NH Education News Digest, February 2023

Dear Friends and Colleagues: 

February is quite a suspenseful month here in New Hampshire. No, we’re not talking about groundhog behavior or romantic pursuits or even projected snowfall totals. We’re talking about budgets. State lawmakers and school district leaders are busy working on budgets and bills that will determine the funding for New Hampshire schools in the coming school year and beyond, and taxpayers are getting a look at those numbers in preparation for school district meetings. There’s a lot to process. We’re continuing to track and analyze important education bills, attend legislative hearings, and talk with folks on the ground to get the fullest possible picture of school funding during these critical times. Here are a few highlights:

School district leaders say they’re trying to stretch dollars this budget season, as many are dealing with reduced state funding and wondering what the next state budget will bring. Teacher shortages, inflation, and the upcoming expiration of federal rescue funds are adding to the uncertainty.

On February 14, Governor Chris Sununu is scheduled to release his proposed budget for the 2024-2025 biennium. We’ll be watching closely: School funding and vouchers will likely be big themes this year. Note: register for our webinar on school funding in the state budget on February 16! Register here: http://bit.ly/3Yh2EDE.

Lawmakers are debating a slate of bills that would increase funding for high-need schools and lift the cap on school building aid, while the state projects a historic state surplus.

At the same time, lawmakers are considering bills that would impose penalties for K-12 teachers who have materials deemed “harmful to minors,” would allow the NH Department of Education to sue school districts on behalf of individuals, and would eliminate residency requirements for student attendance.  

Read on for more education news, and please consider forwarding our newsletter to friends and colleagues who share an interest in public education. Thank you, 

The Reaching Higher Team

Hamza Abdulrahman is studying at Husson University in Maine, thanks in part to a scholarship from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

Spotlight on Scholarships

When Hamza Abdulrahman first came to Concord from Egypt as a teenager, he assumed he’d go right to work to support his family. Instead, he became a standout athlete at Concord High School – while also working part-time – and is now studying digital marketing at Husson University in Maine. A scholarship from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation helped make his dream possible. 

More than 1,600 students are awarded a total of $7 million in scholarships each year by the Charitable Foundation, the largest provider of publicly available scholarships in New Hampshire. Scholarships are available for bachelor’s and associate’s degree programs, as well as non-degree certificate and licensure programs, and even some graduate programs. Applications are open now through April 14 for the bachelor’s degree program, while all other programs are offered on a continuous, rolling basis. Apply and learn more here.

New voucher bills would expand program, increase costs

Several bills that would revise the state’s school voucher program have been introduced in the Legislature this year, while data shows the program has mostly benefited families already sending their children to private schools and cost the state $14 million in 2022. These include bills that would expand income eligibility for the vouchers to 500% of federal poverty guidelines or remove income eligibility altogether. For much more information on school vouchers, view Reaching Higher’s recent webinar, School Vouchers in New Hampshire.

State would resume contributing to teacher pensions under new bill

One reason school districts have seen their costs increase in recent years is the state’s shrinking contribution to teacher pensions. A bill introduced last month in the House Finance Committee would require the state to pay 7.5% of retirement costs for teachers and some other public employees. Between 2010 and 2013, the Legislature lowered the state’s contribution from 35% to 0%. Last year, lawmakers passed a one-time 7.5% state contribution. HB 50 would make the contribution permanent, easing the burden on local taxpayers who have been left to pick up the bill, sponsors said.

Professional Standards Board seeking new members

The Professional Standards Board, an advisory board to the State Board of Education on matters related to professional growth, licensure, and governance of the education profession, currently has eight vacancies to fill: seven in the “teachers and education specialists” category and one in the “qualified lay persons” category. Applications can be found here.

“We’re looking for professional educators with a real desire to improve the system, to improve how we credential educators and what the requirements are, and keep our standards high,” Steve Appleby, who sits on the PSB as Director of the Division of Educator Support and Higher Education for the Department of Education, told Reaching Higher last year.

What education issues to watch at the NH State House: 
School choice, parents’ rights and more

NHPR, Sarah Gibson, January 26, 2023

Opinion: “Adequate” school funding in Allenstown?
Concord Monitor, Kris Bellerose, Peter Warburton, and Zack Sheehan, January 29, 2023

A teacher shortage so acute that students are expected to learn without one
Washington Post, Moriah Balingit, January 19, 2023

A Classroom Culture Built on Trust
Edutopia, Crystal Frommert, January 11, 2023

New Role Brings More Focus to Student Basic Needs
Inside Higher Ed, Safia Abdulahi, January 23, 2023

Teachers Shouldn’t Have to Drive Ubers on the Side, Education Secretary Says
Education Week, Libby Stanford, January 24, 2023