This week will be busy in Concord — there are dozens of public hearings on school-related legislation, as well as other happenings.
Here’s what you need to know this week:
- School vouchers remain a top priority of lawmakers, with two hearings this week.
- Latest version of minimum standards shows that NHED incorporated the selected feedback they’ve sought, but key concerns remain.
- School funding bills would reinstate targeted funding for highest-need communities.
- Bill would allow the Commissioner of Education to sue school districts on behalf of individuals for complaints.
- Slate of bills to increase school building aid funding scheduled for Tuesday.
School vouchers remain a top priority of lawmakers
Last week, hundreds of Granite State residents voiced opposition to two bills that would expand eligibility for the statewide school voucher program. House Bill (HB) 464, which would expand eligibility based on geography as well as other categories (Support: 27, Oppose: 300), and HB 367, which would double eligibility by raising the income eligibility cap, garnered sharp opposition from the public (Support: 26, Oppose: 450).
This week, lawmakers will hold a public hearing on HB 430, which would change the eligibility requirements for the school voucher program. Currently, the only eligibility requirement is that a student must have a family income of less than 300% of the Federal Poverty Guideline (about $90,000 for a family of four), regardless of whether they’ve ever been enrolled in a public school. HB 430 would change the law to require that students must have completed at least one year in a public school or are entering kindergarten or first grade.
This change in eligibility would drastically reduce the number of students eligible for the school voucher program: In the 2022-2023 school year, 77% of the students who receive a taxpayer-funded school voucher were already enrolled in private schools or were homeschooled prior to signing up for the program. Under HB 430, it is expected that most of these students would not be eligible to sign up for vouchers unless they are entering kindergarten or first grade.
Lawmakers will also hold a public hearing on HB 440, which would allow the state to use funds in the Education Trust Fund to pay for the state’s school voucher program. The state is being sued because the state is already using ETF funds to pay for the program, but state law specifies that the ETF can only be used to pay for public schools and public charter schools, property tax relief, school building aid, special education, and other purposes that are specific to public district and charter schools.
This year, New Hampshire will divert more than $14 million from the Education Trust Fund to pay for school vouchers this year, and the NH Department of Education estimates that the cost will double to $29 million in FY24 and FY25.
The public hearing for HB 430 is scheduled for Tuesday, January 24, at 1:45 p.m., and the public hearing for HB 440 is scheduled for Friday, January 27, at 3:15 p.m. Both hearings will be held in the Legislative Office Building, room 205-207.
Reaching Higher NH will also host a webinar on school vouchers in New Hampshire on Thursday, January 26 at 1 p.m. The event is free, but registration is required: bit.ly/schoolvouchers2023
Latest version of minimum standards shows that NHED incorporated the selected feedback they’ve sought, but key concerns remain
Late last week, Reaching Higher NH obtained the latest available revision of the Minimum Standards for Public School Approval, which was released to a select group of individuals on Friday, January 13. That group did not include Reaching Higher NH. According to Reaching Higher NH’s preliminary analysis, the NH Department of Education has largely restored the program elements and has made adjustments to the threshold for determining competency. The NHED had specifically sought input on both these sections over the past three months.
However, despite these changes, key concerns remain. It is our understanding that the NHED sought feedback from a small group on only program elements and graduation competencies, and did not revise or clarify other key concerns highlighted by Reaching Higher NH. These include the removal of student protections, the removal of guidance for safe and healthy schools, and the minimization of formal instruction, which could lead to the unbundling and dismantling of public schools.
More details will be released in the coming days. For more information on the minimum standards, please contact Christina Pretorius, Policy Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org
School funding bills would reinstate targeted funding for highest need communities
This week there are hearings on a number of important education funding bills; two of interest are HB 334 and HB 529. HB 334 would eliminate the adequacy formula for state education funding in its current form and replace it with a flat rate for all districts, calculated at half the statewide average cost per pupil. Though this bill would increase education funding from the state, it would also eliminate targeted funding, including the differentiated aid for districts with higher rates of students qualifying for free and reduced price lunch or special education services. It would also increase the dollar amount of school vouchers.
HB 529 would restore fiscal capacity disparity aid and enhanced free and reduced price lunch (FRL) aid, which were two targeted funding schemes previously used by the state. During their use in 2021, these funding mechanisms provided an additional $60 million in targeted aid to qualifying school districts.
The House Education Committee has scheduled public hearings for both bills on Tuesday, January 24 in the Legislative Office Building, room 205-207. HB 334 is scheduled for 12:45 p.m., and HB 529 is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Bill would allow the Department of Education to sue school districts on behalf of individuals for complaints
On Thursday, January 26, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 533, which would allow the NH Department of Education to sue schools and school districts on behalf of individuals who file a Human Rights complaint with the Department.
Currently, individuals and/or the Attorney General can initiate a lawsuit against a school or school district. HB 533 would allow the NHED to do so on the individual’s behalf.
The public hearing for HB 533 is scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m. in the House Judiciary Committee, room 206-208 of the Legislative Office Building.
Slate of bills to increase school building aid funding scheduled for Tuesday
Three bills will be heard this week that would increase school building aid from the state to local communities. Since 2019, the state has capped the amount it would provide for building aid at $50 million a year. Each of these three bills would eliminate this cap, and instead set a funding floor.
HB 332 would increase the amount of school building aid to a minimum of $60 million per year and would allocate at least $5 million to projects that were completed during the program’s 10-year moratorium, between the years 2009 and 2019. HB 332 will be heard by the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 10:00 a.m., in the Legislative Office Building, room 210-211.
HB 541 would increase the amount of school building aid to a minimum of $50 million per year starting in 2025, and would also specifically appropriate $100 million per fiscal year for school building aid within the FY 2024-2025 biennium budget. This bill will be heard by the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 10:30 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building, room 210-211.
HB 546 would increase school building aid to a minimum of $50 million per year, in addition to any debt service payments that may be owed in the year of payment (known as the “tail” for previous projects). This bill will be heard by the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 11:00 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building, room 210-211.
Other public hearings scheduled for this week
There are key public hearings on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week. All hearings will be livestreamed via YouTube: New Hampshire House Livestream House and New Hampshire Senate Livestream – YouTube
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
House Education Hearings
9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Legislative Office Building Room 205-207
- HB487 This bill establishes a New Hampshire farm to school reimbursement program and makes an appropriation therefor.
- HB492 This bill requires the department of education to provide the house and senate standing committees responsible for education with either physical copies, digital copies, or a link to an Internet copy of the laws and rules relative to education.
- HB437 This bill creates a reading assessment program in the department of education, requires assessments of kindergarten through 3rd grade students for reading deficiencies, and establishes a reading improvement grant replacing the portion of the adequate education grant based on non-proficient pupil reading.
- HB542 This bill establishes the classified position of academic research and improvement performance data analyst and makes an appropriation for the biennium. The academic research and improvement performance data analyst shall collect and analyze assessment data and assist educators in the effective use of data.
- HB334 This bill changes the calculation for the per pupil amount for grants for the opportunity for an adequate education to be 1/2 of the statewide average cost per pupil.
- HB430 This bill provides for applications to the education freedom account program for a child currently attending a New Hampshire public school, including a chartered public school, for a minimum of one year, or who is entering kindergarten or first grade.
- HB529 This bill establishes 2 additional aid grants for schools based on the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals and municipal fiscal capacity disparity.
- HB309 This bill adds instructional requirements for civil rights and acts of discriminatory injustice to the course of instruction in schools concerning national and state history and government.
Senate Education Hearing
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. at Legislative Office Building Room 101
- SB77 This bill requires state board of education rules on manifest educational hardship to allow for a school board’s assignment of a pupil to an approved private school.
- SB93 This bill provides that for students in a chartered public school, the funding and educational decision-making process for children with disabilities is the responsibility of the chartered public school.
- SB109 This bill clarifies the ability of school employees to communicate with law enforcement on an ongoing basis, for the purpose of taking preventative action if a threat arises to the health, safety, and wellbeing of students.
House Finance Hearing
10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Legislative Office Building Room 210-211
- HB332 This bill increases the amount to be appropriated by the legislature for school building aid construction and renovation projects of school districts. The bill also allocates a portion of funds to be paid for school building projects approved in prior years but which were not funded.
- HB541 This bill increases the amount of school building aid grants that may be approved by the department of education per fiscal year. The bill also makes appropriations of $100 million in fiscal years 2024 and 2025 for approved school building aid projects.
- HB546 This bill requires a minimum of $50,000,000 per fiscal year to be transferred to the school building aid fund, in addition to any debt service payments, for school building aid grants.
- HB207 This bill increases the amount of unanticipated funds for which a school district is required to give notice and hold a public meeting.
- HB129 This bill requires the department of education to fund the cost of school districts providing menstrual hygiene products. The bill also allows school districts to receive funds for providing menstrual hygiene products during previous school years.
- HB468 This bill requires the department of education to hire an attorney for the sole purpose to review the content and structure of the education laws. The cost shall be paid from the education trust fund.
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
House Education Hearing
9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Legislative Office Building, room 205-207
- HB272 This bill increases the amount of the additional grant for tuition of chartered public school students paid by the state.
- HB578 This bill establishes the position of reporting administrator in the department of education, division of education analytics and resources, and makes an appropriation to the department for the position.
- HB638 This bill imposes new requirements on the implementation of accountability plans for extraordinary need grants to schools.
- HB577 This bill changes the limit for school district liability for special education costs from 3-1/2 times the state average to 1-1/2 times.
- HB626 This bill changes the administration of the education freedom account program under RSA 194-F from scholarship organizations to the department of education.
- HB601 The bill requires the department of education to seek participation in the Medicaid direct certification methodology for school meals program for free and reduced price meals for students in public kindergarten, elementary, and secondary schools.
- HB435 This bill increases the amount for relief aid grants based on eligibility for free or reduced priced school meals and adjusts the grants by changes in the consumer price index.
House Municipal and County Government Executive Session
10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Legislative Office Building, room 301-303
- HB51 This bill requires towns and school districts, when using local funds to lobby for legislation, to use warrant articles for each lobbying agency.
- HB313 This bill alters the definition of default budget to include salary and benefit reductions which occur as a result of position turnover.
- HB403 This bill allows selectmen or assessors to abate taxes only for administrative or clerical errors.
- HB293 This bill allows a town to establish a scholarship fund for the benefit of town residents.
- HB294 This bill allows municipalities to adopt a per-child property tax credit.
Thursday, January 26, 2023
House Finance Hearing
10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Legislative Office Building, room 210-211
- HB50 This bill provides that the state shall pay 7.5 percent of contributions of retirement system employers other than the state for group I teachers and group II members.
Friday, January 27, 2023
House Education Hearing
9:15 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Legislative Office Building, room 205-207
- HB572 This bill increases the eligibility for free school meals to household incomes up to 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
- HB625 This bill modifies the calculation of ADMA and ADMR under school funding to include pupils eligible to have access to curricular courses and co-curricular programs.
- HB637 This bill revises the definitions of average daily membership in attendance (ADMA) and average daily membership in residence (ADMR) for school funding from the education trust fund for the purpose of home educated pupils.
- HB501 This bill provides for special education services to children with disabilities through age 21 inclusive.
- HB439 This bill repeals the authority of a school board to execute a contract with a nonsectarian private school to provide education. The bill also provides that a school board has a duty to provide an education to a pupil until the pupil reaches 22 years of age.
- HB540 This bill provides for categories of special education services for application to the calculation of differentiated aid in adequate education grant amounts.
- HB530 This bill clarifies the process for the vote on withdrawal from a cooperative school district.
- HB466 This bill repeals the state board of education’s rulemaking authority to adopt rules pursuant to RSA 541-A relative to requirements for the installation of water bottle filling stations.
- HB440This bill revises the list of uses for funds deposited in the education trust fund.
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