Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fw: Fact Check on NEA Email

I wanted to share with you about the misinformation that is being passed by the NEA. AL

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Now that we have started delivering on the promises that we made to our constituents many liberal special interest groups are attempting to misrepresent or outright deceive the public about what we have accomplished.

Therefore, the Majority Office is going to be vigilant to respond and correct the record when misrepresentations are made. Over the weekend, the National Educators Association (NEA) send out an email criticizing many of the reforms we made in education. Unfortunately, Rick Trombly (Director of Policy and Advocacy of the NH NEA) had several untruths and mischaracterizations in his email that we believe were important to rebut.

Below is Mr. Trmobly’s email with the truth (in blue text) under every one of his points:

"Legislative Assault on Public Education Continues in Concord"

Last week the New Hampshire House and Senate continued its assault on public education.  Here is a sampling of legislation passed by the respective bodies:

This statement is simply nonsense. The New Hampshire Republican Party Platform has an entire section dedicated to Education. It states in part: “The Republican Party believes that the primary focus of education should be on academic achievement. In a global economy where outsourcing is commonplace, our students must be proficient in math and science. In order for our nation to survive and prosper, our students must have a thorough understanding of history, civics and the philosophical concepts upon which our government is based. Self-esteem based educational programs, which undermine academic achievement, do not serve the long-term interests of our children…Educating the citizens of New Hampshire is our hope for the future of this great state. We believe that New Hampshire must provide its children an education based upon excellence.”

The legislation we have acted upon this session is in comfortable accordance with our platform principles. We can only assume that Mr. Trombly is not interested in excellence or achievement in public education. Unfortunately, it is attitudes like Mr. Trombly’s that are holding the public education system back from being competitive and ensuring that our students have the education they need to compete in our contemporary society and a global economy.

In the House, HB 542 would end compulsory education.  The bill as amended by the House Education Committee says that parents would no longer be required to send their children to school, or if they do send them to school, they can keep them out of any class. The bill then goes on to prevent school districts from enforcing the truancy laws.

Mr. Trombly is using old, tired liberal scare tactics to distract from the reality that we have a philosophical disagreement about who should determine a child’s education; parents or educational bureaucratic elites. We believe that parents have a right to control the education and instruction of their children. HB 542 as amended clarifies in statute the constitutional right of parents to conscientiously object to materials, or programs, taught in the public school system. Mr. Trombly might also want to brush up on the New Hampshire Constitution, which states in Part I, Article 4 that the right of Conscience is an unalienable right, and this bill specifies that this right applies to parent-directed education of their children.

CACR 12 is a constitutional amendment that would vest sole authority in the legislature to determine what, if any, school aid it sent back to municipalities. The legislature could set any amount, including none at all, as the state’s obligation to provide a child an adequate education. The amendment also gives conflicting authority as to how revenue could be raised to fund education.  In the committee report in support of passage of the bill, the chair of the committee recommending the amendment says the bill gives the legislature the authority to repeal the statewide education property tax.  If this is done, school districts would either have to make dramatic reductions in staff and programs, or ask taxpayers for huge increases in their property taxes. On the other hand, the amendment also would allow the state to raise 100% of any school aid through the same tax. Either way, the house by passing this amendment to the senate paves the way for property tax increases or cuts to education.

Much of what Mr. Trombly labels as negative about CACR12 are actually its best assets. Mr. Trombly believes that it is appropriate that the NH Supreme Court remains as an overseer and super-Legislature when it comes to setting educational policy and developing a funding system for it. Once again, we have outrageous political hyperbole and fear mongering being used to distract from reality. While CACR12 does gives the general court maximum flexibility to delegate and vest as much authority at the local level as the General Court in its full discretion determines, it is completely unreasonable to believe that we would defund education or zero-out a community from state funding. Further, CACR12 eliminates the statewide property tax, which is a relief to local property taxpayers, not a burden as Trombly attempts to claim.

Reductions in education aid are guaranteed by passage of HB 337 if it becomes law.  The bill changes the formula for calculating school aid. Two major changes, for instance, foretell the legislature’s goal of reducing the state’s obligation to public school children.

Currently, when calculating the cost of adequacy, in determining staff costs, the formula takes the average of the lowest two quartiles of a third year teacher’s salary.  Under HB 337, that calculation will now be based on the average of the two lowest quartiles first year teacher pay.  Also under current law, if a school has a free and reduced lunch population exceeding 13%, the school gets more aid for each student in the school. The logic quite accurately being that after a certain threshold having more children in poverty requires the school to spend more on educating these students.  HB 337 removes that additional aid and replaces it with language which says the school gets NO aid for these
students UNTIL the school reaches 13% free and reduced lunch population.  No matter how you slice it, the next result is less aid for schools.

It appears that Mr. Trombly either hasn’t read or doesn’t understand HB 337.

First, let’s be honest about what this legislation does:

  • This legislation brings sustainability, predictability, and continuity to state funding of public education. No town or city will receive either more or less in State aid than they received this year. No matter how badly Mr. Trombly wants to politicize this issue, nothing can change this simple fact.
  • HB 337 corrects the current funding formula to a base cost per pupil. That is to say that it uses empirical, realistic standards and criteria adopted from the NH Department of Education standards and the federal definition of “highly qualified” teachers rather than inflated exaggerated criteria used simply to blindly increase the total amount of state aid. This legislature is committed to actual facts and professional criteria rather than Mr. Trombly’s “warm-and fuzzy” nonsense.
  • HB 337 increases targeted aid to $423,172,000 (40% of total state aid). It also targets free/reduced lunch aid only for those students eligible for that program, not for the entire student population in schools. The legislation also starts targeted aid only when the concentration of disadvantaged students warrants it (at 15% or more of a school) as recommended by previous expert consultants. Finally, it continues targeting for special education and English language learners at current levels.
  • Last, it continues fiscal capacity disparity aid. HB 337 is the absolute best formula to target aid to New Hampshire’s more disadvantaged communities.
Second, what would happen had the House not passed HB 337 and the current formula remained in place?
  • Donor towns would return with a vengeance. In fact, 36 towns and 10 unincorporated areas would have to pay $15.7 million to the state. Five communities would pay more than $1,000,000 (Moultonborough, Rye, New Castle, Lincoln, and New London), while 14 more towns would have to send checks for more than $400,000 to the state.
  • The current formula distributes money in a seemingly random and unfair way: winners and losers. Our poorest communities would have received little if any additional aid (Claremont: +$430,000, Lisbon: +$520,000, Pittsfield: +$20,000). Some of our poorest communities would actually lose funds (Berlin: -$470,000, Allenstown: -$280,000, Weare: -$3,180,000).
  • The current formula would blow a $328 million dollar hole in the state budget at a time when we are already struggling to cut costs to balance our budget. How would the NEA address that issue? Income tax or a sales tax?

Student protections under the Anti-Bullying Law enacted last year will be reduced by the passage of HB 370. One of the major changes removes the list of student characteristics which trigger the protections under the law. That change was prompted purely by politics in that ultra-conservative organizations objected to including sexual orientation as a protected class of students.  It also removes protections for those students who are bullied off school grounds.

Revising a statute that has been in effect for one year is part of a grand scheme to attack and dismantle public education? Poppycock!

Current law allows the school administration to determine whether to tell parents about their child being bullied or being a bully and requires school boards to be responsible for their students' behavior 24/7/365. HB 370 solves these problems by requiring parents be notified when their child is involved in a bullying incident and limits the school's liability to only when the school has assumed control of, and a supervisory role over, a child. The bill also requires the school to notify parents if the school becomes aware of a bullying or cyber-bullying situation that occurred when the school did not have a supervisory role over the child. Only the NEA could see this as throwing students under the bus!

During the same week when Governor Lynch was announcing New Hampshire’s dropout rate had fallen to below 1%, the House passed a bill to undo that hard work by lowering the dropout age back to 16. But, in light of HB 542 which I mentioned above, the real dropout age is 6.

The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy has well documented how Governor Lynch manipulated the math to demonstrate that the drop out rate has fallen below 1%. Raising the drop out rate was nothing more than a feel good measure that in reality has very little to do with our outstandingly low dropout age. However, we do know that keeping students in the class room who does not want to be there leads to disruption in the class room and a distracted teacher. Overall this lowers the quality of the learning environment, which is something that the NEA should actually be concerned with.

Defeated by the House was a bill which would have made it illegal to give
flu shots in public schools.

In fairness to the sponsors of this legislation, this was more than an issue of “flu shots” and why are our public schools in the business of dispensing flu shots anyway? It included vaccinations that parents may find objectionable for moral reasons. Mr. Trombly attempts to undermine the principle of parental rights in the determination of their child’s upbringing and education but deceiving the public into thinking this was an issue about “flu shots.”

The Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 3 which will make changes to the pension system. In that bill, your contribution rate will increase over the next two years from 5% to 7%. All of that increase, about $90 million for all public employees, will go to reduce employer contribution rates. This at a time when employers still owe the pension system $3.7 billion for the 15 years when they were give a break on their contribution rates.

The final details of Senate Bill 3 have yet to be worked out but House Republicans made it clear in our House Agenda that much needed pension reform would be a priority. Unfortunately, it is becoming clear that some unions are more concerned in keeping what they feel they are entitled to rather than showing a concern about the future solvency of the system. It appears the NEA is more concerned with getting “what’s mine” rather than ensuring that the system remains solvent for the future.

On Tuesday, March 22, 2011, the Senate Education Committee will hear anmamendment to SB 114 which will increase a teacher’s probationary period fromm 3 to 5 years. It will also remove the due process rights nonrenewed teachers have when face with termination.

We will see how this develops but we support the general concept of reforming teacher tenure and probationary periods that the Senate is currently grappling.

Representative Lambert from Litchfield has announced he will sponsor legislation to repeal collective bargaining for public employees next session.

Rick Trombly
Director of Policy and Advocacy

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