June 2024: Government Relations Report

Legislative Session Ends with Mixed Results for Educators 

This year’s session has seen mixed results at the State House. Coming off the heels of a successful year in working to pass increases in state aid that helped lead to negotiated pay increases for members, we looked to the second year to fend off attacks on the profession, further privatization efforts, and more attempts passing politically motivated culture war legislation that targets LGBTQ+ students. We also sought to make more headway in advancing proactive legislation that we hoped to help energize the pipeline of educators into the profession. 

Unfortunately, the state Senate with its 14 (R) – 10 (D) split did not act as a moderating force on many issues this year and so our ability to stop anti-public education and labor legislation largely rested upon whether the nearly evenly divided House of Representatives could produce a combination of solid attendance of Democrats and moderate pro-public education Republicans. The result of that was mixed this session with some major wins but also a few narrow losses. Overall, however, the worst attacks upon public education in the legislature were stopped because of your advocacy. 

The Wins 

Voucher Expansion Defeated 

We successfully beat back several bills aiming to turn New Hampshire private school voucher scheme into a universal voucher program by lifting income limits for certain types of students or all students entirely. Currently a family must make 350% of the Federal Poverty Level or under to enter the program. Those universal voucher bills were rejected in the House narrowly, though one slipped through expanding eligibility to over 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. On June 13, the House voted down a compromise proposal that came out of a committee of conference on HB 1665 which would have made a major expansion of the program by raising the income eligibility to 425% of the Federal Poverty Level, or the equivalent of about $132,000 per year for a family of four. This would have more than doubled the size of the program currently. NEA-New Hampshire made a significant investment along with our other labor partners to stop this glidepath toward a universal voucher program so that legislators and the public understood what has happened in other states that have undertook such an expansion. Thankfully, with those investments along with your calls and e-mails, the House defeated HB 1665, the last voucher expansion bill of the year by a vote of 168 -185.

Lowering Standards for the Profession 

The House and Senate both had bills that would have created the status of an unlicensed/uncredentialed part-time teacher. Both the Senate and House versions of this bill would have established an unlicensed part-time teacher position in New Hampshire without time limitations on the status or requirement for professional development or credentialing. NEA-New Hampshire opposed both versions of this bill because they would have lowered standards for public school teachers and negatively impacted students’ access to high-quality education. Thankfully, not all the conferees on a version of the bill and so it was defeated. 

Top Extreme Culture War Bill Defeated 

This session we defeated several attempts at bringing back versions of the so-called “Parental Bill of Rights”. Chief among them was SB 341 which would have forced educators to out LGBTQ+ students by requiring licensed educators to answer written inquiries within a 10-day period, “completely and honestly”, a standard that even the NH Department of Education acknowledged is incredibly subjective. The bill served only to turn school employees into student surveillance drones – all under the threat of licensure removal. It put educators in the middle of families without the opportunity to ensure they are doing no harm. The House narrowly defeated this bill this year as well.  

So-Called “Right-to-Work” Goes Down 

With a strong bi-partisan coalition, the Legislature once again defeated anti-labor legislation known as so-called “right-to-work”. These bills are part of the corporate funded attempt to weaken labor unions and would have led to more attacks on collective bargaining had it passed.  

Subpoena Power for Commissioner Defeated 

Once again, Commissioner Edelblut and his department attempted to pass legislation giving him extraordinary subpoena power in code of conduct investigations. This bill would have given him the ability to conduct fishing expeditions on educators for issues like “banned concepts” and other culture war initiatives he has supported – fortunately, it was rejected by House lawmakers. 

Book Bans Rejected 

There were also two bills this year that sought to ban books and other materials in schools and school libraries. These pieces of legislation would have allowed efforts to ban certain books that mention LGBTQ+ topics. In doing so these bill once again attempted the use of vague language that weaponized the educator code of conduct. Thankfully the House defeated both bills. 

Mixed Results 

Classroom Temperature Control Falls Short of Getting to Finish Line 

This year we passed through the Senate a bill that would have required a temperature control plan and set standards for maximum classroom temperatures in schools. Unfortunately, the bill got scuttled in the House but we fully intend to try again next year so that students and educators are not in school buildings with extreme temperatures. Please be on the lookout for surveys as we prepare now to work on this in the 2025 Session.  

Loan Repayment Bill Could Pass but Will Require Funding 

In the waning days of House and Senate committees of conference, legislators are sending to both bodies for a final vote, a bill that maintained language establishing a rural and underserved area educator incentive program which was inserted into HB 1079. The bill program will still require funding in the next budget, but if signed by the Governor, it would allow the formation of the program to help recruit and retain early career educators in rural and underserved school districts.  

Potential Losses – Still Time to Act! 

HB 1312 – Culture War Bill that Passed Heads to Governor’s Desk 

HB 1312 could go to Governor Sununu’s desk any day now. This bill would essentially codify a recent NH Department of Education interpretation of the 2-week notice to parents around “objectionable material.” This is an unworkable standard that would leave educators wondering what course material could apply to the notice requirements that traditionally had been focused on sex education and health classes. For example, if there is a book or math worksheet that contains any kind of scenario mentioning someone’s gender or orientation, does it then fall into a 2-week notice requirement? The bill also contains more vague language that is like other so-called parental rights legislation that puts educators in impossible positions in determining which actions or conversations could put them or a student in jeopardy when they are only trying to be a trusted adult at school. This bill slipped through the House by just one vote! 

The next step for this bill is the Governor’s desk – once it is delivered to him, he will have 5 days to sign or veto the bill, or it will become law without his signature. You can contact Governor Sununu and urge him to veto HB 1312 by calling 603-271-2121 or clicking here to use our email action form. 

Full End of Session Report 

Please stay tuned for a full end of session report this summer with all the top tier bills we followed and how they may impact you.  

Why Elections Matter! 

While we had a mix of wins and losses the agenda against public education and the profession is clear and why we need to do everything we can to elect pro-public education and labor candidates up and down the ballot this year. The NEA-New Hampshire GR Committee will be examining all the records and surveys filled out by political candidates this election year so that the NEA-New Hampshire board can make candidate recommendation to members in the fall.  

In the meantime, though, you can start helping now by making a voluntary contribution to the Apple Corps, New Hampshire’s Educator PAC. You can make your voice heard by making a sustained contribution to this separate fund that helps elected pro-public education, pro-labor candidates elected to public office.