Legislator Report Card – 2018

We are pleased to release our third annual Legislator Report Card! Grades are based on this session’s school-choice bills with roll-call votes. We followed and reported on many more issues and bills throughout the year, but only roll-call votes provide direct accountability of individual Representatives and Senators.

As previously mentioned, 2018 was a strong year for educational opportunities in New Hampshire. For an overall review of this year’s outcomes, read 2018 Highlights Part 1 which features our community successes and 2018 Highlights Part 2 which covers additional school-choice legislation.

As it pertains to legislative outcomes, most roll-call votes were divided along party lines. Therefore, the handful of roll-call votes were strongly supported by Republicans, with Democrats against with notable exceptions on both sides of the aisle. On a national basis, the forefront of school choice is often politically polarized, although not among constituents. In a January 2018 poll, 63% of likely voters support educational opportunities. Many Democratic voters support school choice and are working to depoliticize the issue. A poll by Education Next released in August 2018 shows broad support of “wider choice” for public-school families to access private options. Families concentrate on their children and want the best for them; political affiliation and agendas are irrelevant in this context.

School Choice for New Hampshire is a 501c4 non-profit that believes every child deserves an opportunity for an education that fits his or her unique needs. We inform, engage, and empower families, community leaders, and concerned citizens with educational opportunities that benefit children in our state as well as efforts that may expand or restrict these options. We are non-partisan and not affiliated with any political party. We also do not endorse candidates, but hope our Report Card is an informative tool for evaluating legislators and holding them accountable.


Methodology

School-choice votes are not limited to only those that involve where a child may be educated; that is the narrowest definition of school choice. It also pertains to the funding mechanisms that empower choice, who has the authority make those decisions, and other issues that impact educational opportunities, diversity, and innovation. School choice also encourages accountability to families and empowers them to direct their children’s education. Our annual Legislator Report Cards reflect this broader view of educational opportunities.

We analyzed, monitored, testified, and reported on approximately a dozen bills during the 2018 legislative session. Of those, three had roll-call votes in the House and four were roll-called in the Senate. These votes alone do not provide a complete picture of a legislator’s support or opposition to school choice; the sample size is too small and cannot cover the entire scope in a given year.

Throughout the session we used stars to indicate a bill’s potential impact to school choice. This is applied to roll-call votes to create a weighted score. Three-star bills, the most critical ones, have a 100% value. Two-star bills have an 80% value. One-star bills have a 60% value, and bills without any star – but still significant to our efforts – receive 40% value. Not voting and excused are not penalized, but missing more than 60% of the weighted votes qualifies as an “incomplete.” The Speaker of the House does not receive a grade because he presided over the sessions and did not vote.

The grading scale is based on a traditional academic report card with the letter grade breakdowns as follows: 97% and higher is an A+, 93-96% is an A, 90-92% is an A-, and so on. These finer gradations provide more distinction and clarity between various legislators. Legislators that received a B or higher are generally those that support educational opportunities, empowering families, accountability to families, and educational diversity. Those that received a C are fickle or support only some school-choice issues. Those that received a D or lower are opposed to school choice, seek to restrict educational options, and want to give more authority to the state.

Those legislators that earned a three-year average of A- or above have a star by their name, indicating they are on our Three-Year Honor Roll.


Report Card Grades

HOUSE: If a Representative earned an A- or above for a three-year average, a star appears by their name, indicating they are on our Three-Year Honor Roll. To find your Representatives, go to Who’s My Legislator.

              2018 Legislator Report Card – House, by Name 

              2018 Legislator Report Card – House, by District

 

SENATE: If a Senator earned an A- or above for a three-year average, a star appears by their name, indicating they are on our Three-Year Honor Roll. To find your Senator, go to Who’s My Senator.

              2018 Legislator Report Card – Senate, by Name

 


2018 Bills – House Roll Calls

Although the House had several roll calls through the year, only three pertained to school choice issues. Representatives are graded on the following bills.

 

WIN      HB 1686-FN, relative to applications for and the use of education tax credits.

This new law builds on the existing tax-credit education program. It allows individuals as well as businesses to declare donations against their interest and dividends taxes and allows them to qualify for a federal charitable tax donation. It had a roll-call vote in the House, passing 168 to 147, almost entirely along party lines. It also had three roll-calls in the Senate; one coming out of the Ways and Means committee, one when an unfriendly amendment was put forward on the Senate floor, and a final one after the Senate Finance Committee. Each time the votes were strongly along party lines. The first roll call was a 13 to 10 vote; the second one, on the amendment, was 10 to 14, and the final vote was 14 to 10. This bill was signed by Governor Sununu and went into effect July 1, 2018.

 

WIN      HB 1819, relative to administration of the education tax credit.

This new law is another expansion to the established tax-credit education program. It specifically includes entering kindergarteners and first graders as eligible students and allows fundraising to go year-round instead of ending December 31. It also makes changes consistent with other NH tax credit programs that allow for contributions to be carried forward to the next program year. This allows businesses to include donations in their budgeting plans. Nearly all bills with fiscal notes go to two committees in both chambers; one to address the policy and a second to address the financial issues. This law had a roll call, passing 303 to 42 in the House after going through the Education Committee. It was amended in House Ways and Means, and passed in a voice vote. In the Senate it went directly to Ways and Means where it was again amended and ultimately passed in another voice vote. This new law was also signed by Governor Sununu and went into effect on July 1, 2018.

 

LOSS     *** SB 193, establishing education freedom savings accounts for students.

While the bill was narrowly defeated in the final House votes, it progressed much farther than most people expected. We consider this a significant advancement for educational options although not a win. The bill originally passed the Senate in February 2017 after  going through Senate Education in a 13 to 10 roll call vote. Because it had a fiscal note, it went to Senate Finance, after which it again had a roll-call vote, passing 14 to 9 along party lines. From there it moved to House Education where the committee retained it for additional consideration. In mid-November the subcommittee put forward an amendment that narrowly passed the committee to advance to the full House for an early January 2018 vote, passing 184 to 162 in a roll call after a few floor amendments failed. It spent the rest of the 2018 legislative session in House Finance with multiple subcommittee meetings. Throughout the process, numerous amendments were considered, especially regarding eligibility and funding calculations. When it was finally presented to the entire House in early May, there were three votes, all roll-calls. The first was to table the bill which failed 15 to 314, which is a way to kill the bill. A motion to send the bill to Interim Study, another way to kill the bill, passed 170 to 159, and a motion to reconsider the bill, which would give it another chance, failed 165 to 172. All three votes were mostly along party lines with a handful of exceptions that are critical in evaluating legislators’ positions on educational options. There was another chance for this year’s ESA bill. The senate is able to add non-germane amendments to bills and tacked on the original SB 193 language (as passed in 2017) along with language from another bill regarding school employee death benefits, to HB 1636, a bill about charter schools re access to federal funding, in an effort to send it a Committee of Conference. The amendment for the ESA language was a roll-call vote in the senate, passing 14 to 10 along party lines, sending HB 1636 as amended back to the House. The vote for a Committee of Conference narrowly failed in a roll call vote 168 to 173 allowing a motion for non-concur to come forward. This was another roll call vote, 180 to 163, killing the entire bill as amended. Look for these votes to weigh heavily in our upcoming Report Card. Learn more about Education Savings Accounts here.


2018 Bills – Senate Roll Calls

We had limited roll-call votes in the Senate, too. Despite this challenge, the senate’s four bills with roll calls are insightful because they cover several issues important to educational opportunities and empowering families. Of these four bills, two bills were also roll-called in the House: HB 1686 pertaining to the tax-credit scholarship program and SB 193 regarding Education Savings Accounts.

 

WIN      HB 1686-FN, relative to applications for and the use of education tax credits.

This new law builds on the existing tax-credit education program. It allows individuals as well as businesses to declare donations against their interest and dividends taxes and allows them to qualify for a federal charitable tax donation. It had a roll-call vote in the House, passing 168 to 147, almost entirely along party lines. It also had three roll-calls in the Senate; one coming out of the Ways and Means committee, one when an unfriendly amendment was put forward on the Senate floor, and a final one after the Senate Finance Committee. Each time the votes were strongly along party lines. The first roll call was a 13 to 10 vote; the second one, on the amendment, was 10 to 14, and the final vote was 14 to 10. This bill was signed by Governor Sununu and went into effect July 1, 2018.

 

WIN      *** HB 1744, authorizing a parent to exempt his or her child from participating in the statewide assessment program.

This law had three rounds before: HB 276 (2017) that died in the Senate, as well as HB 1338 (2016) and HB 603 (2015) that were vetoed by Gov. Hassan. It had a friendly amendment in the House and passed on a voice vote. It passed the Senate in a 14 to 10 roll-call vote along party lines and was signed by Governor Sununu, going into effect on July 24, 2018. This new law breaks the stranglehold on our students and teachers. It is in response to increasing demand from parents to refuse their children’s participation in mandatory testing, including the statewide assessments that are aligned with College and Career Readiness Standards (aka Common Core). There are many reasons why parents may wish to have their children not participate in the statewide assessment. Given that these tests have no academic or diagnostic value, many families believe them to be a waste of valuable instructional time. This bill addresses documented instances of NH students being harassed and punished for non-participation. The law is consistent with existing NH DOE policies, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and US Supreme Court rulings. Even the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) acknowledges that parents may refuse their children’s participation in statewide assessments. Unions also oppose using them to evaluate teachers. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes refusals if state law allows them; this law does exactly that. Again, accountability should be to families, not politicians. This law empowers parents to direct their children’s education within the public-school system. Also diminishing the hyper-testing mechanisms of Common Core encourages educational options and variety. Read more at Win for Directing Children’s Education and Children are More Than Test Scores.

 

LOSS     *** SB 193, establishing education freedom savings accounts for students.

While the bill was narrowly defeated in the final House votes, it progressed much farther than most people expected. We consider this a significant advancement for educational options although not a win. The bill originally passed the Senate in February 2017 after  going through Senate Education in a 13 to 10 roll call vote. Because it had a fiscal note, it went to Senate Finance, after which it again had a roll-call vote, passing 14 to 9 along party lines. From there it moved to House Education where the committee retained it for additional consideration. In mid-November the subcommittee put forward an amendment that narrowly passed the committee to advance to the full House for an early January 2018 vote, passing 184 to 162 in a roll call after a few floor amendments failed. It spent the rest of the 2018 legislative session in House Finance with multiple subcommittee meetings. Throughout the process, numerous amendments were considered, especially regarding eligibility and funding calculations. When it was finally presented to the entire House in early May, there were three votes, all roll-calls. The first was to table the bill which failed 15 to 314, which is a way to kill the bill. A motion to send the bill to Interim Study, another way to kill the bill, passed 170 to 159, and a motion to reconsider the bill, which would give it another chance, failed 165 to 172. All three votes were mostly along party lines with a handful of exceptions that are critical in evaluating legislators’ positions on educational options. There was another chance for this year’s ESA bill. The senate is able to add non-germane amendments to bills and tacked on the original SB 193 language (as passed in 2017) along with language from another bill regarding school employee death benefits, to HB 1636, a bill about charter schools re access to federal funding, in an effort to send it a Committee of Conference. The amendment for the ESA language was a roll-call vote in the senate, passing 14 to 10 along party lines, sending HB 1636 as amended back to the House. The vote for a Committee of Conference narrowly failed in a roll call vote 168 to 173 allowing a motion for non-concur to come forward. This was another roll call vote, 180 to 163, killing the entire bill as amended. Look for these votes to weigh heavily in our upcoming Report Card. Learn more about Education Savings Accounts here.

 

WIN      * SB 431, relative to non-academic surveys required to be filed by school districts to maintain federal funding.

This bill sought to reverse the hard-won active consent (opt in) for non-academic surveys in SB 43 (2017). It would have required passive consent (opt-out) instead of active consent for all non-academic surveys if they are tied to “grants, initiatives, or contracts.” In other words, the bill would sell students’ rights and privacy for additional funding. Active consent as required in the 2017 law is consistent with the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) and carves out an exception for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey created by the CDC, allowing passive consent. This is a school-choice issue because public school students should not be subject to increased risks or privacy violations nor should their families forfeit their rights to direct their children’s education simply because children attend their zip-code assigned schools. It is also one aspect of accountability to families. The bill came out of the Senate Education Committee with an Inexpedient to Legislate recommendation which prevailed in a roll-call vote, 13 to 11, killing the bill.

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