Archives for category: New Hampshire

Garry Rayno of InDepthNH reports on opposition to the funding of New Hampshire’s expansive voucher plan, which has never been submitted to a public referendum. A lawsuit has been filed to block the use of public school funds for unaccountable vouchers. The voucher program, serving mostly kids who already attend students in private and religious schools, is far more expensive that its sponsor low-ball projections.

CONCORD — A bill to expand the uses for the state’s Education Trust Fund ran into opposition Friday as opponents said it would give the new Education Freedom Account program a blank check without accountability.

The prime sponsor of House Bill 440, Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, said the bill simply “cleans up and codifies” what is in legislation elsewhere in statutes and comes at the Department of Education’s request. He noted the current trust fund statute does not address money for kindergarten or leases for charter schools.

“This bill clarifies (sections of law),” Cordelli said, “so there is a full picture of what comes out of the Education Trust Fund.”

However, those testifying in opposition at a public hearing Friday before the House Education Committee, said the bill is not a “housekeeping measure” but an attempt to divert millions of dollars to the Education Freedom Account program from public schools without sufficient accountability.

“The program was funded for two years as a pilot program and now you are giving it a blank check,” said David Trumble. “Why take a huge gamble. You built a program with no foundation for it and now you want to build a tall skyscraper on it.”

HB 440 would allow the Education Trust Fund to be used to pay for Education Freedom Account grants to parents and for phase-out grants to school districts losing students to the program.

The bill also changes the funding for the state’s portion for charter school leases from the general fund to the Education Trust Fund.

The Department of Education would be able to use 1 percent of the money in the Education Trust Fund to administer the EFA program, under the bill.

The Legislative Budget Assistant was not able to determine the cost of the changes in the bill because the department had not responded at the time of the bill’s printing, but noted the 1 percent going to the department would be $10.6 million in the current fiscal year, and $11 million in fiscal year 2024 and $11 million in fiscal year 2025.

The use of the fund for the EFA program is being challenged in court as the plaintiffs claim the program uses money earmarked for public education for private programs.

The suit challenging the funding for what has been described as the most expansive voucher program in the country, claims money raised by the Lottery Commission, and money from the Education Trust Fund may only be used for adequate education grants to school districts, citing the law creating the fund in 1999.

The suit, brought by Deb Howes as a citizen taxpayer, who is also president of AFT (American Federation of Teachers)-New Hampshire, seeks an injunction blocking the state from using any more of the Trust Fund Money to fund the EFA program.

Speaking at the public hearing, Howes reiterated her opposition to the bill, saying it is not a housekeeping measure.

“If money is coming out of (the Education Trust Fund),” she said, “does not mean it should be coming out of it.”

Public school and district tax money is not limitless, Howes said, noting it is all coming out of taxpayers pockets.

“When you run short of money,” Howes said, “you are going to shortchange the 160,000 kids in public schools.”

Please open the link to read the rest of the article.

Gary Rayno writes in InDepth NH about a Democratic proposal to put the State Department of Education in charge of the voucher program. Called “Education Freedom Accounts, the program was sold as a way to help low-income students in bad public schools transfer to better private schools. But about 75% of the students getting voucher money were already enrolled in private and religious schools. The free-market State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut (who home-schooled his own children) projected that the program would cost $3.3 million, but it has actually cost $27 million in its two years of operation. Edelblut promised it would cut property taxes, but the cost of the program is projected to grow.

Rayno writes:

CONCORD — Several lawmakers seek changes to the new Education Freedom Account program with a package of bills addressing issues raised in its first two years of operation.

The program was included in the state’s two-year operating budget passed in 2021, and has been significantly over budget projections with more students than anticipated and what many view as insufficient oversight.

“It is hard to have oversight,” said the prime sponsor of House Bill 626, Rep. David Luneau, D-Hopkinton, “when you don’t have transparency, when you don’t have the data to look at.”

The bill, which had a public hearing Wednesday before the House Education Committee, would have the Department of Education administer and manage the program instead of the Children’s Scholarship Fund NH, which receives 10 percent of the program’s grant distribution under its contract with the state. The organization’s no-bid contract was approved by the Executive Council soon after the program was approved in the state’s operating budget.

The program allows the money parents receive to roll-over from year to year, unless the amount exceeds what would be a quarterly payment.

If the student graduates, leaves the freedom account program or is removed from the program for misuse of funds, the parents would be required to return any excess money to the Education Trust Fund under the bill.

The bill would also require students in the program to take one of the statewide assessment tests required of public school students as a comparison of how well the students in the program are doing, Luneau said.

Luneau and other supporters of the change say the program needs more oversight, accountability and transparency given the millions of dollars being distributed to parents.

The state has spent about $27 million during the first two years of the program, well above the $3.3 million budget Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut projected would be the cost.

He asked for $30 million each year of the next biennial budget in requests to the Governor’s Office.

Luneau told the committee that is $90 million in the first four years of the program coming out of the Education Trust Fund, and $9 million of it going to the scholarship fund.

He said he believes with added staff, the department could manage and administer the program for much less money and have the data needed for better accountability, transparency and assessment.

Why use tax dollars to pay the overhead of a private company, when you are already paying the department to oversee kids’ education in the state, Luneau said.

To date, about 75 percent of the funds for the program have gone as subsidies to parents of students who were enrolled in private or religious schools prior to the program’s start.

Of the 3,000 students in the program this year, about 700 attended a public school the year before.

Luneau said the reports include the kids who were in private and religious schools before the program began to show how successful it is, but that is not saving any taxpayers money but is using money from the Education Trust Fund.

Luneau is prime sponsor of another bill prohibiting using the money as a subsidy for private or religious school tuition.

Supporters of the program sold it as a way for lower income parents to afford to find the best education opportunities for their students while saving property tax dollars for taxpayers.

Luneau said taxpayers who fund public schools receive a great deal more accountability, oversight and transparency of their tax dollars than they do in the freedom account program, adding the reports the scholarship fund has provided are laughable; they are so incomplete.

The view of Republican legislators is that parents alone offer accountability. If they don’t like the program, they will leave it. Since 3/4 of them are already enrolled in private and religious schools, they should be overjoyed that the taxpayers are underwriting the cost.

Open the link and read the rest of the article.

Arnie Alpert is an activist in New Hampshire. In this post, he calls out the state GOP for attributing its racist “divisive concepts” law to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Its real author is Donald Trump, or more likely, Trump’s sidekick Stephen Miller. At the end of his article is a tape of Dr. king’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963. It has nothing in common with the GOP’s efforts to whitewash the curriculum of America’s schools. The GOP betrays Dr. King’s ideals.

When New Hampshire House Republican leaders quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. in their defense of the state’s “Divisive Concepts” or “Non-Discrimination” law last week, it wasn’t the first time King’s words were used to imply something quite different from what he intended.

All the law does, according to a statement from GOP Majority Leader Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, and Deputy Leader Jim Kofalt, R-Wilton, is prohibit “teaching children that some of them are inherently racist based on their skin color, sex, race, creed, etc. Is that not what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called for when he said, ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character?’”

To that I say, no, that’s not what he called for, not if one takes the time to review the entirety of the speech now known as “I Have a Dream.”

Since all sides to this controversy say they want history portrayed accurately, a review is in order, starting with the New Hampshire law in question.  The statute began its life in 2021 as HB 544, sponsored by Rep. Keith Ammon, R-New Boston, and co-sponsored by Rep. Osborne, aiming to bar teachers, other public officials, and state contractors from the “the dissemination of certain divisive concepts related to sex and race in state contracts, grants, and training programs.”

The proposal was not of local origin.  According to The First Amendment Encyclopedia, “’Divisive concepts’ legislation emerged in multiple states beginning in 2021, largely fueled by conservative legislatures seeking to limit topics that can be explored in public school classrooms. The laws have been driven in large part by opposition to critical race theory, an academic theory that says racism in America has largely been perpetuated by the nation’s institutions.”  Those proposals followed an Executive Order on “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” issued by President Donald Trump the previous year, which blocked federal agencies from providing diversity, equity, and inclusion training “rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors.”

In its statement of purpose, the order cited the same brief extract from Dr. King’s 1963 speech, talked about the “significant progress” made in the intervening 57 years, and went on to criticize diversity training conducted in a variety of federal agencies.  It listed nine “divisive concepts” which would be prohibited, among them were that “the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist,” and that anyone “should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.” 

Trump’s order was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge and later rescinded by President Joseph Biden, but it’s intent and language were picked up by legislators in several states, including New Hampshire. 

The Trump order’s list of “divisive concepts” was repeated almost word-for-word in Rep. Ammon’s bill, which received considerable attention from supporters, several of whom tried to recruit Dr. King among their ranks.  For example, a letter-to-the-editor published both in the NH Union Leader and Concord Monitor, stated, “HB 544 eliminates the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the discussion of issues of race and the other ‘isms’ we are addressing today.”  It went on, “America has been moving in that direction of Dr. King’s idea for the last 50 years. We want to teach our children and share with our employees that we want to act in the way Dr. King has prescribed, not the CRT idea of systemic racism.”  Speakers made similar comments at a State House rally that spring, where one participant reportedly carried a sign reading, “Teach MLK, Not CRT.” 

But after a public hearing and extensive work in committee, HB 544 was tabled on the House floor.

The proposal was not dead, however.  Instead, it sprang back to life as a provision in the House version of the state budget.  Now titled, “Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education” and with a somewhat reduced menu of concepts to be prohibited in schools and other public workplaces, the Finance Committee inserted it into HB 2, the budget trailer bill.  Under this version, “any person” who believed they had been aggrieved by violation of the law could pursue legal remedies. 

When Senate GOP leaders heard that Governor Sununu was not happy about the “Freedom from Discrimination” language, Senator Jeb Bradley re-re-wrote it, turning it into what is now the non-discrimination statute.  Once again the proposal’s scope was reduced, for example limiting it only to conduct of teachers.  But it did contain a provision that “any person claiming to be aggrieved by a violation of this section, including the attorney general, may initiate a civil action against a school or school district in superior court for legal or equitable relief, or with the New Hampshire commission for human rights.” 

It’s worth noting that other than in the original public hearing on HB 544, at no time did the House or Senate provide a meaningful opportunity for public comment on the proposal, whose final details were worked out in the rapid deliberations of a House-Senate conference committee.  

Following adoption of the budget, with the Bradley version intact, the NH Department of Education added a link to its website encouraging parents to report teachers they believe are disseminating ideas banned under the “Non-Discrimination” law.  A right-wing group promised $500 to the first family that files a successful complaint.

Given what we might call the “original intent” of its sponsors, it’s no surprise that some teachers are fearful that “any member” of the public might put their jobs at risk if they teach about the ways in which African Americans and other people of color have faced systematic discrimination. 

It was the clamor for laws that would end systematic discrimination that brought a few hundred thousand people to Washington DC on Aug. 23, 1963, for the March for Jobs and Freedom.  Inspired by A. Phillip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the rally marked the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation which ended slavery in the states of the Confederacy.  It took place shortly after demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama brought inescapable attention to the brutality needed to maintain racial segregation.  By emphasizing jobs and freedom, the march sought to advance an agenda for job training and an end to workplace discrimination as well as voting rights and a civil rights bill that would end segregation in schools and public accommodations.  Dr. King was one of several major speakers.  

A century after emancipation, Dr. King said, “the Negro still is not free; one hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”  Referring to the Declaration of Independence, Dr. King said, the founders of the nation had issued “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” 

“It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned,” he charged, saying that instead of following through on a promise, America had issued a bad check.  “We’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice,” Dr. King said. 

Seeking to rescue the nation from “the quicksands of racial injustice,” including “the unspeakable horrors of police brutality,” Dr. King said, “There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.  The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” 

Looking back, there is no doubt Dr. King was addressing the collective and systematic discrimination experienced by African Americans, a view fully consistent with what HB 544 backers decried as critical race theory. 

Yes, progress has been made since 1963. But the realities of police brutality, extreme inequality, and denial of voting rights which Dr. King condemned are still with us. Dr. King can still help us find the way forward if we take the time to study what he actually meant.

The Republican Party seems to be descending into barbarism. In New Hampshire, one of the first acts of the new Republican-led legislature was a vote to allow weapons in its meeting place.

CONCORD – The House of Representatives debated a rule that would limit deadly weapons in the crowded Representatives Hall chamber of 400 legislators at the State House.

House Rule 64 failed 177-197 on Convening Day Wednesday of the 2023 legislative session at the State House.

A Democratic leader and a father of a young potential visitor to the State House called the vote “irresponsible.”

Supporters of the rule argued that inadvertently, or in the heat of a debate, a weapon could discharge causing tragedy, noting that often children are in the gallery who could be hurt.

It was further argued that New Hampshire does not allow weapons to be carried into courtrooms and prisons and should not be allowed in these situations.

State Rep. Matt Wilhelm, D-Manchester, the minority leader, said the rule would “restore common sense.”
But opponents noted that when law enforcement is minutes away, a gun could be a way to keep the chamber safe.

Rep. Terry Roy, R-Deerfield, asked fellow legislators to imagine if they lived in a country where carrying a weapon was not a right.

“No House rule is going to stop a House member from defending themselves,” Roy said.

For decades until 2010, House Rules prohibited the possession of weapons in the House chamber.

Democrats reinstituted the provision in 2013-14 and again in 2019-20, and Republicans have voted to repeal the restriction in all recent terms that they have held the majority.

After the vote, Wilhelm issued the following statement:

“Prohibiting deadly weapons in the House Chamber is a common-sense policy to keep legislators, staff, and the public safe as we conduct the business of the State of New Hampshire.

“When Republicans have permitted guns in the legislature, there have been numerous incidents of dropped and mishandled firearms on House property. As the parent of a fourth grader, whom I hope will visit the State House on a field trip this spring, the public’s safety is particularly top of my mind,” Wilhelm said.

The State Commissioner of Education, in New Hampshire, Frank Edelblut, home-schooled his 7 children. He doesn’t like public schools. He’s a big supporter of “backpack funding,” where students can use public funds for anything of an educational sort. At his urging, the legislature adopted a voucher plan.

But a lawsuit was recently filed claiming that the funding of the voucher plan violates the state constitution by drawing down money intended for public schools.

Garry Rayno of inDepthNH reports:

CONCORD — The new Education Freedom Account program violates state statutes by using funds earmarked for public education for private programs, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday against Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

The suit challenging the funding for what has been described as the most expansive voucher program in the country, claims money raised by the Lottery Commission, and money from the Education Trust Fund may only be used for adequate education grants to school districts, citing the law creating the fund in 1999.

The suit seeks an injunction blocking the state from using any more of the Trust Fund Money to fund the EFA program.

“If the state desires to operate an Education Freedom Account or similar program, whereby it grants public money for parents to utilize for private use, it must separately fund it through additional taxation or another source of funds,” the suit claims, noting there currently is no mechanism for doing so.

The New Hampshire Constitution states “all moneys received from a state-run lottery and all interest received on such moneys shall, after deducting the necessary costs of administration, be appropriated and used exclusively for the school districts of the state,” according to the suit, which also notes the money “shall not be transferred or diverted to any other purpose.”

The law only allows the money to be used to distribute adequate education grants to school districts and approved charter schools, the suit claims.

The complaint, brought by Deb Howes as a citizen taxpayer, who is also president of AFT (American Federation of Teachers)-New Hampshire, was filed in Merrimack County Superior Court.

The complaint also claims the state is delegating its duty to to provide an adequate education to a private entity, The Children’s Scholarship Fund, which runs the EFA program without any “meaningful oversight” by the state.

“The state specifically earmarked this money for public education. Instead, the state is stealing from public school students in plain sight to pay for its private voucher program,” Howes said. “Public school students are losing out on millions of dollars that are needed to fix leaky old buildings, purchase and maintain modern computer equipment, buy books and materials published at least in the last decade to support student learning, and provide more social and emotional assistance and other needs that will help students excel.”

“If Commissioner Edelblut wants to continue with his cherished voucher program, he needs to figure out a legal way to fund it,” she said, “but definitely not on the backs of public school students.”

The controversial EFA program was approved as part of the two-year budget package in 2021 after it stalled in the House, but the Senate resurrected it and put it in the budget.

Since it began, it has cost much more than Edelblut told lawmakers to expect, which was essentially $3.4 million over the biennium, but has cost $23 million over that period.

Sold as a program to help students find different educational environments in order to thrive, instead about 75 percent of the participants attended private and religious schools prior to the program’s launch last year, meaning less than 25 percent of the participants were in public schools the year before the program began.

Parents can use EFA grants for tuition and fees for private schools and private online learning programs, private tutoring services, textbooks, computer hardware and software, school uniforms, fees for testing, summer programs, therapies, higher education tuition and fees and transportation.

So the program is more expensive than expected, and 75% of the students it serves were already enrolled in nonpublic schools.

The single biggest beneficiary of the program thus far has been Amazon, presumably for books and hardware.

Having gone to college many years ago in Massachusetts, I have an idyllic view of small-towns in New England. Thus, I was shocked to read this article from InDepth New Hampshire about hate groups that are active in Franklin, New Hampshire. True, NH has its Free Staters, rabid libertarians who want no government at all, but you will read here about a different type of extremism, based on hate.

What’s happening to our country? when I read articles celebrating the last election as a rebuke to Trumpism, I remind myself that many important votes were very close. In many states, reason won by 50.4%. Or 51%.

A new hate incident in Franklin, this time white supremacist graffiti painted on a downtown building, has city leaders looking for answers.

Mayor Jo Brown said the city’s task force to combat hate, formed after a Jewish business owner was targeted by a hate group this summer, is working on stifling hate with education and positivity…

It is not clear who is behind this week’s graffiti, Brown said. This is the second time this year Franklin leaders have dealt with hate-influenced issues. Over the summer, members of the notorious hate group, NSC 131, targeted Miriam Kovacs, owner of the Broken Spoon, which is a Jewish-Asian fusion takeout restaurant.

NSC 131, also known as the Nationalist Social Club, is a neo-Nazi hate group active in New England. The group has a chapter active in New Hampshire. In the past year, the group has targeted businesses on the Seacoast for harassment, and even threatened former Nashua Democratic state Rep. Manny Espitia.

State Rep. Charlotte DiLorenzo, D-Newmarket, recently spoke about receiving a racist email from a different group. Attorney General John Formella is investigating the email from a man who identified himself as the founder and president of a group called the New England White Network.

NSC 131 was founded in eastern Massachusetts and its members are tied to violent Neo Nazi groups like The Base, Aryan Strike and Patriot Front. The group has off-shoot chapters in Europe and some southern states. NSC 131 graffiti has been spotted all throughout southern New Hampshire, and the group has made appearances at Nashua City Hall and Nashua School Board meetings, among other incidents.

This summer, the group hung two banners over a highway in Dover that read: “Keep New England white” and “Defend New England.”

The group is virulently anti-Semitic and calls for expelling Jewish people from the United States. The group also calls for violence against Jews and minorities.

“110 and never again. Jews have been expelled from 109 countries make America 110. Any nationalist of action will agree, 110 and never again,” on NSC 131 poster wrote on Telegram.

Gary Rayno of InDepthNH shows how Republican gerrymandering has warped free and fair elections in the state. Its two Senators are Democrats but the state is controlled firmly by Republicans, who redrew the map to make sure that Republicans control the Legislature.

He writes:

The voting is over although the final outcome for control of the House will not be official until the 16 recounts are finished at the end of next week.

The Senate and Executive Council remain firmly in Republican control although the results would have been different had they not been gerrymandering more than they already were 10 years ago.

The redistricting plans approved down party lines for the Senate and Executive Council seats should give Republicans more Senate seats and four safe Executive Council seats for the next decade.

However, the residents of New Hampshire need to be congratulated for setting a non-presidential election year or midterm election record, breaking the one set four years ago….

The voter turnout Tuesday was somewhere near 70 percent of those on the checklist, which the Tuesday before the election had 883,035 names, with 278,681 registered as Democrats, 276,034 as Republicans and 328,320 undeclared….

In the 2018 election, with a greater number of voters on the checklist, the percentage of those who voted was 57.5 percent….

There were several huge issues for Democrats particularly reproductive rights and other fundamental rights like same sex marriage and contraception with the US Supreme Court overturning its earlier Roe Vs Wade decision making abortion a fundamental right.

Another major issue was preserving democracy as it has been in place since the days of Roosevelt’s New Deal, as well as combating misinformation about election frauds and voter suppression.

Republicans focused on the economy and inflation, and what they said was the Democrats’ slide toward socialism and issues like parental rights.

But when the smoke cleared Tuesday night — or almost cleared depending on recounts — Republicans were able to maintain control of the State House from governor to the House, while Democrats had total control of federal offices as they have had for the last six years….

Once again New Hampshire will send Democrats to Washington while Republicans will control the State House.

However, to say Republicans have a mandate would be very misleading as would talk of their policies being popular with New Hampshire voters.

The only clean Republican victory came in the governor’s race where incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu defeated Democrat Tom Sherman by a sizable margin.

In the Executive Council, state Senate and state House races, Democratic candidates received more votes than their Republican counterparts, but will still be in the minority.

Executive Council

All five current members won reelection to maintain the Republican’s 4-1 majority on the council.

This is the council that has refused to fund health contracts for poor families for Planned Parenthood, because four of the councilors reject a Department of Health and Human Services required report the organization and several others that provide abortion services that segregated state money from the money used to provide abortion services.

They have rejected the contracts a number of times along with once routine contracts to teach sex education to at-risk students in Manchester and Claremont. The same councilors have approved the contracts in the past.

The four Republicans also held up federal money to expand the state’s COVID-19 vaccination programs at a critical time when youngsters were about to receive their first shots and elderly their first boosters causing delays in rolling out those programs according to the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Yet when you add the votes for the five Republican executive council candidates the total is 301,743, and the total for the five Democratic candidates is 303,238, a difference of 1,495 in favor of the Democrats.

If the five districts were drawn more fairly, the make up of the council should probably be 3-2 in one or the other party’s favor, not 4-1.

To see how badly gerrymandered the Executive Council is look at the 2nd district, which saw incumbent Democrat Cindi Warmington of Concord beat her Republican challenger, former state Sen. Harold French by 24,679 votes 74,107 to 49,428.

In essence, that result indicates 24,678 Democratic votes are wasted and could have gone elsewhere.

If you add up the margin of victory for the four Republican candidates, it is 23,179, or 1,500 less votes than Warmington won by.

If those 24,679 votes were spread in the other four districts, it would be a very different picture.

No wonder Warmington mentioned the gerrymandering in her statement Tuesday about her victory saying “Our outstanding candidates ran the best races possible, but unfortunately couldn’t overcome the effects of deeply gerrymandered districts.”

State Senate

With the new political boundaries in the Senate, there are fewer competitive seats and what would appear to be a consistent 15-9 or 16-8 partisan breakdown favoring Republicans.

Districts were altered to make Republican held districts safer while concentrating more Democrats into fewer districts with few contested seats….

When the election was over, the partisan breakdown was the same as it has been the last two years, 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats….

The Republican votes were 293,304, while Democrats received 299,327 votes, or a difference of 6,023 votes.

Yet Republicans hold a 14-10 advantage in the Senate and some of their leaders touted their hard work and agenda as the reason for the continued control.

But the real reason is the Senate is gerrymandered in a significant way to pack Democrats into a few districts while increasing the number of districts where Republican registrations outnumbers Democratic registrations…

The current plan is much more restrictive for Democrats and more favorable to Republicans.

In the House, the number of votes for Democratic candidates outnumber those for Republicans candidates as well.

The Democratic candidates received 1,089,577 votes or 50.8 percent and the Republicans 1,055,843 or 49.2 percent.

When determined by the 400 seats, Democratic candidates received 482,192 votes or 52.8 percent while the Republican candidates received 432,039 votes or 47.2 percent, again showing the House was gerrymandered.

The trouble with gerrymandering it does not reflect the will of the majority of voters and currently diminishes the value of Democratic votes versus Republican votes.

Gerrymandering disenfranchises partisan groups and prevents them from having a representative who reflects their interests.

And despite a superior court judge ruling there is nothing in law or the state constitution that makes partisan gerrymandering illegal, it truly is minority rule.

And with the state’s gerrymandered districts, it is difficult to see how the current plans adhere to the state constitution’s “free and fair elections” clause.

While it is clear the Republicans gave themselves a significant advantage in redrawing the state’s political boundaries, it should be noted Sununu vetoed two bills that had bipartisan agreement in 2019 and 2020 that would have created an independent redistricting commission to redraw the maps.

The legislature would have had to give final approval.

But the state’s “blue wave” in last week’s election would have been more apparent if an independent commission had drawn the political boundaries instead of special committees controlled by Republicans.

And the results will be apparent for the next two years if not the rest of the decade.

Garry Rayno may be reached at garry.rayno@yahoo.com.

There are three things that privatizers hate: public schools, democracy, and teachers’ unions.

In New Hampshire, the privatizers are on the move.

Jacob Goodwin writes about them in The Progressive:

New Hampshire has a proud tradition of public schools, one that, in some towns, dates back to single-room school houses of early America when students would take horse-drawn sleighs to school in the winter. Our schools—and towns, for that matter—are known for operating largely under “local control,” meaning that school boards are made up of parents and community members and are designed to act as sentinels of democracy, tasked with uplifting the highest civic ideals and aspirations.

Historically, the state has had a limited role in determining how schools are run. Consequently, New Hampshire has provided a minimal amount of school funding. While the concept of local control can be both empowering and a burden of responsibility, students and teachers cannot carry out their important work without adequate funding.

Recently, school privatizers seized curricula as a new front in their pressure campaign against teachers, determined to further squeeze public schools financially. Lacking widespread public support, New Hampshire’s legislature restricted classroom conversations about race and gender in 2021—enacting a law which drew ire for its disproportionate penalties and vague requirements. The confusing act prompted the New Hampshire Department of Justice to issue a statement of guidance, confirming the harsh penalties and doing little to protect teachers from potentially career-ending false accusations. The law has placed additional costs on districts in terms of teacher retention and recruitment, compounding staffing shortages in the profession.

Privatizers advance their damaging agenda by undermining the public confidence in schools. Each teacher that leaves due to the relentless attacks is one less trusted adult for children. And the loss of experienced professionals is a way of further loosening communal ties. Traditional, deliberative decision making of small-town New England is rooted in neighborly relational knowledge, but this is now being undercut. Privatizers only see profits by cutting costs, not the most important thing in schools—the people.

Nationwide, attacking teachers and neighborhood schools has become part of a broader strategy to divert taxpayer money away from public accountability. Profiteering and mismanagement scandals in states like Florida and Pennsylvania warn of the danger of moving decision-making from parent volunteers in the auditorium to executives in corporate board rooms.

Despite the odds, teachers are speaking up for their community schools and mounting legal challenges to unjust laws that seek to erode the essential public good of education. On September 14, the presiding federal judge declared that he would rule on the state’s motion to dismiss a suit brought by a coalition including the state’s largest teachers union within sixty to ninety days. But while the speech-chilling law remains in place, teachers fear stifled classroom discussions and even loss of licensure. And the forces of privatization have continued to stretch the civic fabric of our communities through swiftly changing our state with little public input or oversight.

After failing to pass a stand-alone voucher bill in previous legislative sessions, the state Commissioner of Education shepherded a significant voucher bill through the state legislature and into the budget. He promised that the measure would be limited and require a budget of $130,000 in the first year. In October 2021, however, the voucher law was already costing New Hampshire taxpayers $6.9 million…

Distracting the public from the actual needs of over 90 percent of students who attend public schools is part of the coordinated strategy against local control in New Hampshire. The refusal to address funding adequacy, meaningful mental health support for students, and building maintenance are among the major issues that are seldom addressed.

I was thinking of titling this post “Libertarian Crackpots Take Charge of School Funding in New Hampshire” but decided to bite my tongue.

Garry Rayno, a writer for InDepthNH.org, reports that the Koch-funded plan to defund public schools in New Hampshire is a “success.” Not because most parents want to put their children in private or religious schools, but because the overwhelming majority of students using the new education freedom accounts are already enrolled in nonpublic schools. Thus, public funds are now underwriting private education. At some point, the public schools will shrink to be just one among many choices even though the people of New Hampshire never voted to abandon their community public schools. This is a theft of public dollars for private use.

By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org 

The new education freedom account program is a success judging by the number of students participating in the first year.

More students are expected to participate in the second year and state education officials predict it will continue to grow into the future.

One of the most expansive school choice programs in the country, it was sold as a way for students and parents to find the best educational avenues to fit their student’s individual learning needs.

That would be wonderful and would fulfill the education department’s long-standing goal of individualized student pathways, but that is not what happened for a majority of students.

Instead the program has increased the state’s education spending while few students changed their learning environment.

The vast majority of students — around 85 percent — participating in the first year, did not attend public schools the year before. Instead they were in private or religious schools, or home schooled, or too young for school.

That does not change the learning environment for that 85 percent of students.

What did change under the program was the parents’ financial obligations, which were reduced thanks to the influx of state taxpayers’ money.

Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, a program advocate, told lawmakers the first year of freedom accounts would cost the state’s Education Trust Fund about $300,000 and the second year about $3.2 million. Instead the cost was close to $9 million this year.

Why the increase? Edelblut’s estimates were for students leaving traditional public schools to participate in alternative programs, not for those already in other programs applying for state help to cover the costs of private and religious schools, or home schooling.

Essentially most of the state money flowed through the parents to private and religious schools and for homeschooling costs all previously paid for by the parents or religious institutions.

When the program was first debated this term, the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Assistant’s office estimated the state’s exposure could be as high as $70 million if all the students in private or religious schools applied for grants.

The program provides grants to parents of students who earn no more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level or about $80,000 a year for a family of four.

You only have to qualify once, so if the next year your family makes $125,000, you still qualify and if you double that the next year, you still qualify.

Grants range from about $4,500 to $8,000 per student with the average the first year a little under $5,000 per student.

The money can be spent in any number of ways, for tuition, books and instructional programs, supplies, computers, individual instruction on a musical instrument, etc.

The money to pay for the freedom accounts comes from the Education Trust Fund established more than 20 years ago when the state overhauled its funding system after the Claremont II Supreme Court decision saying the then current system of relying on local property taxes with widely varying rates to pay for public education was unconstitutional because it violated the proportional and reasonable clause of the state constitution.

For most of its early years, the trust fund ran a deficit and state general fund money had to be added to meet the state’s education aid obligations.

In recent years the fund has had a surplus including this biennium. The state budget passed last year estimates a $54.4 million surplus at the end of last fiscal year June 30 and a $21 million surplus at the end of the 2023 fiscal year.

The surplus at the end of last fiscal year is much larger than that as the overall state revenue surplus is more than $400 million, but most of that has already been spent through legislation this year such as the $100 million settlement fund for the children abused at the Youth Detention Center.

The law establishing the freedom accounts has a provision if the education fund does not have enough money to cover the cost of the grants, the needed money will be withdrawn from general fund revenue without any action needed from the legislature or the governor.

Such a provision is extremely rare as lawmakers like to be able to determine how general funds are spent.

The number of students participating in the program the first year would probably not be so large if not for the American for Prosperity, an “education organization” funded by the Koch network and other like thinking libertarians who have longed advocated that public education tax money also pay for private and religious schools, homeschooling and charter schools.

The New Hampshire affiliate had a campaign ready to go when the freedom account legislation passed as part of the budget package last year. The group helped parents enroll their students in the program, many who were in private or religious schools or home schooled.

Last week the same organization held an “education fair” for parents to meet representatives of some of the organizations and groups approved to other alternative education programs under the freedom account program.

The fair was promoted by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut who tweeted a photo from the fair, and the department had a booth there to promote its 603 Moment campaign on social media.

Others touting the fair included members of the House freedom caucus and others in the free state/libertarian wing of the GOP.

The fair is intended to help grow the program, meaning more state money will be drawn from the Education Trust Fund and ultimately the state’s general fund.

This is a well planned operation that only required the state to agree to a school choice program with few guardrails to begin taking the state down the road to greater educational “freedom” and less traditional public education.

The Koch network has recently developed a proposal to “reform” public education with one of its officials calling public education the “low hanging fruit.”

The reform would look a lot like what the freedom account program looks like and would shift resources as it does away from traditional public education to alternative pathways.

As the freedom account program grows, observers of the legislature know what will happen eventually.

As more and more education trust fund money is allocated, there will be pressure to reduce the amount of money going to traditional public education and, depending on which party is in control, to charter schools.

That is how public education becomes the low hanging fruit.

The education commissioner and others talk about the achievement gap between students from well off areas and minority students and those from low-income families.

Edelblut maintains that gap has not changed in 50 years despite numerous efforts on the federal and state level and says that is why education needs to change.

He downplays what the recent education funding commission made the centerpiece of its work, that the achievement gap is due to the resources available to students.

Students from property poor communities perform below students from property wealthy communities.

The economic disparity gap between students from property wealthy and property poor communities is larger now than it was when the Claremont lawsuit was filed 30 years ago.

Proponents of alternative education programs say it is not about spending more money, and the education funding commission said the same thing.

But the commission said the resources needed to be distributed differently, while the advocates for freedom accounts say it is about finding the right fit for a student.

Those advocates are saying the issue is not economic disparity.

Ultimately their goal is to make government smaller and they can accomplish that by disrupting traditional public education with lower cost, less regulated alternative programs.

Eventually traditional education will be small enough to be just one more alternative pathway for students among many.

That is why public education is the low-hanging fruit and freedom accounts are just the beginning.

In 2001, libertarian political scientist Jason Sorens proposed the creation of a “free state.” He appealed to other libertarians to cluster in one small state, where enough of them would be able to eliminate laws and authority and “live free.” That state was New Hampshire, and the libertarians have joined hands with Republicans to impose their agenda on others who don’t share it. Earlier this spring, Free Staters proposed that New Hampshire secede and became an independent nation, but that proposal failed overwhelmingly, in part because enough people realized it was nutty and/or they didn’t want to give up their Social Security.

Dan Barry wrote in The New York Times about an effort by Free Staters in Croydon, New Hampshire, to cut the town’s school budget in half.

As is typical in many towns and cities across the nation, not many people show up for local elections, or in this case, the town meeting. One of the members of the Croydon board of selectmen, Ian Underwood, proposed cutting the town budget for schools by more than half, from $1.7 million to $800,000.

In pamphlets he brought to the meeting, Mr. Underwood asserted that sports, music instruction and other typical school activities were not necessary to participate intelligently in a free government, and that using taxes to pay for them “crosses the boundary between public benefit and private charity.”

The pamphlet did not note that its author was a 1979 graduate of the public high school in Chesterton, Ind., where he starred on the tennis team, ran track, played intramural sports and joined extracurricular activities in math, creative writing, radio and student government. Also: National Honor Society member, National Merit finalist and valedictorian.

One person not completely gobsmacked by Mr. Underwood’s proposal was the school board chairwoman: his wife, Jody Underwood. The Underwoods, who do not have children, moved to Croydon from Pennsylvania in 2007 in part to join the Free State mission; they are now considered a Free State power couple.

Underwood’s radical proposal passed by 20-14. It was a victory for the Free Staters. As the Underwoods did media interviews, they gloated:

Mr. Underwood asked what for him appears to be a fundamental question — “Why is that guy paying for that guy’s kids to be educated?” — and denied that he and his wife were “in cahoots.”

Many people in Croydon were “livid.” They realized this radical act was the result of their indifference.

But they were also chastened. They hadn’t attended the town meeting. They hadn’t fulfilled their democratic obligation. They hadn’t kept informed about the Free State movement. To some observers, they had gotten what they deserved…

From this muddle of anger, confusion and regret, though, a movement was born. It came to be known as We Stand Up for Croydon Students.

Conservatives, liberals and those who shun labels — “an entirely nonpartisan group,” said Ms. Damon, one of the members — began meeting online and in living rooms to undo what they considered a devastating mistake. They researched right-to-know laws, sought advice from nonprofits and contacted the state attorney general’s office to see whether they had any legal options.

They did: Under New Hampshire law, citizens could petition for a special meeting where the budget cut could be overturned — if at least half the town’s voters were present and cast ballots.

Ms. Beaulieu, 44, a project manager for a kitchen and bath store, helped to gather enough signatures for the necessary petition. Once a date in May was set for the special meeting, she and other volunteers spread the word, knocking on doors, conducting phone banks and planting lawn signs…

The crisis in Croydon generated a curious democratic dynamic. Since the law required that at least half the town’s electorate participate in the special meeting’s vote for it to be binding, those trying to overturn the Underwood budget encouraged people to attend, while those hoping to retain it encouraged people to do just the opposite and stay home.

On the chilly Saturday morning of May 7, Croydon residents filed into a spacious building at the local YMCA camp for their special meeting. The We Stand Up contingent needed at least 283 voters.

The turnout: 379.

The vote in favor of overturning the Underwood budget: 377.

The vote against: 2.

The We Stand Up crowd cheered and hugged, leaving Mr. Underwood to vent online with posts titled “Your House Is My A.T.M.” and “Possibly Dumbest Thing I’ve Heard Someone Say, Ever,” and Dr. Underwood to frame the moment as both an impressive voter turnout and a victory for “mob rule.”

“It felt to me like a bunch of woke people came to Croydon,” she said.

What happened in Croydon is a lesson for us all.

Get out and vote.

Do not let the neo-fascists, neo-Confederates, racists, and conspiracy theorists take over.

Fight for democracy or lose it.