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Senator John Reagan has introduced an amendment to HB 356 (an unrelated bill that establishes a committee to study education funding and costs). This amendment, 2017-1236s, increases the role of the Commissioner of Education, giving Commissioner Edelblut unprecedented authority over a new plan to completely reorganize the Department of Education, and shifting responsibilities from Division administrators within the Department to the Commissioner.
The amendment changes the bill’s analysis from one that focuses on education funding and costs to instead read, “This bill consolidates the duties of the divisions of the department of education into the office of the commissioner and authorizes the commissioner to transfer appropriations or transfer or reassigning personnel as the commissioner deems necessary.
Just a few of the changes that would result from the passage of amendment 2017-1236:
- Replace the existing 4 divisions in the NH Department of Education with 4 new divisions, to be determined by the Commissioner. Each division would be under the direction of the Commissioner, and shall perform such functions as assigned by the Commissioner.
- Allow the Commissioner to transfer or reassign personnel from any one division, office, unit or component of the Department to another; change the authority of personnel.
- Give the Commissioner the authority to administer special education (administer the provisions of RSA 186-C), career technology and adult learning programs, services for the blind; to set rates for private providers; to administer department responsibilities for nutrition programs, informational services, compilation, analysis and reporting of data; to set rates for private providers; to develop and administer standards for the professional development of educators; and to administer standards for approving elementary and secondary schools.
- On the NH Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders, designate the Commissioner as a replacement for both the Director of the Division of Instruction and the Director of the Division of Career Technology and adult learning with the Commissioner.
- In NH’s special education law, RSA 186-C, replace most references from the “division of educational improvement” to “the office of the commissioner”.
When is the public hearing on this amendment? The bill to which this amendment is attached has already had its public hearing. Even though this is a non-germane amendment (meaning that it is unrelated to the content of the HB 356), there is NO requirement that a public hearing be held on the amendment. That means that there is NO opportunity for the public to give input at a hearing on this amendment!!
So – WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Email the Senate Leadership to express your concerns. Ask them to hold a public hearing so that your voice can be heard about this very significant amendment. Ask that the public hearing be publicized in the Legislative calendar so that the public is aware of it and able to participate.
- Senate President Chuck Morse at email@example.com
- Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn at Jeff.Woodburn@leg.state.nh.us
- Pass this information on to your friends & colleagues who share your commitment to public education.
- This amendment will likely be discussed by the Senate Education committee in the Legislative Office Building, Room 103 on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at about 9:00 when the committee is scheduled to hold executive session on pending bills. If you have time, attend as an observer to show your support for public education.