Students are at the center of everything we do. Our legislative objectives again this year focus on improving student achievement, education quality, and ensuring in-service and retired education professionals have the resources, support and respect every professional deserves. Here’s a quick update on the activity so far this year on the legislation that most impacts our students and members:
School Funding Commission
The Commission to Study School Funding has held its organizational meetings and will begin laying out the tremendous amount of work they have to fulfill their mission. The creation of this commission was authorized in the state budget as a next step to the additional money provided to most school districts during this 2 year budget cycle. This will be a critical commission that we will be engaging as they conduct their work in communities throughout New Hampshire and as they craft solutions to the education funding crisis we face in our state. There will be much more to come on this, but please take a moment to visit the commission’s webpage and view the membership of the commission.
Student and Educator Safety
Air Quality in Schools – This week the House Education held a public hearing on HB 1118, a bill requested by NEA-NH which would create a committee to examine air quality in schools. NEA-NH member Jen Given, an educator from Hollis-Brookline school district and Southern Region Uniserv Director Lorri Hayes gave compelling testimony as to why this needs to be looked at. Jen talked about the fact that schools were not designed to maximize air circulation and as a result we have buildings where the temperature is too hot. Jen also cited the negative cognitive and emotional impacts poor air quality has for students and for educators. Lorri gave the committee a sense of the scope of the issue in many of the school districts she represents as well as some of the studies done on the issue. A big thanks to Jen and Lorri for their work on spearheading this as well as the prime sponsor of the bill, Rep. Brian Sullivan. We are awaiting a committee vote on this so please reach out to members of the committee if you have stories to tell on this matter.
Violence in Schools – This summer and fall a legislative committee that studied violence in school, particularly against educators, issued its report. NEA-NH engaged heavily with this committee to bring forth the types of incidents taking place in our schools where educators are being assaulted, as well as some of the critical areas where our laws a procedures are falling short to protect our members.
This coming Tuesday, February 4th, the Senate Commerce committee will be holding a public hearing on SB 556, relative to violence in schools. This bill is the direct result of the study committee report. You can read the text of the bill here.
The hearing will be Tuesday, February 4th at 1:45pm in Room 101 of the Legislative Office building in Concord if you can attend to share your story of why this issue needs to be addressed. Also, if you cannot here is the link to the committee:
Public Employee OSHA Bill – Also in the category of keeping public employees safe on the job is HB 1171 which has a hearing on Wednesday at 1pm at the Legislative Office Building in Room 307. This bill would make NH a state covered by the standards and procedures of the Occupational Safety and Health Act which already governs private but not public sector employees. This legislation would bring in much needed federal resources to our Department of Labor and higher standards for safety that includes some of the individual issues previously mentioned like violent workplaces and air quality. NEA-NH has helped convene broader public employee group meetings about this but we will need real member stories and experiences to reference to help make this bill law.
Improving NH Retirement System Benefits – The NH Retirement Security Coalition which NEA-NH is a core contributor has asked for and is supporting HB 1235 to establish a committee to study ensuring workforce maintenance through the enhancement of the retirement system. This committee will look at the effects of the detrimental changes made in 2011 to members’ retirement benefits and what effects those have had on recruitment and retention of public employees including educators. This committee can also look at how we could improve or restore some of those benefits taken away and how to do so. NEA-NH supports the bill and expect a committee vote this upcoming week.
DeVos Charter Grant – For the second time in as many months the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee made the fiscally responsible decision for school districts and property taxpayers to reject the first installment of a larger federal charter grant. This grant proposes to double the number of charters but contribute nothing to their operations and therefore would shift resource drain on school districts and our existing neighborhood schools. If you haven’t already, please take the time to reach out and thank the members of the fiscal committee for making the right decision on this grant:
Charter School Oversight bill – Rep. Linda Tanner filed a much-needed bill that President Megan Tuttle testified in favor of in order to insure we have greater oversight over charter schools and to take a close look at updating statutes that regulate charters. Before any meaningful expansion of charters, this oversight is badly needed and we are encouraging the committee to pass HB 1321.