Megan Tuttle: From Class Size to Curriculum, Public School Standards Overhaul Will Impact Every Facet of Public Education in NH

The below op-ed authored by NEA-NH President Megan Tuttle was published in The Union Leader, The Concord Monitor, and The Keene Sentinel.

As a mom, I want strong schools for my three boys. As an educator, I want all Granite State students to have access to high-quality educational opportunities, regardless of their zip code. As the head of New Hampshire’s largest educator union, I want clear and comprehensive guidelines for public schools.

That’s why I’ve been fighting for a seat at the table when it comes to overhauling the “306 Rules” – New Hampshire’s Minimum Standards for Public School Approval. 

In addition to state laws, the 306 Rules articulate what New Hampshire public schools must do to be an approved school. These minimum standards exist to ensure that no matter where a student lives, they receive consistent access to quality education. The rules are updated every ten years; this current revision has the potential to impact every facet of education for educators and students – from class size to curriculum. 

New Hampshire’s Education Commissioner has bragged that this has been “the most expansive effort of any rulemaking that has ever occurred” and yet not a single practicing classroom teacher was ever asked to participate in the various working groups focused on the 306 Rules revision. In fact, the majority of educator feedback has been solicited by an independent education professional; Christine Downing has hosted dozens of work sessions and compiled input from hundreds of stakeholders. 

At every opportunity, NEA-New Hampshire has worked to amplify educator concerns about the 306 Rules revision. But we’ve had to make those opportunities for ourselves. It wasn’t until late 2023 that we were finally permitted a seat at the table – three years after the first step in this overhaul process was taken.

Earlier this year, we helped construct a 306 Rule revision proposal that would have strengthened public education in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, what moved forward instead was a separate NH Department of Education proposal that largely ignored educator feedback and guidance. NEA-New Hampshire opposes the current NH- DOE draft of the 306 Rules because it: privatizes learning; removes class size requirements; moves to a statewide model of competency and assessment, thereby eliminating local control; and removes educator certification requirements. 

During the public hearings held in April, only two individuals spoke in support of the current draft – and one of them is the paid consultant who works for Commissioner Edelblut. Dozens of parents and education leaders spoke in opposition and shared their concerns – concerns that have been reiterated throughout this process but have unfortunately fallen on deaf ears. 

To put it simply, educators are worried that the current 306 Rules revision proposal put forward by Commissioner Edelblut weakens standards for public schools and could leave students less prepared for a career, the military, or a chance to get into college. Further, the current draft also removes language that protects students from discrimination and bias and the commitments we have to teach every student. Students who struggle and need extra support might find it even harder than it is now to access their education. 

One superintendent surmised that the purpose of weakening educational standards for public schools is to reduce the state’s financial obligations to fund an adequate education for Granite State students. 

To be clear, these changes to educational standards will impact every Granite Stater. The cost burden will get passed to local communities where property taxes will go up – or communities will accept lower standards to save money in the short term. Protecting strong public school standards at the state level helps to protect against these bad choices. 

Public schools are the great equalizer – and the 306 Rules are intended to hold our state to that. Educators, families, and property taxpayers must hold our public officials accountable in order to protect strong public school standards though because sadly, we cannot entrust that task to an Education Commissioner who has already taken drastic steps toward the outsourcing and privatization of public education. 

The State Board of Education is accepting public comment on the 306 Rules revision until April 30. Before then, I urge you to find out more about these school standards from organizations like NEA-NH, AFT-NH, and Reaching Higher NH and then contact the State Board of Education to share your concerns. The future of our children’s education and our state’s economy depends on it. 

Click here to use NEA-NH’s action form to contact the State Board of Education.