will have to wait months or years for resolution of the lawsuit. 

Choosing adventures, paving new pathways — Choices and challenges abound for young people as they consider future schooling and careers, a reality addressed in several legislative proposals this session. A two-part series by Reaching Higher looks at the changing infrastructure of career pathways and how educators are working to ensure students have a clear roadmap to success. 

Schools receive first batch of federal funds — At a National Safe School Reopening Summit hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, Pres. Joe Biden announced the release of the first round of American Rescue Plan funds for schools, which included $233 million of a promised $350 million for New Hampshire schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 2021 

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 was the featured guest on the April episode of “School Talk,” Reaching Higher’s monthly podcast. Marion also discussed the pros and cons of conducting standardized tests this year, the problem of accountability, and the need for assessment literacy.

Resistance to HB 544 intensifies — A growing number of businesses and organizations, including Reaching Higher NH, signed onto a letter opposing HB 544, a bill that 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 open letterwas crafted by New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility. 

NH House votes on budget, education bills — The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted on numerous education-related bills during a three-day session. HB 1 and HB 2, the bills that would determine the state’s budget for the coming biennium, passed along party lines.  The House version of the budget restored $16.7 million of the $89 million drop in school funding and added $28 million to the School Building Aid fund to pay off a portion of their existing obligation and to pay for new projects. The bill also flat-funded the Community College System and University System and created a commission to study the effects of a possible higher education merger through the end of the year. Two amendments submitted by Rep. Mary Heath (D-Manchester) that would have further restored school funding were both killed. 

The House also tabled a bill that would have overturned a requirement that schools provide free menstrual products for students in need; passed a bill that would allow public charter schools to utilize vacant district facilities; and passed a bill removing the religious exception from a law allowing school districts to create tuition agreements with private schools.

School reopening mandate meets with resistance — Gov. Chris Sununu ordered all NH schools to be open for in-person learning five days a week by April 19. Some school districts indicated they would not be able to comply or applied for waiver, citing safety concerns or staffing shortages. 

Governor signs bill to create a CTE study committee — Governor Sununu signed HB 304, which would create a legislative committee to study the way New Hampshire funds Career and Technical Education (CTE), as well as transportation to CTE centers. “The inspiration for this legislation is due to the fact that we know communities throughout our state receive absolutely no tuition money, by way of this funding pool, for CTE,” bill sponsor Representative Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) told a Senate committee in March. The committee will begin their work this summer, and has until November 2022 to report out its findings. 

New podcast episode tells story of NH’s school privatization movement — A new episode of “Have You Heard,” a national education podcast created by Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, digs deep into the Free State Project and its connections with current school choice legislation. In “State of Siege: What the Free State Project Means for New Hampshire’s Public Schools,” Schneider and Berkshire speak with NH lawmakers, journalists, school board members, and activists, tracing the roots of the libertarian movement in New Hampshire and discussing its potential implications for public education.

May 2021

No easy solutions for bridging NH’s digital divide  — Lawmakers and town and school leaders were still wrestling with how best to alleviate the disparities in Internet access exposed by the pandemic. Tight deadlines on CARES Act money designated for broadband spending meant that some communities were not able to take advantage of the funds. Some rural areas in the state still lacked reliable Internet access, a reality many school districts were forced to confront during periods of remote- and hybrid-learning.

Wealthy, white students overrepresented in Manchester, Nashua charter schools — Almost all of the charter schools in Manchester and Nashua serve student bodies that are less diverse and wealthier than those of the local district schools, according to data compiled by the Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. Enrollment of Black and Latino students is about half that of the district public schools at most of the nine charter schools in Manchester and Nashua, and the charter school with the highest percentage of students navigating poverty recently announced it would close at the end of this school year. 

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. More than 135 people testified before the Senate Finance Committee at the virtual hearings, which together lasted nearly nine hours. 

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.”

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 as it prepared for public hearings and work sessions on the state budget.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, and 13 other local leaders wrote a joint letter to the Senate Finance Committee voicing concerns over SB 130 and its cost to local school districts.

Additionally, a letter signed by 80 community leaders called 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 read. “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.” 

‘Gift to the Class of 2021’ provides free community college classes for graduating seniors — Members of this year’s graduating class can take one free community college course thanks to a partnership between the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the Foundation for New Hampshire Community Colleges. The “Gift to the Class of 2021” will provide more than $1 million in tuition and other fees at any of the seven colleges in the Community College System of NH. Any graduating senior, including students already in a community college for the fall, can take a three-credit course of their choice at no cost to them. 

Senate passes bill removing religious school exclusion from tuition agreements — Religious schools will be allowed to contract with public school districts under two bills passed by the Senate in a 14-0 vote. HB 282 removes the exclusion of religious schools from a law allowing school districts to send students to approved private schools when there is no public school option for their grade level. Opponents argued that the bill violates the state constitution and that it contains no language prohibiting school districts from setting up a religious school as the only option for students at a particular grade level. 

NH Alliance holds Higher Education Roundtable webinar — On Wednesday, May 19, the New Hampshire Alliance for College and Career Readiness hosted a Higher Education Roundtable. The event provided valuable insights on the higher education landscape and key questions confronting New Hampshire. The recorded webinar is now available on Reaching Higher NH’s website.

June 2021

State’s only district-sponsored charter school closing due to financial strains — PACE Career Academy, a public charter high school in Pembroke, announced that it will close its doors at the end of the school year. Founded in 2011, the school was the state’s only district-authorized charter school, serving students who didn’t thrive in traditional classrooms. The school board concluded this year that it would be unable to meet its financial obligations going forward, Board Chair Clint Hanson told the Concord Monitor last week. 

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. 

Senate passes budget with funding shortfall, school vouchers, and ‘divisive concepts’ bill — The Senate approved its version of the state budget for the 2022-23 biennium on Thursday, June 3. It preserved funding for schools due to temporary changes in enrollment and school meal program participation and created 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.

Two highly controversial proposals — the school voucher bill and the ‘divisive concepts’ bill — were also rolled into the budget.  Introduced as separate bills in both the House and Senate, the voucher proposal would use taxpayer money to fund private and religious schools through “education freedom accounts,” or vouchers. The ‘divisive concepts’ bill places restrictions on how schools, among other state-funded programs, can teach about racism and sexism. Earlier in the month, the Senate Finance Committee approved an amendment that broadened the bill’s scope to include age, gender identity, disability, and other categories as well as race and sex, and allowed these topics to be taught as historical contexts.

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 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.

Young people share their thoughts on NH in Reaching Higher series — As they map out their career pathways, one critical question facing young people is whether they’ll stay in New Hampshire or strike out in new directions. It’s a question with broad-reaching implications for everyone from school leaders to business owners to taxpayers as well. A two-part series by Reaching Higher examines the factors that determine whether young people ultimately leave New Hampshire or whether they stay here for good.

Replacing targeted aid with tax cut disproportionately benefits owners of higher valued properties —  The proposed state budget included a $100 million cut in the statewide property tax and removed a $47.5 million targeted tax relief fund, which provided additional funding for residents in towns with lower property tax bases (“property-poor” towns).

A Reaching Higher analysis found that homeowners in many “property poor” towns would see a tax increase under the new budget, while homeowners in many wealthy communities would see a tax decrease. 

‘School Talk’ highlights one school’s self-improvement journey — In the June episode of ‘School Talk,” Reaching Higher’s monthly podcast, we talked with local educator Carisa Corrow, who is working with the Franklin School District to create a vision for its future. 

Negotiators okay voucher program, funding provisions, ‘divisive concepts’ bills in budget — In budget negotiations, select groups of lawmakers known as “committees of conference” approved several key pieces of education legislation within HB 2, the “budget trailer bill.” These included the statewide voucher bill, school funding provisions, and the “divisive concepts” bill. They also agreed to remove a proposal to merge the University System of New Hampshire with the Community College System of New Hampshire. Part of Gov. Chris Sununu’s proposed budget, the merger had met with resistance primarily for its Jan. 2022 deadline. Rep. Karen Umberger (R-Conway) plans to propose new merger legislation in the fall.

Newly passed budget will intensify educational inequities — On Friday, June 25, Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law two budget bills that will map out the state’s priorities and spending for the next two years. The bills include a sweeping school voucher bill that will divert funding to private, religious, and home school programs, a $25 million cut to public school funding, and a ban on teaching and training on systemic racism, sexism, ableism, and other “divisive concepts.”

“With this budget, lawmakers and the Governor had the opportunity to fully fund our public schools to ensure that they had the resources they needed to offer every New Hampshire child access to a high quality public education. Instead, they reduced public school funding by $25 million and slipped in a sweeping school voucher program that was overwhelmingly rejected by Granite Staters,” said Christina Pretorius, Reaching Higher NH’s Policy Director. “The policies in this budget will intensify the consequences of our already inequitable school funding system.”

Budget maintains scholarship programs, delays college merger — The budget signed into law by Gov. Sununu on Friday, June 25, includes funding for the Governor’s STEM Scholarship Program, which allows high school students to earn college credit for up to two STEM courses per year for free through the Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Program, and allocates $6 million for the Governor’s Scholarship Program, which provides up to $2,000 per eligible student for postsecondary educational or training programs. Funding for the programs had been in question in earlier versions of the budget.

The budget also maintains separate funding and governance structures for CCSNH and the University System of New Hampshire. However, budget negotiators expect new merger legislation in the fall.