NH Education News Roundup, September 20, 2021

In this week’s NH Education News Roundup: Professional Standards Board members needed; schools adapt to new COVID realities; Governor says schools can mandate COVID vaccines; and NH Alliance on College and Career Readiness publishes technical assistance on Career and Technical Education omnibus bill. 

Board of Education seeking applications for Professional Standards Board — The State Board of Education has eight vacancies to fill on its 21-member Professional Standards Board, which advises the NH State Board of Education on matters of professional growth, licensure, and governance of the education profession. There are currently five vacancies in the Teachers and Education Specialists category, and three vacancies in the Higher Education and Education Administration category. The NH State Board appoints members to three-year terms, with a two-term limit, based on the applications received. Applications can be found here. Reaching Higher plans to provide more information on the Professional Standards Board, its role and responsibilities, in the coming weeks. 

School COVID practices evolving amid rise in cases — With COVID-19 cases cropping up in schools around the state, protocols for dealing with positive cases have changed since the end of last school year, when a much smaller percentage of the population had been vaccinated. The NH Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance for schools stating that only unvaccinated household members of students who test positive need to quarantine. Some educators told NHPR that they are struggling to get up-to-date data on case numbers that would help them make better informed decisions going forward. To help get a handle on case numbers, an increasing number of schools are participating in voluntary surveillance testing of asymptomatic students.

Governor says schools have the right to mandate vaccines — Both the Legislature and school districts are within their rights to create vaccine requirements for schools, Gov. Chris Sununu said at a COVID-19 briefing last week. “If the New Hampshire Legislature says, ‘You know, we’re going to mandate vaccines, the COVID vaccine for schools, they have every right to do so. I imagine that’ll probably happen at some point,” he said. “Even school districts, if they made that choice, could look at those types of potential mandates. So we have already given all that power to those individuals, to those entities, to make those decisions.” Sununu also spoke briefly about school mask mandates, which have been a topic of controversy at school board meetings around the state. “I know the mask orders can be very tough on some kids and some parents, but understand that there are reasons. People aren’t making completely abstract decisions,” he said. 

New Hampshire Education Network’s September meeting now available online — If you missed the latest meeting of the New Hampshire Education Network last week, you can visit our YouTube channel to view a video of the presentation. “How Lawmakers Reshaped Public Education This Year And What’s Next For Our Schools,” a presentation by Reaching Higher Policy Director Christina Pretorius, covers school vouchers, school funding, the weakening barrier between public dollars and religious education, and the growing emphasis on career pathways. It also looks ahead to the 2022 legislative session. Sign up for the Network here

Executive Council approves federal aid for wraparound services in schools — The  New Hampshire Executive Council approved a $2.3 million federal aid package designed to identify homeless young people and provide them with wraparound services at school. The funds, which are part of the American Rescue Plan passed in March, will provide “assistance needed to enable homeless children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities,” Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said in a note to the Council. The proposal now goes to the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee for approval. 

‘Claremont’ podcast tells the backstory of school funding in the Granite State — Reaching Higher’s new podcast series, “Claremont” examines the two landmark Supreme Court decisions that have shaped how New Hampshire thinks about school funding. Part One, released last week, sets the stage for the lawsuits and describes how Claremont and four other districts took on the state of New Hampshire in a high-stakes legal battle in the mid-1990s. Part Two, coming soon, explores the impact of the lawsuits and the ensuing efforts to create a funding formula that ironed out inequities and passed muster with the many stakeholders involved.

Alliance provides technical assistance guide to CTE Omnibus bill (SB 148) — On August 8, 2021, Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 148, the Career and Technical Education Omnibus Bill. SB 148 had 19 sections in total, ranging from funding for construction and renovation of CTE centers to reporting requirements for high schools in New Hampshire. Recognizing the complexity of this bill, the NH Alliance for College and Career Readiness has crafted a simplified technical assistance document, which provides a brief explanation of each section and the date it will take effect. 

UNH equity group receives grant to support students’ college and career aspirations — The University of New Hampshire’s Educational Talent Search has received a $3.2 million grant to provide advising, academic preparation, post-secondary placement, and career exploration services to low-income and first-generation students in high schools and middle schools around the state. ETS, an equity-focused organization, deploys counselors to schools with the goal of pointing young people to postsecondary opportunities and providing them with tools to pursue their goals. Listen to Reaching Higher’s podcast about first generation college students. 

Education Up Close

Returning to School During the Pandemic: An Opportunity to Integrate Social-Emotional AND Academic Learning
Albert Shanker Institute, Bill Wilmot and Bryan Mascio, September 9, 2021

Tuition freezes cool prices for some while affecting financial aid
Hechinger Report, Pete D’Amato, September 3, 2021

6 Ways Policy Makers Can Support Learning in 2021-22 and Beyond
Ed Note, Karyn Lewis and Katie Carroll, September 16, 2021