Next week, the House Education Committee will hold a two-day session voting on recommendations for nearly 50 bills, including four bills that would expand eligibility for the statewide school voucher program and a bill that would create a locally-funded voucher program. Also on the docket: hearings on a bill that would expand membership of the State Board of Education, and bills to cap, or eliminate, surpluses in the Education Trust Fund.
Executive Sessions Scheduled for January 30 and 31
The House Education Committee will vote on recommendations for these key bills on Tuesday and Wednesday:
- School voucher expansion: There are four bills on the agenda that would significantly expand eligibility for the statewide school voucher program. These bills faced substantial public opposition, with 93% of people urging lawmakers not to expand eligibility for the program. (Bills on docket: HB 1634, HB 1561, HB 1677, and HB 1665)
- Locally-funded school vouchers: HB 1652 would allow school districts to establish local school voucher programs funded directly from their local school budgets. The voucher amount would be twice the state per-student funding ($8,200 in FY2024), plus any additional funding for which the student may be eligible. The bill would require the school district to be responsible for all special education costs and administration, even if the student leaves public school and attends a private school or homeschool program. Public opposition to the bill was heavy: 450 people opposed, and 26 people supported.
- Slashing the core subjects of an adequate public education: HB 1691 would slash the core subjects of what the state defines as an adequate education to focus on math, science, English Language Arts, and social studies. The other core subjects, including art, health, physical education, world language, personal financial literacy, and engineering, would be reduced to supplemental content areas. The bill sponsor, Representative Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro), defended the bill by saying it was a “messaging” bill that urged schools to focus on those four subjects. Opponents say that since most of these subjects are the ones tested on standardized tests, schools already focus on them. Also worth mentioning: the state’s contribution to school funding is based on the law that this bill changes, so HB 1691 would likely have substantial funding implications.
- Expanding food access for NH students: HB 1212 would expand eligibility for no-cost school meals to students whose families make up to 350% of the poverty level ($105,000 for a family of four in 2023). The eligibility for school meals mirrors the current eligibility for the statewide school voucher program. For perspective: As of October 2023, 52% of children lived in households that reported having insufficient food, according to NH Hunger Solutions.
- Testing out of high school: HB 1402 would allow any student to take a state-crafted test to receive a high school diploma — with a choice of a diploma issued by their school or by the state. Nothing in the proposed law would require it to align with local or state academic standards, competencies, or learning expectations. It’s also unclear whether the bill would waive other graduation requirements, like community service, internships, or capstone projects. The bill sponsor, Representative Alicia Lekas (R-Hudson), defended the bill, saying that the intent was to allow students to test out of high school requirements but still attend other classes if they want.
- Special education: A slate of bills dealing with special education are on the docket for Tuesday and Wednesday, including HB 1176, which would create a study committee to examine state funding for special education.
The House Education Committee will vote on recommendations for each bill: whether they recommend to pass the bill, kill it, table it (put it on hold), or refer it for more study. Then, it goes to the full New Hampshire House, where all 400 lawmakers vote on whether to accept the committee’s recommendation, or vote on a new path for the bill.
Before the executive session, members of the public can email House Education Committee members directly at HouseEducationCommittee@nh.state.leg.us
Next Week’s Hearings: Expanding the State Board of Education
On Monday, January 29, a band of lawmakers will introduce HB 1437, which would expand membership of the State Board of Education to include a teacher, school leaders, and a student.
Currently, the State Board of Education is a board of seven members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Executive Council. Under current law, all seven members must be members of the public, and are barred from having any professional engagement in schools. Current state law also prohibits teachers and school leaders from serving on the State Board.
What does the State Board do, exactly? They oversee the state’s education system, from approving the rules and regulations that govern public schools, review and approve charter schools and alternative programs like Learn Everywhere programs, and oversee teacher prep programs in New Hampshire’s colleges and universities.
In the past few years, the State Board of Education has come under fire for passing highly controversial programs:
- Approving Learn Everywhere as a way for the state to approve curriculum and programs without local school approval;
- Approving ultra-conservative media company PragerU’s curriculum for credit in New Hampshire’s high schools;
- Significantly expanding the number of charter schools in the state, some with ties to the conservative, Christian Hillsdale College network;
- Denying teacher prep program approval because of diversity and inclusion courses.
HB 1437 would expand the State Board of Education to 11 members, and require the governor to appoint a public school classroom teacher, a public school administrator, a superintendent, and a student from the Legislative Youth Advisory Council, a 21-member advisory council made up of high school and college students from around New Hampshire.
The public hearing for the bill is scheduled for Monday, January 26 at 1:30 p.m. in the House Education Committee, Room 205-207 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord.
Next Week’s Hearings: Limiting the Education Trust Fund
Both the House and Senate Finance Committees are scheduled to hold public hearings on bills that would eliminate, or limit, the amount of state money in the Education Trust Fund (ETF), from which the state pays for public and charter schools, as well as the school voucher and school building aid programs.
HB 1560, which has a hearing on Monday, would transfer any ETF surplus to the state’s General Fund at the end of each fiscal year. SB 552, which has a hearing on Tuesday, would cap the ETF’s surplus at $175 million per year, and transfer the rest into a fund for teacher recruitment and retention programs.
About the Education Trust Fund (ETF)
The Education Trust Fund (ETF) is an account that the state uses to pay for the state’s public and charter schools, special education aid, school building aid, Career and Technical Education, and the statewide school voucher program. Surpluses in the fund have been used to increase state funding for public and charter schools to create one-time infrastructure grants for schools to increase school security measures and other school-related programs.
It is funded through a combination of business taxes, statewide property taxes, lottery profits, tobacco taxes, and other sources.
Historically, the ETF continually ran a deficit, and the state was required to use General Funds to pay for public and charter schools. In 2018, the ETF began running a surplus, and in 2024, the surplus is expected to be about $184 million in FY2024, and an additional $48 million in FY2025.
Considerations with Eliminating ETF Surpluses
There are several considerations with these bills: eliminating the surplus in the ETF, which could significantly hinder school funding decisions in the future. Additionally, the ballooning cost of the statewide school voucher program may eventually require a draw on General Funds.
Investing in teacher recruitment and retention programs is vital to ensuring that public schools have a well-qualified, robust teacher workforce. However, relying on ETF surpluses could put the programs in jeopardy in the long term, if programs like the school voucher program get too costly, or if lawmakers change the school funding formula.
Monday, January 29, 2024
House Education, Legislative Office Building, Room 205-207
- 9:00 AM HB1655 relative to establishing an educator certification fund for fees paid to the department of education.
- 9:30 AM HB1517 relative to the statewide education property tax and excess revenue from games of chance.
- 10:15 AM HB1311 relative to school district collection development and reconsideration policies.
- 11:00 AM HB1166 adding an exception from required civics competency assessments.
- 11:30 AM HB1397 relative to information on student placement based on achievement of course competencies.
- 1:00 PM HB1476 relative to charter school memorandums of understanding.
- 1:30 PM HB1437 relative to the membership of the state board of education.
- 2:00 PM HB1205 relative to women’s school sports.
Tuesday, January 30, 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.
House Education Executive Session, Legislative Office Building, Room 205-207
- 10:00 AM HB1014 relative to the registration of high school students to vote.
- 10:00 AM HB1107 relative to public school curriculum frameworks.
- 10:00 AM HB1066 relative to the graduation requirement of filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- 10:00 AM HB1206 relative to prohibiting educator indoctrination.
- 10:00 AM HB1288 relative to establishing certain due process rights for students, student organizations, and faculty members facing disciplinary actions by state institutions of higher learning.
- 10:00 AM HB1305 relative to freedom of speech and association at public institutions of higher education.
- 10:00 AM HB1657 relative to prohibiting hazing at educational institutions.
- 10:00 AM HB1436 relative to requiring institutions of higher education to maintain certain statistical information on their website.
- 10:00 AM HB1555 relative to special meetings for changes in education funding.
- 10:00 AM HB1402 establishing a procedure for a high school proficiency exam waiver of mandatory school attendance.
- 10:00 AM HB1212 relative to eligibility for free school meals.
- 10:00 AM HB1516 relative to enrollment in public schools by children of school district employees.
- 10:00 AM HB1165 relative to procedures for school facilities under the department of education.
- 10:00 AM HB1670 relative to including all special education costs under state education grants.
- 10:00 AM HB1678 establishing a New Hampshire farm to school local food incentive pilot program.
- 10:00 AM HB1634 relative to universal eligibility for the education freedom account program.
- 10:00 AM HB1677 relative to participation in education freedom accounts based on school or school district proficiency scores.
- 10:00 AMrelative to qualifications for student eligibility in the education freedom accounts program.
- 10:00 AM HB1665 relative to student eligibility for the education freedom accounts program.
- 10:00 AM HB1419 relative to prohibiting obscene or harmful sexual materials in schools.
- 10:00 AM HB1570 relative to administration of school building aid funds by the department of education and making an appropriation therefor.
- 10:00 AM HB1216 relative to cross-district bullying and cyberbullying.
- 10:00 AM HB1058 relative to school employee and designated school volunteer criminal history records checks.
- 10:00 AM HB1109 relative to requiring student identification cards to include the helpline for the National Alliance for Eating Disorders.
- 10:00 AM HB1088 enabling schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors.
- 10:00 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.
- 10:00 AM HB1652 relative to establishing a local education freedom account program.
- 10:00 AM HB1691 relative to the definition of an adequate public education.
- 10:00 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.
- 10:00 AM HB1480 relative to alternative dispute resolution within individualized education programs.
- 10:00 AM HB1524 relative to authorizing parents of special education children to observe in the classroom setting.
- 10:00 AM HB1509 prohibiting spending of special education moneys for any other purpose and requiring reporting of fund balances to the school board.
- 10:00 AM HB1443 relative to special education dispute resolution.
- 10:00 AM HB1382 relative to special education support for military-connected students.
- 10:00 AM HB1469 relative to the retention of individualized education program records.
- 10:00 AM HB1695 relative to the release of student personally identifiable information.
- 10:00 AM HB1655 relative to establishing an educator certification fund for fees paid to the department of education.
- 10:00 AM HB1517 relative to the statewide education property tax and excess revenue from games of chance.
- 10:00 AM HB1311 relative to school district collection development and reconsideration policies.
- 10:00 AM HB1166 adding an exception from required civics competency assessments.
- 10:00 AM HB1397 relative to information on student placement based on achievement of course competencies.
- 10:00 AM HB1476 relative to charter school memorandums of understanding.
- 10:00 AM HB1161 relative to use of the public school infrastructure fund for energy efficient school buses.
- 10:00 AM HB1452 relative to credentials for the position of superintendent of schools and school business officer.
- 10:00 AM HB1552 relative to the duties and responsibilities of superintendents of school administrative units.
- 10:00 AM HB1265 relative to the penalty for failure to file school expenditure reports, and relative to certain adequacy grants.
Wednesday, January 31, 2024
House Education Executive Session, Legislative Office Building, Room 205-207
- Refer to Tuesday’s Bill list
Friday, February 2, 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.