With Full Control of State House, Republicans Begin Implementing New Vision for Education

Feb 27, 2017

With Republicans in full control of New Hampshire’s State House for the first time in more than a decade, Republicans have been moving quickly to enact policies that have long been on their wish list.

That’s been particularly true in public education.

The Legislature recently passed a string of bills that were victories for school choice advocates.

Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Sununu’s budget, which included additional funding for charter schools, as well as his nominee for Department of Education Commissioner, Frank Edelblut, were well-received by conservative education reformers.

  For the most part, these actions haven’t garnered as much attention as other recent legislative debates, including those over Right to Work and gun laws. But taken together, they mark a significant shift in New Hampshire's education policy landscape.

NHPR reporter Jason Moon joined All Things Considered host Peter Biello to discuss this recent shift in education policy.

Here’s a rundown of some recent conservative education bills that have passed in the House or Senate.

Senate Bill 8: "Croydon Bill"

This bill would allow public school districts to use tax money to send students to private schools, if there is no public school available in the district.

The bill is a response to a legal dispute between the school board in the town of Croydon and state education officials.

Croydon, which does not have a public school for grades 5-12, began paying for a handful of students to attend a private Montessori school in nearby Newport in 2014.

The state Department of Education and Attorney General’s office said that was an illegal use of public money. A judge later agreed and ordered the Croydon school board to stop the payments.

The issue galvanized school-choice advocates in the state.

This bill has passed the Senate. A similar bill is being considered in the House. Governor Sununu and new DOE Commissioner Frank Edelblut have both expressed support for the proposal.

Senate Bill 193: "Education Freedom Savings Accounts"

This bill would create savings accounts for students that could be used toward a wide range of educational purposes, including for private school tuition.

The money for the savings accounts would come from the state dollars that normally accompany a student into their public school district. The savings accounts would be administered by charitable organizations.

This bill has passed the Senate and has support from Gov. Sununu.

Senate Bill 44: Prohibiting Common Core State Standards mandate

This bill prohibits the state Board of Education or the Department of Education from requiring a school district to use the Common Core State Standards.

School districts already have an option of whether or not to adopt common core standards, so this bill is a largely symbolic gesture.

Still, supporters argue it would preclude any future attempts at mandating the standards.

This bill has passed the Senate.

Senate Bill 43: Non-academic Surveys

This bill would require parental approval for non-academic surveys given to students. Schools would have to notify parents at least 10 days before administering a survey.

The bill includes an exception for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey which was developed by the federal Center for Disease Control and has been administered in schools nationally since 1993.

This bill has passed the Senate.

House Bill 103: Objectionable Course Material

This bill would amend an existing law that allows parents to exclude their children from course material they deem “objectionable,” by requiring schools to give parents two weeks’ notice before instruction of “human sexuality or human sexual education.”

This bill has passed the House.