The 2017-2018 Legislative Session has come to a close, a little earlier than usual this year due to State House renovations. Here is a quick look back at the past two sessions in Concord, beginning with the 2018 Session.
Established an Educator Death Benefit and Increased Funding for School Security
Since Columbine, educators have too often been called upon to act as first responders to incidents of school violence. HB 1415 establishes a $100,000 death benefit for any school employee killed in the line of duty as a result of school violence. NEA-New Hampshire sincerely hopes that this benefit will never have to be paid, but we applaud the Legislature for passing this legislation as recognition of the changes that have come to our profession in the past 20 years.
HB 1415 also allocated an additional $10 million in funding for school security. Stay tuned for more information from NEA-NH on how your school can apply for this funding.
“The public understands what school employees face, as do their families. It is important to remember that educators make the 911 call to first responders in these situations, and educators at every level do the best they can to save lives until more help arrives,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-New Hampshire President. “The bill was introduced at the request of NEA-NH four years ago and we have been working to secure its passage ever since. Our role as educators has always been important. But everything seems different now. We ask ourselves each morning what we are going to do to help students learn, but now we also wonder if today is the day the unthinkable happens at my school.”
Defeated the Unconstitutional Voucher Scheme
Working with our partners in the education community, NEA-NH was able to defeat Governor Sununu’s attempt to divert public school money into the hands of unaccountable private and religious schools. Despite two years of work, and trying every parliamentary trick in the book, such as surprise votes, adjournments to twist arms, and attempting to tie vouchers to legislation otherwise supported by NEA-NH, SB 193 was sent packing to the quiet death of interim study.
Thank you to the educators, parents and student who came together to oppose SB 193, and stand up for our public schools. But let us not forget, while this bill may be dead for this year, Governor Sununu has already said this bill will be back next year. Which is why electing pro-public education lawmakers in November will be so important.
Secured a One-Time Allowance for Some Retirees
NEA-NH and its partners in the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition have been fighting for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for our retirees for years. It has been more than seven years since any retiree has seen a change in their benefits, and as a result, most are living on a benefit that no longer meets their needs.
While we were not able to get a COLA this year, we did succeed in passing a one-time $500 supplemental check for retirees with 20 years in the system, who have been retired for five years, and receive a benefit of less than $30,000 a year. Hopefully we can build on this progress next term and achieve a true COLA for our retirees.
Fought Off Continued Attacks on Organized Labor
After the defeat of Right-to-Work-for-Less last year, many thought the attacks on labor were over. Yet HB 428, 1344, 1803, all bills that sought to needlessly involve the government in labor matters, were still brought to the floor. This time however, there was no drama as all three were soundly defeated on the House floor, without so much as a roll call vote.
The 2017 Session had three highlights worth noting again.
Defeated Right-to-Work – Again
Yet again, NEA-NH and its labor allies were able to turn back Right-to-Work-for-Less in New Hampshire. For nearly forty years, opponents of labor have attempted to insert themselves into labor negotiations with a solution in search of a problem. Thank you to everyone who made calls, sent emails, and showed up in Concord to oppose this bill.
Expansion of the PACE Program
HB 166 took the cap off the number of schools that were able to offer alternative assessments. With the cap removed, the number of schools participating in the PACE (Performance Assessment of Competency Education) jumped from just nine to twenty three, with more schools opting to join all the time. Unanimously passed by both chambers, and signed by the Governor, HB 166 represents the beginning of the end for high-stakes testing in New Hampshire.
Increased Funding for Kindergarten
NEA-New Hampshire has been fighting for the state to fully fund kindergarten for over twenty years. The passage of SB 191 represented the biggest step forward in reaching our goal of full-day kindergarten for all communities in decades, immediately increasing the funding for towns that have full-day kindergarten by over 60%, and dedicating funds from the newly legalized toward closing the last gap in full-day funding.
While it is disappointing that full-day kindergarten is now partially tied to the revenues from Keno, it is good to know that after years of fighting it, the Legislature and Governor now accept the benefits of full-day kindergarten. NEA-NH looks forward to working with legislators to finding a solution to full day funding that is not tied to a dedicated revenue source.
Looking to the Year Ahead
With this Legislative Session now completed, the
Government Relations Department at NEA-New Hampshire turns it eyes to the upcoming elections.
No one gets into education to become involved in politics, yet the examples above show how important it is to have pro-public education and labor legislators in Concord.
Over the summer, NEA-NH will be interviewing candidates, working with incumbents, and getting our message out to voters about the importance of public education in New Hampshire. Already, more than thirty educators of all stripes have stepped forward to run for the State House in November. Undoubtedly, before the filing period closes on June 15 many more will do so.
NEA-New Hampshire needs the resources to help these candidates get their message out. Contrary to what our opponents will tell you, NEA-NH cannot use dues dollars to contribute to candidates. Contributions to candidates can only come from voluntary contributions from people like you.
Which is why we need you to contribute to AppleCorps, the New Hampshire Educators PAC. Your contributions to AppleCorps don’t go to Washington; they stay right here in New Hampshire, supporting pro-public education candidates on both sides of the aisle.
Our opponents are already doing direct mail and going door-to-door in districts of candidates that opposed Right-to-Work-for-Less and vouchers. This activity will only increase as the election draws closer. We need your help to combat their lies and ensure our allies, and many more like them, are elected this November.
Stay Informed to Make a Difference
You can stay up to date about the latest happenings at the State House by visiting our Legislative Action Page, or by following @NEANHVotes on Twitter. If you have any questions about what is happening at the State House, please contact NEA-NH Director of Government Relations, Brendon Browne at email@example.com.