Week in Review – Vouchers and Retirement
School Voucher Expansion
This week, the House Education committee heard 2 of the 3 bills being proposed to greatly expand the school voucher program. NEA-NH was there to testify against both bills. You can see our written testimony against both bills here.
HB 464 would expand the school voucher eligibility by adding various new categories of students regardless of their family income. HB 367 would simply expand the income eligibility of the program to 500% of the Federal Poverty Level, which for a family of 4 in 2023 is $150,000. Both pieces of legislation greatly expand a program that has siphoned money away from public education, and the current proposals propose no new funding stream other than a blank check from the education trust fund whose purpose is to fund public education in New Hampshire.
REQUESTED ACTION: Please visit our Legislative Action Page here so that you can begin to contact your State Representatives now about rejecting these voucher expansion proposals. In a closely divided House, each vote will count immensely to defeating these bills.
Pro-Retirement Bill Endorsed in Senate Policy Committee!
On the good news front, NEA-NH also testified in support of SB 57 this week, a bill that would delay the 10% reduction you see in your pension when you turn 65 until your full social security age. This would mean thousands of additional dollars over that period of time when you will need to begin covering other costs in your retirement like medical premiums and prescription drug costs. The Senate committee gave the bill a 5-0 recommendation to pass when the full senate meets next. We expect the bill to pass the Senate since it is on the consent calendar but would then likely be referred to Senate Finance as the next step. Stay tuned for additional information on when and how you can help advocate for the passage of this important bill.
Important Hearing Highlights for Next Week
There are dozens of bills being heard next week that NEA-NH is following and that impact you but here are some of the bills we wanted to highlight for you to weigh in on:
Giving New Powers to the Department of Education to make Human Rights Commission Complaints
HB 533 would allow the Department of Education itself to file a complaint “on behalf of any person aggrieved by a discriminatory practice by a school or school district.” This means that this would allow the Commissioner to directly take “banned concept” type complaints received by the Department and file official complaints to the Human Rights Commission. With Commissioner Edelblut’s track record of standing with organizations and individuals that have put bounties out on teachers over this law, and his statements about how he interprets this vague statute, this proposed new authority would be extremely troubling to give to the Department.
REQUESTED ACTION: Please write to, sign in on, or testify AGAINST HB 533. The Hearing is scheduled for 1pm on Thursday, January 26th in the House Judiciary Committee (not Education) located in Room 206-208 of the Legislative Office Building. You can register your position on the bill or submit written testimony online by going here.
Increasing Public Charter School Funding (but not other public schools)
HB 272 would increase the amount of per pupil funding that charter schools receive from the state who are approved by the State Board of Education. Charters approved by the State Board already receive double the amount of state adequacy aid that a regular public school receives in NH. The bill would increase that funding by an additional $1,730 per student. Together, with the large expansion of charter schools taking place over the next several years, this could be a significant increase to charter funding which, again, already receive more adequacy aid than our district schools.
REQUESTED ACTION: Please write or sign in OPPOSITION TO HB 272. The Hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, January 25th at 9am in the House Education Committee, located in Room 205-207 of the Legislative Office Building. You can register your position on the bill or submit written testimony online by going here.
Bringing Back Annual State Support for Teacher Retirement Costs
HB 50 would make permanent a one-time subsidy of teacher retirement costs. The bill would reimburse school districts and municipalities 7.5% of the employer retirement costs for Group I teachers and Group II fire and police. The state did this for one year last year, but being able to count on this subsidy each year makes it easier to allocate funds for property tax relief or toward increased wages for our members.
REQUESTED ACTION: Please write or sign in SUPPORT of HB 50. The Hearing is at 2pm on Thursday, January 26th in House Finance, located in Room 210-211 of the Legislative Office Building. You can register your position on the bill or submit written testimony online by going here.
Support Expanding Eligibility for Free School Meals
The next in a series of bills looking at better support for feeding our students is HB 572 which would expand the eligibility to qualify for a free or reduced lunch up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. Sponsored by retired NEA-NH member, Rep. Muriel Hall, this legislation would help our food insecure families by including more students in free meals program.
REQUESTED ACTION: Please write or sign in SUPPORT of HB 572. The hearing is at 9:15am on Friday, January 27th in the House Education Committee, located in Room 205 – 207 of the Legislative Office Building. You can register your position on the bill or submit written testimony online by going here.
Increasing Safety Standards for Public School and other Public Employees!
Rep. Brian Sullivan, along with a bi-partisan group of other State Reps are sponsoring HB 232 which would include many of the OSHA safety standards in our private sector labor laws to apply to public employees. OSHA standards, which only apply to private sector employees in New Hampshire, are generally of equal or higher standard to our current ones for public employees. If they are good enough safety standards for private sector employees, we should also have those high standards in our schools and other public workplaces.
REQUESTED ACTION: Please write or sign in SUPPORT of HB 232. The hearing is at 1pm on Thursday, January 26th in the House Labor Committee, located in Room 305 – 307 of the Legislative Office Building. You can register your position on the bill or submit written testimony online by going here.
Looking for More Legislation?
You can see all the bills we are following this week and going forward and which ones we are asking for action from members on by going to our Legislative Dashboard here. You can now also sign up to receive weekly or even daily updates on the status of these bills as well by going to the Bill Tracker on our Dashboard.
If you have questions on any of these bills or ones not mentioned here, please feel free to contact Brian Hawkins, NEA-NH Director of Government Relations at email@example.com.