On Tuesday, March 8, the House Education Committee amended House Bill (HB) 1671 to preserve the state’s laws around the content and requirements for a public education in New Hampshire. The original bill would have overhauled the state’s public school system. The amendment replaces the entire proposal with minor changes to the existing laws, including a legal definition of “applied learning” and the addition of “logic and rhetoric” as a core learning area. The amendment also adds “personal finance literacy” to the existing core academic domains.
NH Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut introduced HB 1671 at a public hearing in February. The bill, as proposed, would have removed art, health and physical education, engineering, computer science, digital literacy, and world languages from the core academic domains. It also would have made significant changes to the reporting and accountability requirements for public schools and would have dealt a major blow to the state’s college-and-career readiness effort, known as The Drive to 65 Act.
“At a time we are dealing with ConVal [the school funding lawsuit], it is a good time for the legislature to say we are working to address this. This shows we are not sitting on our heels. This says we have a responsibility for these learning areas,” said Education Chair Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) when introducing the amendment.
The public strongly opposed the original bill, with hundreds of people writing to the committee after Edelblut’s testimony. Many indicated that it was their first time contacting lawmakers, and passionately urged lawmakers to kill the bill.
“This legislation will clearly exacerbate already existing opportunity gaps which exist between communities in NH…This appears to be saying [that] since we can not address the known existing funding disparity issues we will attempt to provide relief by reducing what we believe is essential to be an educated citizen. This approach does not support the students in New Hampshire schools who need a well-roundedwell rounded comprehensive public education,” wrote a school leader from Bow.
Others wrote about the importance of specific content areas, including a Portsmouth educator who wrote: “It’s absurd to assume that the arts are simply in place to serve ‘core subjects’… I can tell you from first-handfirst hand experience, the arts are a lifeline to many of our most vulnerable students. And beyond that, they are THE space where students learn key critical and creative thinking skills needed to survive in today’s world. Core subject teachers are not trained or qualified to deliver this curriculum or to ‘integrate’ it into their already overflowing curriculum.”
“NH children deserve a rich and diverse school experience that includes art, music, foreign languages, physical education, computer science, engineering, various trade, and life skill classes, etc. and does not just focus on the four basics of Math, English, Science, and Social Studies. Educating our children is one of the most important things that American society does,” wrote a Sutton resident.
The bill, as amended, is expected to go to the full House floor the week of March 14.