Archives for category: New Hampshire

A friend in Boston recently described New Hampshire as “the Florida of the North.” Clearly, she wasn’t referring to climate but to retrograde politicians.

New Hampshire is one of those states, like Florida, that has decided to minimize the significance of COVID. Actions have consequences.

CONCORD — A House member is claiming she was infected with COVID19 at a sub-committee meeting last week.

Rep. Nicole Klein Knight, D-Manchester, in a posting on Twitter Friday morning, said she was infected and in turn has infected her family and she blames House Speaker Sherman Packard for allowing sick members to participate without masks.

Her Twitter posting reads, “I’m positive for covid. Most due to the fact the @NHSpeaker allowed sick members to participate unmasked and come into contact and furthermore did not notify me, I since infected my entire family. If there is any legal action I can take I would appreciate help.”

Packard has insisted committees meet in person and has not allowed members who believe their lives would be at risk to meet remotely rather than physically appear at the State House or Legislative Office Building.

Democrats have pushed for remote access since the session began in January. Remote access to committee meetings was allowed this spring, but once meetings began again this fall, Packard said members would have to attend committee meetings to participate and to vote.

A number of disabled or health compromised Democrats including House Minority Leader Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, sued the Speaker seeking to participate in House session remotely, but lost the initial ruling in US District Court. That decision was overturned by the 1st Circuit Court on appeal and sent back to US District Court to determine if the House members qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act for special accommodations.

The Speaker asked the appeals court to reconsider and another hearing was held with a three-judge panel, but no decision has been released to date….

“I feel like I don’t have a right to be protected,” Klein Knight said, “the Speaker has made it impossible to protect myself.”

“This could wipe out my whole family,” Klein Knight said, “and the least the Speaker could do is notify me.”

Jeanne Dietsch, former state Senator in New Hampshire, reports here on the predicted cost of the state’s new voucher program.

Voucher Update
Costs at 60 times budget, so far!

Taxpayers are in for a surprise when the bill comes due for vouchers. Instead of the $140,000 budgeted for 2022, current projected spending is $6.9 million, with 800 more applications pending! Applications soared after Americans For Prosperity [the Charles Koch organization] sent out mailers andcanvassed door-to-door urging parents to apply. Many applicants are parents already paying for religious, home or private education who might apply for free money. The NH scholarship organization decided that it could not handle program administration. It subcontracted Florida firm Class Wallet to distribute and track the funds. Class Wallet will take the lion’s share of the 10%-off-the-top administration fee.

Ethan DeWitt of the New Hampshire Bulletin and NPR reported on the partisan divide surrounding vouchers. Republicans budgeted for 28 students but expect between 1,000-5,000 to enroll. Democrats worry that the cost of vouchers will spin out of control.

Both should worry that the evidence base for the efficacy of vouchers shows high attrition rates and meager or negative academic results. Furthermore, the voucher advocates repeat the big lie that a state grant of $5,000 will give poor kids the same opportunities as rich kids, whose families pay far more for private schools.

During a two-hour event sponsored by the conservative advocacy organization Club for Growth, DeVos and Pompeo applauded New Hampshire’s initiative. And they framed the effort to allow public money to help students attend private schools as essential to closing the country’s achievement gap when compared to other developed countries.

Here is a link to Pompeo’s speech.

“The same chance”? Not so. Saying it doesn’t make it so.

Representative Mel Myers, Democrat and ranking member of the NH House Education Committee, sent me the following comment:

You have to remember that this voucher policy was slipped into the budget with no public hearing on this bill version. Our House Education Committee heard a similar bill which was tabled after a rigorous challenge on the part of the Democratic members of the committee. During the remote hearing, over 1000 signed up and over 800 were in opposition. Our Governor Chris Sununu and Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut continue their agenda to dismantle NH education which has always ranked in the top five in the nation.


Rep. Mel Myler

Ranking Dem

House Education Committee

Jeanne Diestch, a former Democratic state senator in New Hampshire, recently wrote about the attention showered on the state’s new voucher program by Republican conservatives like Mike Pompeo, a likely Presidential candidate, and Betsy DeVos. Republicans took control of the New Hampshire legislature until 2020; its Governor, Chris Sununu, is a Republican, and he appointed the state’s commissioner of education, Frank Edelblut, who homeschooled his children. Republicans wasted no time in passing a sweeping voucher bill.

US Conservatives Eyeing NH Vouchers

Diestch wrote in her newsletter:


Why the GOP hates the world’s top education models

When a former Secretary of Education and a future Presidential candidate come to New Hampshire for the rollout of a new state educational policy, you know something important is afoot. The candidate, Mike Pompeo, stated at the event that US schools are falling behind because we have a “public-school monopoly”; adopting NH’s “Education Freedom Accounts” [EFAs] would allow the “free market” to correct this problem. This change is so important to conservatives that the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity is handing out supportive pamphlets door-to-door in Bedford. So let’s look at three questions:

  1. Why do conservatives want the free market to control education rather than local public-school districts?
  2. Why are so many outside the state so interested in a change inside New Hampshire?
  3. How will all this impact us, the people of the state?

WHY DO CONSERVATIVES WANT FREE-MARKET EDUCATION?
Nations with top education scores all rely on public schools. If the US followed their examples:

  • Teachers would be highly educated, well-paid and respected. In Finland, for example, acceptance for an education degree can be more competitive than medical school.
  • Schools would have shorter vacations, but also shorter school days. In China, elementary students take 90-minute lunch breaks. In Singapore, teachers use the additional time for planning lessons and collaborating on how to improve students’ performance.
  • After the regular school day, learning would continue at home or in tutoring sessions, especially for secondary students. Parents’ role in most successful nations is to ensure children do their three hours or so of assigned homework.

All these top-scoring countries rely on
public-education systems.

(Note that China is not really first; it only submits scores from 4 wealthy provinces.)Why don’t conservatives want to follow these successful models? More school days with highly qualified educators cost more. Companies want to sell high-margin educational software, supported by low-paid trainees, rather than pay education professionals’ salaries. New Hampshire’s EFAs potentially shift millions from public-school teachers and administrators to corporations seeking shareholder profits. In addition, church-based schools are seeking their share of EFAs. Then there is the fact that more-educated people tend to vote Democratic.

WHY SO MANY EYES ARE WATCHING NH EFAS
That is why so many outside New Hampshire are focused on EFAs here. National and international commercial and religious interests will be contributing to Mr. Pompeo and other conservative candidates. Donors hope that if a highly ranked state like New Hampshire can be convinced to hand their taxpayer dollars to unsupervised scholarship funds (see inset below), the rest of the nation will follow.EFAs hide spending detail from taxpayers

EFAs move millions in taxpayer funds from local school board oversight to an independent contractor. The contractor only has to report three things to the Department of Revenue
Administration: amount spent on administration, total number of scholarships, and average scholarship size. The state has no knowledge of who receives how much.
— NH RSA 77 G:5(g)HOW EFAS WILL CHANGE NH
EFAs impact far more than students. When EFAs substitute a $4600 payment for a year of public-school education, someone has to make up the difference. A religious school might charge only $2000 more per year in tuition, but how many low-income households can afford $2000 per child? The upshot is that poor neighborhoods will still need to rely on public schools, but those schools will have fewer per-student dollars to support them. Property taxpayers will have to make up the difference or close schools. The hit will be especially severe in Coos County, where thousands of educators comprise a significant segment of employees. When those schools are forced to close, most educators will move out, worsening Coos towns already dwindling populations and decreasing property values. Our most diverse populations in Manchester and Nashua are also more likely to suffer from the shift in funding caused by EFAs because they have lower incomes. In southern New Hampshire, the census showed that population did increase due to in-state migration. But what families will want to move into a state whose public schools are foundering? The answer is, those families for whom $4600 is enough to send their children to low-tuition religious schools, those families who can already afford expensive private school but would like taxpayers to subsidize them, and those families who want taxpayer funding for parent-guided home education programs. These differ from the workers attracted over the last decade to New Hampshire for its highly rated public schools. How will this affect companies struggling to find employees? No one knows, but the answer will certainly impact our economy.
EFAs will also impact New Hampshire society. Communities forced to close their schools will become less cohesive. Children educated only alongside others with similar backgrounds will have less understanding of the world and their place in it. They will be less able to succeed in the diverse demographics that will make up our nation’s future.
Perhaps conservatives have decided not to follow successful models for improving public education because they do not want the public to be educated. They would prefer people who let corporations and the wealthy take advantage of them, who have been taught to villainize a government that protects public interests.

New Hampshire’s Republican legislature passed a bill banning teaching about racism, and Governor Chris Sununu signed it. The bill also included funding for vouchers and cuts for public schools.

Ten of the 17 members of the governor’s Diversity Council resigned in protest, citing censorship.

“It should not be taken lightly that nearly every member of the Council that is not part of your administration is resigning today, as we collectively see no path forward with this legislation in place,” the resigning members wrote in their letter to Sununu. The group includes the executive director of the New Hampshire ACLU, educators, doctors and children’s advocates. 

Sununu established the council in 2017, with a mission to “combat discrimination and advance the ends of diversity and inclusion.” 

Last week, he signed House Bill 2, a policy-focused “trailer bill” that passed along party lines in the GOP-controlled legislature. Among other provisions, the legislation bars public schools and government employees from teaching about systemic racism and bias. It also bans abortions beyond 24 weeks gestation, with exceptions only to save the life of the mother. Doctors who perform those abortions could face up to seven years in prison. 

State Rep. Jim Maggiore (D) told HuffPost that he voted against the bill because he “could not in good conscience support language restricting the free speech of Granite Staters.” He was one of the 10 council members who quit Tuesday. 


https://www.huffpost.com/entry/new-hampshire-governor-chris-sununu-diversity-council-protest-resign_n_60db5e93e4b0b9e497df733d

Jeanne Dietsch writes regularly about politics and social welfare in New Hampshire. She is a former legislator. The Republican legislature recently voted to cut public school funding, to launch vouchers for private schools and homeschooling, and to cut property taxes.

She wrote:

A decade ago, I read a story in The Atlantic about a boy stranded at sea, in a boat that had been carefully crafted and tended by his grandfather, but neglected by his parents. The motor died and the dinghy was beginning to leak, amid tall waves, while he was still far from shore.


I see New Hampshire’s children in that boat. One in every nine children in NH lives in poverty – less than $22k per year for a family of three – compared with one in fifteen adults. Between 2008 and 2018, the proportion of children on free and reduced lunch rose almost 40%. NH has among the highest rates of college debt, highest tuition, highest growth in teen suicide. Educational achievement has been demonstrated over 50 years to vary with poverty and parental education more than race. Mental health problems can be caused or exacerbated by the stress of poverty and depression.

Are NH leaders ferreting out the causes of child poverty, the causes of mental illness, to root them out? No, because they would have to admit that defunding government and giving the private sector free rein is not working. They would have to stop steering tax cuts to the wealthy and powerful and start investing in children and the future.

Instead, the G.O.P. is defunding 22 positions at DCYF, the people tasked with protecting children, at a time when reports of abuse have increased. Is it because the state is short on funds? No, revenues exceed plan. It is because the pay scale for those positions is so low that DCYF has been unable to fill 41 vacancies. Last time NH let case loads rise to 70 per employee, two children died. The problem is not lack of funds, it is lack of interest from the G.O.P.

The G.O.P is also cutting the education stability grants that the Senate allocated to property-poor districts last term. This burdens those towns local property taxpayers. This increases poverty in those towns. Public schools hand out take-home meal bags to children who cannot rely on being fed over the weekend. Public schools must try to educate children of parents struggling with addiction, children who have no one at home to care for them.

Rather than address poverty and its impact on educational achievement, G.O.P. leaders merely bandage the wounds of a sick society.[1] They inserted “Education Freedom Account” vouchers into the budget. The EFAs give $4600 per year to people already paying their children’s private tuition. For a family living in poverty, whose parents work extended hours to get by, a partial tuition subsidy is useless. And at least one for-profit company is already raising millions in startup money at the prospect of raking in NH taxpayer dollars for providing cut-rate instructional services. The goal of the company is to replace schools and certified teachers with aides who educate children in their homes. This, according to EFA supporters, will cut local taxes because: Professional teachers will be laid off. Schools will close. And taxpayers will no longer need to maintain the stranded assets of the school districts.These new “micro-schools” cater to people of similar economic, cultural, and educational background. Any sociologist can explain that the way to increase upward mobility is to create networks across boundaries. This approach traps children in bubbles of like-minded people, just as social media does.

Similarly, for mental health, the NH G.O.P majority is funding band aids, increasing budgets for treatment resources. For people already suffering from mental illness, treatment is crucial, of course. However, to ignore poverty’s role in depression and mental illness is like foregoing COVID vaccination and only treating patients after they are sick. It is foolish, expensive, and cruel.

New Hampshire has the second lowest birth rate in a country with less-than-replacement rate nationwide. Each child is that much more precious, as a result. Yet the G.O.P. refuses to invest in them. Is it not obvious that this is a recipe for future decline?

Are NH G.O.P. members so determined to prove that government can do no good that they refuse to use it to help children? Are they so self-indulgent that they only care about their own? Or are they just drinking the kool-aid of the cult?

Whatever reason drives each individual official, they act as a block. We must replace them. And we must not send to Washington any who place profit, power or party over our nation’s future well-being. The seas are rough and the G.O.P. seem willing to let the boat sink, as long as their kids have life vests.

This clear and thoughtful article was written by Michael Turmelle, director of education and career initiatives, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. The Republican-controlled legislation intends to pass sweeping voucher legislation that would harm the public schools attended by the great majority of the state’s children.

He writes:


If you have ever needed a hospital or a pharmacy; driven on well-engineered highways; eaten food that was grown and shipped safely; felt the protective assurance of our armed forces and intelligence services; used a cell phone; gotten a vaccine to guard against a deadly disease, then you have benefited from public schools.

This is the social contract we have made: since we all rely on an educated populace to do countless things we all depend on every day, we all chip in to a system of public schools to educate people. We all agree to support this common good that benefits us all — whether our kids happen to be in school, or if we even have kids of our own. 

We all need strong public schools because we need all our children to be able to get the robust education that will allow them to go on to become the nurses and doctors, the engineers and entrepreneurs, the public-health researchers and food-safety inspectors, the firefighters and intelligence analysts and teachers who will support our communities and economy tomorrow. 

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is in the midst of a 10-year initiative to improve outcomes for New Hampshire children and families who face significant barriers to opportunity.

Public K-12 schools play a critical role in providing that opportunity by delivering on the very American promise of an education for all — no matter how much money your parents have, or where you live, or the color of your skin or if you get around on your feet or in a wheelchair. null

But the public good that is public education is being imperiled in New Hampshire in ways that put children’s education and the well-being of our communities and our economy at risk.

How? 

By inequity.

Some schools in New Hampshire have well-paid veteran teachers, top-notch facilities, state-of-the-art equipment and resources. Some districts struggle to pay dedicated educators, have constant teacher turnover, patched-together buildings and outdated resources. The former are in wealthy towns, the latter are not. 

And disparities in funding correlate with disparities in outcomes.

In New Hampshire, according to an independent report produced for the state’s Commission to Study School Funding: “The highest poverty school districts have the lowest student outcomes. The negative relationship between poverty and outcomes is very strong.” 

New Hampshire’s state constitution mandates that the state provide an “adequate” education to all children. Since a coalition of “property-poor” towns sued the state in the 1990s, various funding formulas have been applied by the legislature — all of which have continued to rely predominantly on local property taxes to foot the majority of the bill for public education. The amount the state sends to districts remains far below what districts must spend. Another group of districts sued the state in 2019, asserting state adequacy aid would need to triple to meet the basic requirements set out in state law. The state Supreme Court sent the “ConVal lawsuit” (so named for the Contoocook Valley school district, one of the districts that brought the suit) back to Superior Count in March for a trial. Manchester and Nashua, the two largest districts in the state, joined the suit this month.

All children in every public school in New Hampshire (not just the ones in wealthy towns) should have the resources, facilities and teachers needed to ensure them a world-class education and the best outcomes possible. Our current unequal system of supporting schools creates two separate and unequal classes of education for our kids, robbing too many of them of the American promise of equal opportunity.

By a troubling move toward privatization. 

Running through some recent proposed legislation and public discourse is a disquieting attack on the idea of public education as a public good. 

The school voucher program being considered by the legislature is a system under which taxpayer-generated state aid earmarked to educate children in public schools is redirected to private schools or home education.

Voucher programs would risk further exacerbating funding inequity in New Hampshire schools and leaving the most vulnerable children — the ones who rely most on the promise of public education – in schools with fewer resources, increasingly inadequate facilities and diminished opportunity. An analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Reaching Higher New Hampshire shows that the program would cost the state nearly $70 million in new state spending over three years.

Vouchers do not help kids do better. Multiple independent studies from states that have implemented vouchers have shown that voucher programs do not improve academic outcomes. Voucher programs also deepen racial segregation in schools (which has also shown to diminish outcomes for all children) and leave LGBTQ students vulnerable to discrimination.

Taking public funds from our public schools to pay for private education is not a good answer for how to make our schools stronger for the nine out of 10 of New Hampshire’s children who use them.

Just like public fire departments, highways and health departments, public education is a public good that benefits us all. And just like all those other things, it deserves robust investment, access to it should be equitable — and we absolutely cannot do without it.

Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider explore what happens when a state government is taken over by a combination of libertarians, who want to diminish government and taxes, and Republicans, who have spent decades attacking government as “the enemy.” It turns out they are indistinguishable. .

This is a don’t-miss edition of their reader-supported “Have You Heard” podcast (with transcript available).

Among the services cut were garbage collection and animal control. So people in the state are getting used to seeing bears ransacking their garbage.

The situation is growing dire for the state’s public schools. The libertarians want to eliminate public education. They want to replace it with charter schools, vouchers, home schooling, and pretty much anything that a parent wants to do.

Under the leadership of Governor Chris Sununu and Frank Edelblut, the home schooler he selected as state commissioner of education, the state is well on its way to its goal of privatizing and/or abolishing public schools.

New Hampshire Republicans are determined to use their new majority in both houses to jam through a generous voucher bill that would offer public money for students to attend any school they wanted, including religious schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

Down party lines, the Senate approved an expansive school voucher bill Thursday that would allow parents to use state education aid for a wide range of alternative educational opportunities for their children. The bill was then immediately tabled on another 14-10 party line vote – a move that enables the body to consider bills with a fiscal impact during the budget process.

Opponents have called Senate Bill 130 the most expansive voucher bill in the country with little accountability and say it would increase local property taxes, not reduce them as supporters claim.

They said the bill is the latest attempt to privatize education at the expense of the children remaining in the public school system.“Public education should be treasured, we should treasure the public education that all of us went through,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester. “All this legislation does is carve public education apart and that is not a good thing.”

Supporters said the bill seeks to help those students left behind and those who do not perform well in the public education setting.

They said the program would not only help students it would save state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, said the current situation in public education is like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.“The opposition centers on the preservation of an institution even if it is at the expense of the children who attend,” Giuda said. “This bill attempts to care for the children whom our schools don’t work for.”

He said the top reason parents apply to the current business tax credit school scholarship fund are for bullying and discrimination.

The program allows parents who best know their children to find the best fit for their children’s needs, Giuda maintained.

Under the bill, a parent seeking to establish an account would receive between $4,500 to $8,500 per pupil to spend on tuition to any private, religious, or alternative school and on other related educational costs including home schooling, computers, books etc.

The student’s parents would receive the basic state adequacy grant of about $3,700 as well as additional money if the student qualified for free or reduced lunches, special education services, English as a Second Language instruction, or failed to reach English proficiency.

The average grant is estimated to be $4,600.

The program is open to the parents of a student in public —traditional and charter — private or religious school, home schooling, or other alternative educational programs.

New Hampshire has some excellent private schools, some are day schools, some are boarding schools.

The most elite is Phillips Exeter, a boarding school, where the tuition is $55,402. Not likely to accept a single voucher student.

Then there is Brewster Academy, tuition $64,950.

The Dublin School has day students who pay $38,450 and boarding students who pay $66,800.

But if a parent can raise the difference, they might sent their child to Portsmouth Christian Academy, for $15,945 or Concord Christian Academy for $11,200. However, these schools have very small student bodies and are unlikely to find space for a student who is failing in their public school. (Concord Christian Academy has 216 students, perhaps they can make room for one more.)

The state grants will instead underwrite the tuition of students already enrolled in religious schools or being home-schooled. And perhaps a few who are able to find low-quality religious schools with uncertified staff and meager facilities, typically inferior to the public school that the students left.

The Republican legislators don’t care about the experience of other states, where vouchers attract small numbers of students but lead to budget cuts in public schools across the state. If they care to make up for the loss of revenue to public schools, the Legislature will have to raise property taxes. There is no way that vouchers for students currently paying their own way or leave public schools for private schools will reduce the cost of schooling.

It is a shame that none of the legislators consider the research on vouchers. It is not promising. Independent evaluator Mark Dynarski has reviewed many voucher studies and conducted the official evaluation of the D.C. voucher program. He finds that students who use vouchers fall behind their peers in public schools. Voucher schools typically have high attrition rates because the students or their parents realize that the miracles promised never happened. Reviewers at the Center for American Progress described the harm that vouchers do to students. CAP also warned of the dangers that vouchers pose to the civil rights of students. And they warned of the racist origins of school choice and the segregating impact of vouchers.

The Republican legislators are ignorant of the research. They keep repeating Betsy DeVos’s weary cliches, none of which have proven true.

How sad for the children of New Hampshire! How sad for the future of the state.

Since today is New Hampshire Day on the blog, I am reposting this article.

Since the 2020 election, Republicans have controlled both houses of the New Hampshire. The governor is Chris Sununu, a very conservative Republican and son of John Sununu, who was chief of staff to George H.W. Bush. In other words, New Hampshire is controlled by very conservative Republicans, even though the state has two Democratic Senators.

Sununu appointed a home schooler, Frank Edelblut, as his Commissioner of Education. His chief credential seems to be his contempt for public schooling.

Edelblut just made a new hire. He chose one of Betsy DeVos’s team to be New Hampshire’s Director of Learner Support. Her name is McKenzie Snow, and she is a voucher advocate like her old boss and her new boss. She was in charge of pushing vouchers while at the U.S. Department of Education. She was a consultant to Trump’s controversial “1776 Commission,” which attempted to promote a conservative version of history, minimizing racism and other shameful episodes in our history.

Although she will be in charge of “learner support,” she apparently was never a teacher.

New Hampshire NPR reports:

If confirmed, McKenzie Snow will direct the Division of Learner Support, overseeing student assessments, technical assistance for schools, student wellness, student support, adult education, and career and technical education.

Prior to working at the U.S. Department of Education for two and a half years, Snow analyzed and advocated for school choice reform as a policy director at ExcelinEd, a non-profit founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and directed by former House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor.

She also worked on educational issues at the conservative Charles Koch Foundation and Charles Koch Foundation Institutes, according to her LinkedIn account.

During her tenure at the U.S. Department of Education and ExcelinEd, Snow championed Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s), which give taxpayer dollars to parents to spend on approved educational programs of their choice, including private school and home school.

Snow’s confirmation is expected at the Executive Council meeting this Wednesday.