Legislative Update: Non-certified teachers in the classroom? Some lawmakers say OK

This week, lawmakers heard from thousands of Granite Staters who oppose school voucher program expansion. Ninety-three percent (93%) of the testimony submitted was in opposition to school voucher expansion, with a total of 3,982 people opposing and 286 supporting four different expansion bills. The House Education Committee did not vote on a recommendation for the bills. 

On the Senate side, the Senate voted to allow uncertified people to teach in public schools, as long as they work less than 30 hours per week. The vote took place along party lines (14-10).These aren’t teachers who have temporary or emergency certification or are on a path to being certified — they are individuals with no teaching credentials. The bill now heads to the House.

Next week, the House Education Committee will hold hearings on two critical bills: one that would create a locally-funded school voucher program (a repeat from 2022 and 2023), and one that would redefine the content of an adequate education (similar to last year’s HB 1671, which was met with fierce public opposition). 

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Sharp opposition to school voucher expansion

On Wednesday, January 17, the House Education Committee held public hearings on four bills that would significantly expand eligibility for the state’s school voucher program: HB 1634 and HB 1561, which would create a universal school voucher program; HB 1677, which would create near-universal eligibility based on proficiency scores; and HB 1665, which would increase the income eligibility threshold to 500% of the poverty line. 

“Why must I subsidize the private education of high income families when I struggle to pay my property taxes as it is? I am more than willing to pay my fair share for PUBLIC education for ALL students, but not exclusive education for the wealthy,” Denise Clark, a Milford resident, wrote in opposition to HB 1665. 

“There is no upper limit to its cost which means that more and more money will come from the state’s public funds reducing the amount of state aid to local districts and putting an ever greater burden on local property taxpayers. The local taxpayer will have not choice, but will be forced to subsidize those who are given a choice,” wrote Emmanuel Krasner, a Farmington resident, in opposition to HB 1665. 

Note that for HB 1561 and HB 1677, students already qualify for a school voucher if they meet the income threshold. This would expand the program to allow wealthier families to receive a school voucher for private or homeschooling costs. 

Independent studies have suggested that outcomes for participation in similar school voucher programs in other states are, at best, mixed, but more recent studies have suggested that these programs have had significant negative effects on student outcomes for the students who participate in them and have diverted funding from public schools. Researchers have stated that school vouchers “cause catastrophic academic harm” and have had a worse impact on student outcomes than any other policy or event in public school history, including the global pandemic. 

These proposals come after a state oversight committee raised questions about the transparency of the program and the diversion of public funds. Read more about the report and the committee’s concerns here. 

On Thursday, January 18, the Senate voted 13-11 in support of SB 442, which expands the definition of “eligible student” for the education freedom account program to include students whose enrollment transfer request was denied. According to the New Hampshire School Boards Association, the bill would render education hardship laws “effectively meaningless,” weakening a process that helps students and families who need alternative education placements. 

SB 442 now goes to Senate Finance.

Uncertified teachers in the classroom? OK, according to some

One of the most important elements of a high-quality education is a strong, diverse, and well supported teaching profession. Students learn more when their teachers are certified:

We concluded that the advantage of having a certified teacher is worth about two months on a grade-equivalent scale. The school year is 10 months long, so the loss from having an undercertified teacher is 20 percent of an academic year. In other words, students pay a 20 percent penalty in academic growth for each year of placement with under-certified teachers. (Source: In Harm’s Way: How Undercertified Teachers Hurt Their Students

However, on Thursday, January 19, the Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 374, which would allow any individual to teach in public schools, as long as it was “part-time,” or less than 30 hours per week. 

According to bill sponsor Senator Dan Innis (R-Bradford), the idea for the bill came from Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut in discussions about how to solve the teacher shortage. Research, including Reaching Higher NH’s own survey of current and former NH teachers, indicates that teacher shortages are caused by inadequate pay, work-related stress, and increasingly, the politicization of teaching and education. Removing certification requirements wouldn’t address those problems, but studies show that it would likely reduce student achievement. 

There are also questions about whether the state’s code of conduct would apply to part-time teachers, and whether it would be enforceable. 

Next week: local school vouchers & redefining public education

On Monday, January 22, the House Education Committee will hold public hearings on two crucial bills: HB 1652, creating a locally-funded school voucher program, and HB1691, which would redefine the content areas of a public education in state law. 

Locally-funded school vouchers

HB 1652 would create local school vouchers that are directly funded by local school district budgets. The local school vouchers would give parents between $8,364 and $13,668 per student in FY2025 to use on private school tuition, homeschooling expenses, and other education-related costs. 

Read more about the bill here: 10 things to know about HB 1652, the local school voucher program 

The hearing for HB 1691 is scheduled for Monday, January 22 at 10:15 a.m.

Redefining the content of an adequate education

For the second time in 2 years, lawmakers are proposing to redefine the subject areas that define public education in New Hampshire. HB 1691 would cut the core knowledge domains into four: math, science, social studies, and English Language Arts. The law would require schools to give “attention to” the other specified content areas: art, health and physical education, engineering, computer science, digital literacy, and world languages. 

It appears that the bill is trying to align public schools with a “classical education” model, which is embraced by religious schools and charter networks, and organizations like Hillsdale College. 

However, by changing the legal definition of an adequate education, there may be significant funding implications for the bill. 

The bill is similar to HB 1671, which was proposed in 2022 by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, which removed those content areas:

Representative Marjorie Porter asked the Commissioner if HB 1671 would allow school districts to cut programs to reduce their budgets. “If a district were trying to save money, could they get rid of their world languages teachers? Their arts education program because it’s no longer part of the requirement?,” she asked. 

“Yeah, they would still be required to offer that type of instruction, but they can offer that through VLACS or some other means. The objective would be to see more of the integration take place,” he responded. 

The hearing for HB 1691 is scheduled for Monday, January 22 at 11:15 a.m.

Next Week

Interested in the following bills? 

Both the Senate and House Education Committees accept public testimony in person at the Legislative Office Building, or electronically via their online portal or by emailing the committee members directly.

Monday, January 22, 2024

House Education, Legislative Office Building, Room 205-207

  • 9:00 AM HB1088 enabling schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors.
  • 9:30 AM HB1553 relative to establishing a pilot program under the department of education to offer “spelling to communicate” services to students with autism or apraxia.
  • 10:15 AM HB1652 relative to establishing a local education freedom account program.
  • 11:15 AM HB1691 relative to the definition of an adequate public education.
  • 12:45 PM HB1493 relative to the powers and duties of cooperative school district budget committees.
  • 1:15 PM HB1642 relative to the role of cooperative school district board member representatives on school district budget committees.
  • 1:45 PM HB1481 relative to appointments to fill vacancies to at large cooperative school board seats.
  • 2:15 PM HB1383 relative to cooperative school board district elections.
  • 2:45 PM HB1579 relative to the merging of school administrative units.
  • 3:15 PM HB1195 relative to allowing school districts to approve different apportionment methods for school administrative unit costs.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Senate Education, Legislative Office Building, Room 101

  • 9:00 AM SB443 relative to school building aid for eligible projects and the definition of school transportation vehicle.
  • 9:15 AM SB525 relative to administration of the education freedom accounts program.
  • 9:30 AM SB521 relative to the educational credentials for master teacher.
  • 9:45 AM SB378 relative to the performance-based school accountability system task force.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

House Education Executive Session, Legislative Office Building, Room 205-207

  • 9:15 AM HB1048 relative to the commission on Holocaust and genocide education.
  • 9:15 AM HB1690 relative to hiring, promotion, graduation, or admission in higher education.
  • 9:15 AM HB1534 relative to establishing a program to earn tuition credits for state of New Hampshire higher education institutions through community service.
  • 9:15 AM HB1675 relative to adjusting education adequacy grants based on pupil proficiency.
  • 9:15 AM HB1402 establishing a procedure for a high school proficiency exam waiver of mandatory school attendance.
  • 9:15 AM HB1153 relative to mandatory and elective public school curricula.
  • 9:15 AM HB1128 relative to the definition of a scholarship organization for purposes of the education tax credit.
  • 9:15 AM HB1212 relative to eligibility for free school meals.
  • 9:15 AM HB1165 relative to procedures for school facilities under the department of education.
  • 9:15 AM HB1516 relative to enrollment in public schools by children of school district employees.
  • 9:15 AM HB1167 relative to the math learning communities program.
  • 9:15 AM HB1471 declaring the total solar eclipse a school holiday.
  • 9:15 AM HB1216 relative to cross-district bullying and cyberbullying.
  • 9:15 AM HB1164 relative to criminal records checks of teacher credentialing applicants.
  • 9:15 AM HB1058 relative to school employee and designated school volunteer criminal history records checks.

House Education, Legislative Office Building, Room 205-207

  • 1:45 PM HB1161 relative to use of the public school infrastructure fund for energy efficient school buses.
  • 2:00 PM HB1452 relative to credentials for the position of superintendent of schools and school business officer.
  • 2:30 PM HB1552 relative to the duties and responsibilities of superintendents of school administrative units.
  • 3:00 PM HB1265 relative to the penalty for failure to file school expenditure reports, and relative to certain adequacy grants.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

House Education, Legislative Office Building, Room 205-207

  • 9:00 AM HB1176 establishing a commission to study current funding for special education and potential other funding sources.
  • 10:00 AM HB1639 relative to children with disabilities placed at state facilities for adjudicated youth.
  • 10:45 AM HB1480 relative to alternative dispute resolution within individualized education programs.
  • 11:30 AM HB1524 relative to authorizing parents of special education children to observe in the classroom setting.
  • 1:00 PM HB1509 prohibiting spending of special education moneys for any other purpose and requiring reporting of fund balances to the school board.
  • 1:30 PM HB1443 relative to special education dispute resolution.
  • 2:00 PM HB1382 relative to special education support for military-connected students.
  • 2:30 PM HB1469 relative to the retention of individualized education program records.
  • 3:00 PM HB1695 relative to the release of student personally identifiable information.

Friday, January 26, 2024

House Education (Subcommittee Work Session), Legislative Office Building Room 209 beginning at 10:00 AM 

  • 10:00 AM HB1583  relative to the per pupil cost of an opportunity for an adequate education.
  • 10:00 AM HB1586 establishing a foundation opportunity budget program for funding public education.
  • 10:00 AM HB1656  relative to increasing the adequacy grant for pupils receiving special education services.
  • 10:00 AM HB1686 relative to requiring excess revenues raised through the statewide education property tax to be remitted to the education trust fund and prohibiting the department of revenue administration from setting negative local and county tax rates on real property.

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