Legislative Update: House Passes Budget Version

State Budget Gets an Upgrade with Bi-Partisan Agreement – Still More Work to Do

This week House Democratic and Republican leaders reached an agreement to make changes to the House Finance committee version of the trailer bill to the budget that helped the legislation pass on a voice vote in the House this week. Just days before this, such a result was unthinkable with major objections to the bill raised by NEA-NH around the education portion of the budget as well as several other labor and advocacy groups. House Democratic leadership brought those concerns to the negotiating table, and produced an agreement that, while not perfect, was a vast improvement for students, educators, and public education. Here is a quick rundown of the Education changes that were negotiated and passed this week in the HB 2:

  • Removed language dramatically expanding eligibility to the unaccountable school voucher program.
  • Reduced the spending accounted for on school vouchers by $20 million over the biennium.
  • Substantially improved the school funding provisions with increases in adequacy aid, as well as additional targeted funding to poorer and below average property value communities. You can see the new spreadsheet for increased funding over the current law for the next 2 years here.

With all these improvements, like any deal, the House passed budget does leave more work to do as it moves over to the Senate. Namely:

  • The amendment that reduces revenue to the Education Trust Fund as well as limits the items that can be paid out of the fund still remains. You can read an explanation of why this provision is bad for public education here.
  • While the voucher eligibility language is no longer part of the budget mix, the language expanding eligibility in HB 367 (raising the income threshold from 300 to 350% of the Federal Poverty Level) and HB 464 (allowing certain classes of students to qualify for vouchers with no income limit) were narrowly passed by the House independently last month and so will need to be defeated individually in the Senate.
  • There are still cuts to revenue we are concerned about like the speeding up of the repeal of the Interest & Dividends tax, a tax that is generally paid by very wealthy individuals.

The next steps are that the Senate will be receiving the budget bills and will begin work on them in the coming weeks as well as holding a public hearing. We will be advocating for further changes in the budget like making the Education Trust Fund whole, but also for positive initiatives around strengthening your retirement package, further limits to the school voucher program, initiatives that address the educator workforce shortage crisis, and more funding for public education generally. Stay tuned for advocacy requests and opportunities in upcoming updates!

A Look to Next Week’s Hearings!

Expanding Access to Free Meals

Retired NEA-NH member, Rep. Muriel Hall’ bill HB 572, which expands eligibility for free school breakfast and lunch has its hearing this coming Tuesday in the Senate Education Committee. Help NH join other states in providing students with adequate meals that improve health, educational performance, and overall well-being for every student. HB 572 would expand eligibility up to 300% of the Federal Poverty level. Currently that level is at 185% or $55,000 for a family of 4. HB 572 would raise that to $90,000 for a family of 4.

Our partners at NH Hunger Solutions are playing a major role in helping to advocate for this legislation and we are happy to work with them to make this a reality for students. Click here to lend your support to the effort.

Please also register your support prior to the committee hearing on Tuesday! Just briefly fill out the Remote Sign In Sheet by selecting the date (Tuesday, 4/11), the Committee (Senate Education), the bill (HB572), and a couple personalized questions. You can use this secure link to access the Remote Sign In Sheet:  

Support More Time to Bargain a Good Contract, Support SB 193

SB 193 would require the employer and employee bargaining teams to meet within 10 days, unless agreed to otherwise, once one party has served notice to the other to bargain. With tight timelines to meet for school district budget submission it is important that one side does not drag out the start of the process.

ACTION REQUESTED: Please write or sign in SUPPORT of SB 193 for more efficient bargaining and so that our local unions can have time to negotiate good agreements with their employers. The hearing is Thursday, April 13th, at 10:30 am and you can access the sign in here.

Save the Date! – Final Hearing on So-Called “Parental Bill of Rights” is 4/18

The final hearing on SB 272 will be in House Education on Tuesday, April 18th at 10am in the NH House Chamber. Please mark your calendars if you can come and testify in OPPOSITION to the bill. There will also be more going on that morning so if you are off that week please make plans to come to Concord that morning!