NH Education News Roundup, October 12, 2021

In this week’s NH Education News Roundup: Reaching Higher to host webinar on the Statewide Education Property Tax; some community members using petitions to challenge mask mandates; Granite State News Collaborative launches educational equity series; and school lunch programs to receive infusion of federal dollars.

Register for “Understanding the Statewide Education Property Tax” webinar on October 18 — Two special guests from the Department of Education will join Reaching Higher for our next New Hampshire Education Network meeting on Monday, October 18, at 3 p.m.  Caitlin Davis, Director of the Division of Education and Analytic Resources at the NH Department of Education, and Mark Manganiello, the DOE’s Office of School Finance Administrator, will join us to discuss the statewide education property tax (SWEPT), and how it is set to change in 2023 under the statewide budget. The meeting will be followed by a Q&A session moderated by Reaching Higher NH.

Reaching Higher is excited to host this event, which is open to members of the public who share an interest in public education. Register here

To challenge school mask mandates, some parents are turning to petitions — Community members who are opposed to mask policies in schools are turning to petitions to call for special district meetings on the issue, the New Hampshire Bulletin reported last week. Residents leading such efforts in districts around the state are using RSA 197:2 to attempt to force school boards to change their COVID response plans in schools. What’s unclear is whether votes held at these special district meetings are binding.

Nearly 100 COVID clusters confirmed in NH schools — The State Department of Health and Human Services has so far identified almost 100 COVID clusters (defined by the CDC as two or more cases in a 14-day period) in K-12 schools around the state, NHPR reported last week. Actual cases are probably higher than that, due to the prevalence of at-home testing. A review by InDepthNH last month found that the department’s school dashboard for tracking COVID-19 cases contains out-of-date information and numerous inaccuracies.

‘Forbes’ article highlights the expanding cost of NH’s school voucher program — An article published in Forbes magazine last week points out how higher-than-predicted enrollment in the school voucher program passed into law last spring will translate into a higher tax burden for the state as well as tax increases and/or spending cuts in local public school districts. Initial estimates floated by the New Hampshire Department of Education said the program would cost the state only $130,000 in the first year. But last month, the Department of Education indicated it was preparing to accommodate well over 1,000 students. 

“The impact of the program will be felt across the state. Under the program, parents who already homeschool or private school their children can also apply for the vouchers, meaning that public schools receive less money while handling the same number of students,” senior contributor Peter Greene writes. “Public schools will lose the state’s share of financial support, meaning that local districts may have to choose between cutting programs or raising taxes. Meanwhile, taxpayers will have no say or accountability for how those state education tax dollars are spent.”

Read Reaching Higher’s voucher coverage and analysis here

New series explores educational equity in New Hampshire — The Granite State News Collaborative and its partner media members have launched a new series examining New Hampshire’s education system through the lens of race and equity. A solutions-based project, “Education & Equity,” will look at topics such as the increasingly diverse student-aged population in the state, how well school curriculums reflect that diversity, and how the state’s school funding system addresses and/or amplifies inequities. As part of the series, the Collaborative is creating a data library as well as conducting teacher surveys and providing space for educators to participate in confidential, guided conversations around important topics. Read the first piece of the series: Exploring race and diversity beyond the classroom

$1.5 billion headed to school lunch programs — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week that it will send $1.5 billion to school lunch programs around the country struggling with supply chain disruptions. Since students returned to school last month, many schools have reported difficulties in feeding students due to rising costs and supply chain disruptions. Last month, the USDA said that it would relax some requirements around purchasing food and meeting nutritional standards. Earlier this year it extended the waiver that allows schools to offer free meals to all students regardless of eligibility.

Report highlights trends in how families pay for college — A new report by Sallie Mae finds that families spent less on college last year than the prior year, and that a larger percentage were making student loan payments while still in school. More families had a plan for paying for college than ever before as well. On the negative side, only 68% of families — the lowest percentage in the history of the study — filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). According to the report, 44% of families who didn’t fill out the FAFSA said they didn’t believe they would qualify for aid, and 34% said they missed the deadline, didn’t have time, or found the form too complicated. 

Education Up Close

‘Jobs First’ Higher Education: A Model to Meet Students Where They Are
U.S. News & World Report, Paymon Rouhaniford, September 23, 2021PROOF POINTS: What almost 150 studies say about how to motivate students
Hechinger Report, Jill Barshay, September 27, 2021
Back to High School, After Missing So Much
New York Times, Dana Goldstein, September 28, 2021

Middle school minds: Figuring out who you are in the midst of global turmoil
Hechinger Report, Requina Allen-Lamphere, October 1, 2021