NH Education News Digest, April 2023

Dear Friends and Colleagues: 

April is a time of transition for us at Reaching Higher. Our Communications Director, Sarah Earle, is moving to another organization in mid-April. Please join us in thanking Sarah for her invaluable contribution to RHNH’s mission and work over the past three years. We’d also like to wish her the best in her new chapter!

We’re officially at the halfway point of the legislative session – though there’s still a lot of work to be done. The NH House and Senate swapped bills on “Crossover Day” and are now deliberating proposals that originated in each others’ chambers. Last week, the New Hampshire House passed the state budget, which includes a bipartisan amendment that substantially increases need-based funding for public schools and eliminates the school voucher expansion.

Need a refresher on how a bill becomes a law in New Hampshire? Check out this resource on our Facebook page. 

With Sarah’s departure we’re putting our monthly newsletter on pause so we can focus on providing brief and timely policy updates during this busy period. We encourage you to join our New Hampshire Education Network to receive weekly updates and be notified of our upcoming webinars. After the legislative session ends, we’ll be rethinking how our monthly newsletter can best serve you, our readers. Stay tuned!

The Reaching Higher Team

Monica Gemetti, Assistant Principal at Bow Memorial Middle School, center, talks with students and staff during a student leadership meeting. Photo by Sarah Earle.

Spotlight on Young Student Leaders

Once a month at Bow Memorial Middle School, a group of student leaders and school staff meet to focus on building community. The goal: to create a solid foundation for all students to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. The key: open and honest conversation.

“The focus is on creating a sense of belonging,” said Assistant Principal Monica Gemetti, who is leading the school’s MTSS-B (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavioral Health and Wellness) work. “It’s been awesome to provide leadership roles for the kids.”

Read the full story

Schools await much-needed building aid increase

As lawmakers work through the budget process and consider how much they want to fund school building aid, staff and students at schools such as Barnstead Elementary wonder if they’ll finally get the necessary funding to make improvements. Fifth graders at Barnstead Elementary have been meeting in cramped modular classrooms with thin walls since 2001. Last year, the Barnstead School District was one of 15 school districts to apply for state building aid. Its $23 million proposal to build an addition to house classrooms, science labs, and a unified arts program was ranked 10th on the priority list – meaning they received no state assistance. 

“If the legislature doesn’t change the way they fund it, we won’t get any money,” Tim Broadrick, superintendent of the Barnstead School District told the Concord Monitor. 

Youth Risk Behavior Survey results show increase in mental health concerns

Results from the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released last month, reveal an uptick in mental health concerns, including feelings of hopelessness, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts among New Hampshire young people. The number of students who reported feeling sad or hopeless for more than two weeks during the past 12 months rose from 33.6% in 2019 to 44.2% in 2021; Nearly 25% of students reported seriously considering a suicide attempt in 2021, an increase from 18.4% in 2019, and 9.8% of students actually attempted suicide in 2021, compared with 7% in 2019. 

Recognizing a decline in mental health and social-emotional wellness among students, school leaders and staff have devoted a large number of resources, including significant portions of federal COVID relief funds, to social-emotional learning. Some are concerned about the future of such programs as rescue funds expire. 

Local leaders urge state to fully fund public schools

A letter signed by more than 150 local leaders and presented to the NH House Finance Committee last month calls on state lawmakers to address chronic and worsening inequities in public school funding. 

“It is… the strongly held belief of those signed below that strong, well-funded public education is the most important asset for the future of New Hampshire and its citizens… [yet] education funding in New Hampshire continues to be inequitable,” reads the letter, which was released by the NH School Funding Fairness Project and signed by mayors, city councilors, school board members and other leaders from around the state. “Lawmakers have allowed for a decrease in education funding year after year, contributing to increases in property taxes across many communities throughout New Hampshire. Currently, lawmakers in Concord are working on the state budget. This is the single most significant vehicle for addressing this problem, and we once again call on the New Hampshire Legislature and Governor to act.”

The letter was presented to the House Finance Committee during its public hearing on the state budget. Addressed to Gov. Sununu and lawmakers, it urges them to use years of record surplus dollars to fund public schools and expand opportunities for New Hampshire students. In 2021, the Governor and lawmakers used $100 million in surplus dollars to fund tax cuts that lowered taxes for towns with high property values while eliminating funding for high-need schools.

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Hechinger Report, Jon Marcus, Oct. 6, 2022

School choice proposals rarely go before voters – and typically fail when they do
New Hampshire Bulletin, Christopher Lubienski, March 9, 2023

What’s the Best Thing Happening in Schools Right Now? We Asked Top Teachers
Education Week, Elizabeth Heubeck, March 2, 2023

Vermont: Diversifying the Educator Workforce Series, with Glennys Sanchez and Leah Tuckman
VPA podcast, Mallori Longevin, February 23, 2023