Archives for category: New Hampshire

The New Hampshire House decided to hold off for a year with the universal voucher bill, that would funnel public money to religious schools, home schoolers, and anyone else who wants public money. However, the State Senate is barreling ahead with the same legislation.

On Thursday, February 18, the House Education Committee unanimously voted to retain HB 20, the statewide voucher bill, delaying further action until next year.

Moments later, the Senate announced a public hearing for SB 130, a nearly identical bill, on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Both bills would create the most expansive voucher program in the country, and SB 130 would cost the state $100 million in new state spending in its first year alone. 

The public fiercely opposed HB 20 during the public hearing, noting that the bill included no protections for students, less transparency and oversight of taxpayer dollars, and almost no accountability for ensuring that programs funded by taxpayer dollars would be used appropriately or effectively. 

Altogether, 5,218 people signed on in opposition to the bill and 1,107 signed on in support over the course of the two-part hearing, which began on February 2 and had to continue the following week due to unprecedented turnout. 

SB 130 is nearly identical to the original HB 20, and would give families between $3,700 and $8,400 per student per year in taxpayer-funded “Education Freedom Accounts,” or vouchers, to pay for private school tuition, homeschooling expenses, computers, and other education-related costs.

“Our communities continue to struggle under the weight of an inequitable and inadequate school funding system, but this legislature continues to pursue an agenda that will divert resources away from our public schools and communities,” said Christina Pretorius, Policy Director at Reaching Higher NH. “Granite Staters have made it clear that they would rather be talking about expanding opportunities for all of our children, offering property tax relief, and investing in our communities, instead of siphoning off state funds for private education and downshifting costs to cities and towns,” she said.

The public hearing for SB 130 will be held on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 9 AM. Members of the public can register their support or opposition, and register to testify, using this link

HB 20: Historic Opposition and Last Minute Amendments

During a day-long executive session on Wednesday, House Education Committee members combed through a new amendment to HB 20 that attempted to address concerns that were brought up in the public hearing, but did not go far enough and in many cases, made the bill worse, according to Committee members. 

The amendment included income eligibility requirements and accountability measures, but did not address broader concerns with regard to discrimination against students and famillies, the potential for fraud and misuse of funds, and the fundamental concern with diverting public tax dollars to fund private and home school programs. 

The marathon executive session also revealed critical technical errors in the bill, particularly around the funding of the program. “A bill of this significance needs to be right. This Committee [is] the folks to do that, this is a good move to pause and reflect and get this done the way it should be,” said Representative Jim Allard (R-Pittsfield). 

Proponents of the bill are quick to point out that this doesn’t mean the conversation around HB 20 is over. Committee members will take the rest of the year to work on the bill, and have the opportunity to re-introduce it next year. 

“I think that if it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done correctly, we have to have bipartisan support and it has to be proven it has to be beneficial to everyone, to taxpayers, children, mostly for the children,” said Committee member Barbara Shaw (D-Manchester). 

About the amendment

The amendment created an income cap for eligible students, stating that only families with household incomes at or less than 375% of the Federal Poverty Limit would be eligible. For a family of four, that number would be about $99,375, which is higher than the median household income in New Hampshire. 

Even with the change, HB 20 would be the most expansive voucher program in the country, and could cost New Hampshire roughly $50 million in new state spending its first year alone. 

The Granite State is known to be parsimonious in spending on schools but the sky’s the limit when it comes to vouchers for religious schools and home schoolers.

As a result of strong opposition, Republicans who control the New Hampshire legislature decided to postpone consideration of their “number one priority,” school vouchers. Under consideration was the most sweeping voucher bill in the nation. Thousands of people signed up to testify against the legislation.

A bill to create a school voucher-like system in New Hampshire is poised to be kicked to 2022, after Republicans on the House Education Committee said that it needed more time.

In a 20-0 vote Thursday, the committee recommended that the bill be retained, a move that if approved by the full House next week would put off any decision-making until next year’s session.

House Bill 20, named the “Richard ‘Dick’ Hinch education freedom account program” after the late House speaker, was a top priority for House Republicans this year. The proposal would allow parents to withdraw their children from public school and take the per-pupil state money with them.

Under the bill, that state funding, which amounts to $3,700 to $8,000 per student depending on the school, could then be used by the parents for a number of alternative expenses, such as private school tuition, college preparatory courses, school supplies, or transportation.

But a deluge of opposition to the bill from public school advocates and Democrats had slowed down its progress, resulting in contentious hearings and deliberative sessions that stretched through the day. Opponents argue the bill would drain resources from public schools and prompt cutbacks and increased property taxes; proponents say that it would provide new opportunities to families whose public schools aren’t working for their children.

Despite numerous tweaks and amendments, the bill didn’t have the votes to pass out of the GOP-controlled committee.

It is unclear if the committee would have had the votes to pass the bill even if the amendments were drafted correctly. Last week, NHJournal reported James Allard (R-Pittsfield) was likely to vote against the measure.

House insiders tell NHJournal that had a vote on the bill been held, the best-case scenario would have been a 10-10 tie vote in the committee, sending the bill to the floor with no recommendation. That would have set up a heated floor battle.

Attempts to sway Allard and other concerned Republicans included adding income-caps to the EFA eligibility formula. The cap would limit participation to those earning less than 375 percent of the federal poverty limit — roughly $99,000 for a family of four. That proposed income-cap would cut the number of eligible students in half.

Democrats on the Education Committee were pleased with the outcome.”HB 20 contains no protection for students against discrimination, little oversight, and is ripe for fraud…and would act as a tax-dollar giveaway to wealthy families. There has never been as much vocal opposition to a piece of legislation in NH,” Democrat leader on the committee Mel Myler said in a press release Thursday morning.

There’s still an Education Freedom Account bill in the Senate, giving supporters hope the legislation can still be amended and passed this year. In 2017-2018, the Senate passed SB193 – an education savings account program. That bill died in the House, after being heavily amended. The Senate then scrapped a separate bill and reintroduced SB193, the original version. Again, the proposal failed in the House.Democrats and teachers unions argued EFAs would increase property taxes, defund local district schools, and wreak havoc on New Hampshire’s education system. They celebrated Thursday’s win.

It has been well documented that students who leave public schools for voucher schools lose ground academically. Vouchers will not only hurt the state’s poorly funded public schools, it will hurt the children who use vouchers. It is a lose-lose for everyone except the religious schools that win public funds.

The New Hampshire legislature is pushing forward with a voucher bill (HB 20) without regard to cost or research.

The research is clear: students who leave public schools to use vouchers lose ground compared to their peers in public schools. Vouchers won’t close achievement gaps; they will widen them.

The cost, according to a New Hampshire think tank, is likely to be $100 million. Reaching Higher New Hampshire speculates about what else the state might do with $100 million.

Lawmakers will continue to hear testimony on HB 20, the statewide voucher bill, on Thursday, February 11.Reaching Higher NH’s analysis has found that as proposed, HB 20 could cost the state up to $100 million per year in new state spending because the state would begin paying for private-school and home-school students. 

As proposed, HB 20 would provide those families with between $3,700-$8,400 per year in a taxpayer-funded “education freedom account,” or voucher, to pay for private school tuition, homeschooling costs, and other education-related expenses. 

Money wasted, that could be used to reduce class size, or lower taxes.

The pandemic has taken an especially difficult toll on our young people. Prior to the pandemic, experts estimated that 20% of school aged youth need mental health support; yet, most don’t have access to mental health professionals. Most of those who do receive care, receive it in their school. In fact, research suggests that youth are more likely to receive counseling when services are available in their school — and in some cases, schools are the only places that students can receive care. The need for mental health support has never been greater. For about $57 million per year, the state could place a mental health counselor in every school — public and charter — in New Hampshire. 


New Hampshire has a Republican Governor, Chris Sununu, who appointed the state Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut. The commissioner home-schooled his children. He hates public schools and would like to defund them. If you thought Betsy DeVos was bad because of her zeal for privatization, Edelblut is far worse.

At the first public hearing about Edelblut’s radical voucher plan, public turnout was huge and onerwhelmingly opposed to the destruction of public schools.

Members of the public registered resounding opposition to HB 20, a bill that would create a universal school voucher program, at a public hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Due to the unprecedented and historic turnout, with 85% of it in opposition, the House Education Committee recessed and will continue the hearing on Thursday, Feb. 11, to hear from all 131 people who had signed up to speak at the virtual hearing, and they are accepting additional registrations to testify for those who have not signed up already. 

About 30 people — including parents, educators, lawmakers, experts, and one student — testified over the course of four hours, and another 3,800 signed on to indicate their position on the bill: 600 in favor, 3,198 in opposition and five testifying as neutral, or not taking a position.

“That’s more than we’ve experienced in bills in the time I’ve been in the house,” Committee Chair Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) said of the turnout. He has set aside the entire day on Thursday, February 11, for testimony, saying, “that’s the only way we’re going to get through this.” They’re expecting another record turnout on that day, and have said that they’re already receiving a flood of emails on the bill...

“This bill provides absolutely no oversight or accountability,” said Deborah Nelson, a Hanover resident and parent of grown children. “This bill almost certainly dismantles public education in New Hampshire, and I fear it opens us to ridicule. … it should be called the Dismantling Public Education Bill.” 

Vouchers won’t help kids who need it the most, said Monica Henson, interim superintendent for SAU 44 (Northwood, Nottingham, and Strafford). “The truth is that these accounts are subsidies to affluent families.”

Having regained control of the legislature, Republicans have made vouchers their top priority.


CONCORD
 — Proponents and opponents of “education freedom accounts” Tuesday debated if the bill would benefit students or special interests, and if it would provide greater educational opportunities or be an invitation to commit fraud.

A multi-hour public hearing before the House Education Committee drew testimony from as far away as Arizona and as close as Manchester as both sides turned out in force to make their case for or against House Bill 20, a priority of the Republican legislative leadership.

3,198 people signed in to oppose HB 20 while 600 people signed in support and five signed in as neutral. Due to high turn out, the hearing was recessed and will resume next Thursday, February 11.

The bill has the backing of Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, and Gov. Chris Sununu supports education choice or vouchers.

Many parents of students with special needs or disabilities supported the bill saying it would provide the flexibility to best suit their children’s needs, but educators and others said it would seriously jeopardize public education and drive up already high property taxes in property poor school districts with high poverty levels.

No one mentioned that students who enroll in private voucher schools abandon their federal IDEA rights and protection.

Others said the bill would allow the use of taxpayer dollars without any accountability or state oversight, taking that money away from public education, which needs more state money not less.“House Bill 20 undermines the public school system,” said Rep. Mary Heath, D-Manchester, who is also a former deputy education commissioner. “I am deeply troubled by the fact it takes money from our public schools when we already have a source of revenue for children through the scholarship program.”

That program is funded by business tax credits for companies and interest and dividends tax credits for individuals and is capped at $1 million a year.Heath said the voucher proposal would place an unconscionable burden on taxpayers.

Edelblut recently did a financial analysis indicating the cost to state and local property taxpayers would be minimal and would give school districts a three-year window to adjust their budgets to the loss of state aid when students leave public schools.

In his analysis, Edelblut claims it will save state taxpayers about $360 million to $390 million over 10 years by lowering public school costs.

He touted the program in light of the pandemic and its effect on children, but committee member Rep. David Luneau, D-Hopkinton, who chaired the Education Funding Commission which met last year, questioned what the program would do to help students who underperform in property poor districts, which the commission found to be the biggest driver of educational inequity.

Edelblut claimed the bill would close the performance gap between students from higher income families and low-income families, but Luneau disagreed.

Voucher studies have never reported a single instance where vouchers closed the gap between poor and rich kids. Typically, the students who leave public school to take vouchers lose ground compared to their peers in public schools.

Edelblut is either ignorant or lying.

One of the casualties of the 2020 election was public education in New Hampshire, because Republicans regained control of the legislature. They already hold the Governorship (Chris Sununu, son of John Sununu, who was also Governor of New Hampshire and chief of staff to the first President Bush).

The Republicans’ top priority is school vouchers. Their program, if enacted, would be the most expansive voucher program in the nation. At least 95% of students in the state would be eligible to apply for a voucher.

A new bill that would create the country’s first nearly universal voucher program has been introduced as the top priority for lawmakers in the 2021 session. House Bill 20(HB 20) would require the state to use state dollars currently allocated for public education to fund “Education Freedom Accounts.” Parents could then receive between $3,786 and $8,458 per student in state dollars, depending on eligibility and fees, to use for private school tuition, homeschooling expenses, and other school-related expenses. 

The bill creates the same voucher program that lawmakers originally introduced in 2017 under SB 193 (though they were called “Education Freedom Savings Accounts” then), which was killed because of the deep inequities it would cause for students, as well as the steep costs to the state and local towns. The current version of the bill, HB 20, has no accountability requirements to ensure that students are receiving an adequate education or that public funds are being spent for the stated purposes, aside from self-reporting by the independent scholarship organization. 

“Our communities are struggling under an inequitable funding system which will culminate in an $89 million cut in state funding next year. However, lawmakers have stated that one of their top priorities this session is to enact the most far-reaching voucher program in the country,” said Christina Pretorius, Policy Director at Reaching Higher NH.

“A question that I think our state leaders should ask is, what kind of state do we want 5, 10, 15 years from now? Will this program help to strengthen our state, our economy, and prepare our students — current and future — for life in the 21st century? This proposal, along with the funding crisis, presents a reckoning for our state, that I think we all need to grapple with,” she continued.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • HB 20 would create a nearly universal voucher program, where students attending both public and private schools would qualify for a voucher. Students who enroll in the program must disenroll full-time from their public or charter school. 
  • There are no provisions in the bill that would protect students from discrimination, but the bill does protect educational service providers from being discriminated against based on their religious affiliation. 
  • Parents could receive between $3,786 and $8,458, minus administrative fees, depending on the student’s eligibility for state aid programs. The funding would be placed in an “Education Freedom Account,” or voucher, managed by an independent scholarship organization and funded from the state’s Education Trust Fund.  
  • Parents could use the voucher for various education-related expenses, including private and religious school tuition and program costs, homeschooling costs, tutoring services, computers and software, summer programs, college tuition, or other approved expenses. Recipients are permitted to “roll-over” unused funds from year to year. 
  • Students with disabilities might waive their rights under federal and state disability laws, including the right to an IEP, the right to services, and the right to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. 
  • There is little public oversight for state funds. There is no financial audit requirement for the scholarship organization to ensure that they are appropriately using public funds, nor are participating students required to take, or submit, the statewide assessment that public and charter school students are required to take. There is no requirement that participating students take any assessment of any kind, in order to ensure that public dollars are going towards programs that provide the opportunity for an adequate education.
  • HB 20, as proposed, would be the most far-reaching voucher bill in the country. Other states with voucher programs are targeted to low-income students, students with IEPs, and other identified or discrete student cohorts. HB 20, however, would be a nearly universal voucher program that is not targeted and is open to nearly all New Hampshire children. 
  • Voucher programs have been shown to hurt student outcomes. Long-term studies of voucher programs have shown that participants in voucher programs have significantly lower math and reading scores than those who do not, and that those dips persist for years after the initial study. Other, short-term studies by independent research organizations and universities suggest that voucher programs hurt, or have an insignificant impact, on student outcomes.



Tulsa experienced a surge in new infections, and Tulsa health officials say that the Trump rally on June 20 was a likely cause.

Keep watch on the numbers in Arizona and South Dakota, where Trump held rallies, also Trump’s next stop, New Hampshire.

He is a Super Spreader. He is a one-man catastrophe.

In six weeks, the Republican National Convention will be held in Jacksonville, Florida. No social distancing. No requirement to wear masks. Lots of cheering and droplets in the air. Then delegates will fan out across the country, some bringing the disease home.

This is no way to fight a pandemic.

New Hampshire’s Governor is a Trump-style extremist, Chris Sununu, whose father John advised the first President Bush. Sununu appointed Frank Edelblut as state commissioner of education. The state commissioner home-schooled his children and follows the ideology of Betsy DeVos. He thinks government money should go wherever children go, regardless of who gets the money. That’s called “Learning Everywhere.”

Edelblut is an extremist libertarian.

Now he wants to pilot online leaning for pre-schoolers. This is his response to the growing recognition of the value of early childhood education.

Not surprisingly, advocates for ECE are alarmed that sitting in front of a computer is being substituted for play, where children learn to cooperate with others and make things and use their imagination. One group said:

Kids aren’t meant to sit still in front of a screen. They use their whole bodies to learn, and they want and need to move. Let’s not forget that some of the essential milestones for preschoolers are gross and fine motor skills. They need to practice galloping, throwing a ball, zipping up their jackets to go outside, and holding a pencil. Having good motor control is essential for children’s growth and independence. They cannot develop it by sitting at a computer.

You may recall that DeVos offered New Hampshire $46 million to double the number of charter schools in the state. The Democrats in the legislature have twice turned down her offer. New Hampshire has declining student enrollment, and the Fiscal Oversight Committee said it would be irresponsible to add new charter schools, which would drain students and resources from existing public schools.

Edelblut came back with his own analysis, claiming that adding more charter schools in a time of declining enrollment would save money.

According to the report from Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, doubling the number of charter schools over the next 10 years could translate into at least $60 million in savings for local taxpayers as 4,000 students leave traditional public schools.

Edelblut’s report points to studies that warn declines in enrollments not related to charter schools will be at least 24,000 by 2030 — and could approach double that figure.

“If the visceral reaction is how are we going to manage a declining student enrollment due to public charter schools, the answer is you are going to have to deal with this issue regardless of this grant,” Edelblut said…

This report clearly responds to analysis from Reaching Higher New Hampshire, which supports traditional public schools.

The group has warned the charter school grant could cost the state an additional $57 million to $104 million in its first 10 years.

The same organization found in its analysis of 20 of the state’s charter schools that at least 1,083 of the 4,025 seats available went unfilled in the 2018-2019 school year.

Reaching Higher New Hampshire also maintains state funding alone often doesn’t cover operating costs for these charter schools, which make them unsustainable.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, said the new report doesn’t change his view that the panel should keep rejecting this grant.

“We need to support our public schools and the successful existing charter schools, work on the over 1,000 open spots in existing charter schools, and protect New Hampshire taxpayers. This fiscally irresponsible grant will cause our already record high property taxes to continue to increase, which is unacceptable,” Feltes said in a statement.

With 25% of the state’s charter school seats empty, it should be hard to make the case that NH needs more charters.

Reaching Higher NH’s research on the charter grant is cited here.

Edelblut welcomes the Trump administration’s plan to turn all education funding into a block grant as he feels it will give him more control over federal money. His own philosophy is that public schools are unnecessary, which is rooted in the practices of the 18th century.

 

A few weeks ago, Democrats in the New Hampshire legislature’s Fiscal Oversight Committee rejected $46 million from Betsy DeVos and the federal Charter Schools Program. The vote was 7-3 on partisan lines.

The grant would have doubled the number of charters in the state at a time of declining enrollment statewide.

The Republican State Commissioner of  Education, Frank Edelblut, came back to the committee with the same request, reminding the committee that the previous Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan had supported charter schools.

The Democratic-controlled committee again voted 7-3 to reject the $46 million, warning of additional costs to the state when the federal funds were expended. 

Edelblut is a home schooler who was appointed by the far-right Republican Governor Chris Sununu.

Congratulations to the wise Democrats of New Hampshire, who practiced fiscal restraint and protected the state’s public schools.

Be sure to read Peter Greene’s detailed account of this happy event. He points out that the existing New Hampshire charter schools have produced no lessons for public schools and they have empty seats.

https://www.concordmonitor.com/New-Hampshire-again-rejects-federal-money-for-charter-school-expansion-31904290

 

Betsy DeVos gave New Hampshire $46 million from the federal Charter Schools Program to double the number of charter schools in the state. She uses the federal funding of $440 million as her slush fund to rapidly expand charters.

[CORRECTION: I ORIGINALLY WROTE THAT NH REJECTED $25 MILLION; THAT WAS AN ERROR. NH REJECTED $46 MILLION.]

In 2018, Democrats won control of the state legislature.

This morning, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee voted 7-3 to table the federal grant. The members of the committee were concerned about the impact of more charters on existing public schools.

New Hampshire is experiencing declining enrollments as the population ages and birth rates decline. It is an odd time to increase the number of schools competing for a shrinking pool of students.

BREAKING: The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee just voted 7-3 against accepting the first payment of the $46 million federal charter school grant:
NH lawmakers table federal charter grant, request more information – ReachingHigherNH
On Friday, November 8, 2019, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee voted 7-3 to table the first portion of the $46 million federal grant to double the number of charter schools in New Hampshire. The…
reachinghigher

 

 

 

New Hampshire has divided government. The governor is a Republican, who chooses the State Commissioner. But in the last election in 2018, Democrats won control of the legislature.

The State Commissioner is a home-schooling parent who is hostile to public schools. He comes from the Betsy  DeVos mold.

Speaking of DeVos, she gave New Hampshire $46 million from the federal Charter Schools Program, which is her own $440 million slush fund to promote charters.

If spent, this money would double the number of charters in the state, a dramatic expansion.

But the Legislature used its powers to hold up the grant. They want answers to their questions about how the state’s public schools would be affected, and how the charter expansion would affect the state’s finances.

The pending charter expansion grant – the largest earmarked for any state – aims to double the number of charter schools in New Hampshire over the next five years. It is currently on hold, after Democrats on the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee cited concerns that building more charter schools would lead to unanticipated costs for the state and harm existing, non-charter public schools. 

Governor Chris Sununu criticized the hold, calling the money a “game-changing grant [that] would have cost New Hampshire taxpayers nothing.”

But an analysis by the public education non-profit Reaching Higher estimated that, because charter schools are typically funded by the state rather than local districts, the state’s plan to expand charters with this grant money could cost the state over $100 million in the next ten years.

Is this a pig in a poke?