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Timberlane Union Prez Decries Parental Involvement as ‘Interference’

The head of the Timberlane Teachers’ Association says teachers should be able to do their job “without interference from parents,” the latest expression of anti-parent sentiment from teachers unions.

Coral Hampe is a Spanish teacher and head of the teachers union at Timberlane High School in Plaistow, N.H. In a message to legislators opposing HB 1015, she described parental and legal oversight as “interference.”

“Your calling is to the legislature. Others are called to medicine. Teachers are called to teach. Let us do our jobs without interference from parents and laws,” Hampe wrote.

Hampe did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, nor did Timberlane School Board Chair Kimberly Farah. The district and the union are currently involved in contentious contract negotiations. 

The law in question, HB 1015, would allow parents to swap out, at their own cost, any material being taught to their child that they find objectionable. The law would require parents to give the school principal written notice about their objection, and it would have the parents and school administration work together to find appropriate replacement material.

“It is appalling, although not surprising, that a teachers’ union believes they are above the law,” said House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, of the bill’s cosponsors. “They want to indoctrinate our children in the same Marxist theories they hold without any recourse. If teachers were actually teaching the facts and leaving their opinions out of their curriculum, they would have nothing to fear. Clearly, that is not the case in our public schools.”

Teachers unions and their allies have become more open in their rejection of the legitimacy of parental involvement in public education. New Hampshire House Democrats are trying to overturn state education rules preventing schools from going to remote learning with some buy-in from parents.

On Monday, the Warner, N.H. Democratic Party tweeted a political cartoon mocking parents who want to review curricula as Confederate-Flag-wearing Trump supporters. The tweet was forwarded by state Rep. David Meuse (D-Portsmouth) and several other Democratic committees around the state.

 

The Timberlane Teachers’ Association is part of the American Federation of Teachers – New Hampshire. Deb Howes, president of AFT-NH, did not respond to a request for comment. The AFT-NH’s legislative bulletin includes a misleading statement on the proposed law, claiming it is aimed at stopping current events from being taught in the classroom. 

“We cannot think of anything more damaging to our students than removing a teacher’s ability to use current events to emphasize a topic and help our students relate so they can better understand the material. Are teachers supposed to forgo using current events in the classroom?” The bulletin states.

Current events are not mentioned in the text of the law. Instead, it requires teachers to give parents two weeks’ notice on what will be taught to their children, in order to give parents an appropriate amount of time to review material and ask questions.

Osborne said Hampe’s message betrays how out-of-touch the unions have become in public schools.

“In what world could a business live above the law and not have to answer to the very people who fund them, whether it’s a school, a private business, or even the government? I can’t imagine Market Basket would survive much longer if they wanted to sell groceries without interference from customers,” he said.

The AFT-NH, along with the other teachers’ union, the NEA-NH, are suing the state over the new anti-discrimination law that prohibits teaching any one group is superior or inferior by virtue of their race, creed, or sexual orientation. The lawsuits falsely claim that the state law prohibits teaching “divisive concepts.”

Rep. Kimberly Rice (R-Hudson), another co-sponsor of HB 1015, questioned whether or not Hampe’s statement actually speaks for teachers in the Timberlane district.

“I feel like we have parents and educators pitted against each other and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” Rice said.

Youngkin Follows NH’s Lead with Anti-CRT ‘Tip Line’

Virginia’s newly elected Republican Gov. Glenn Younkin is borrowing a page from New Hampshire by setting up an email tipline for parents to report on teachers who use Critical Race Theory (CRT) curriculum in the classroom.

Youngkin, who won an upset victory for governor in a state Joe Biden carried by 10 points a year earlier, campaigned hard against the use of CRT in Virginia classrooms. On his first day in office, he signed an executive order banning “divisive concepts” like CRT from the state’s classrooms.

He told media this week the email tipline allows parents to report teachers “behaving objectionably.”

“We’re asking for folks to send us reports and observations that they have that will help us be aware of things like ‘privilege bingo,’ be aware of their child being denied their rights that parents have in Virginia. And we’re going to make sure we catalog it all,” Youngkin said. “This gives us a great insight into what’s happening at a school level, and that gives us further ability to make sure we’re rooting it out.”

“Privilege bingo” is an actual classroom exercise used as part of a CRT-based curriculum to highlight racial differences among students and label certain children “privileged” based on race, regardless of their actual circumstances. The Fairfax County, Va. public school system apologized for using it after parents found out about the classroom exercise and complained.

Youngkin’s moves mimic those taken by the New Hampshire Department of Education. Last fall, Commissioner Frank Edelblut set up a website that allows Granite State parents to report violations of the state’s new anti-discrimination law. New Hampshire did not directly ban the teaching of any specific concept but instead banned teaching that any group was superior or inferior based on race, creed, or sexual orientation.

“This website in support of the commission provides parents with an online site to address concerns that their child may have been discriminated against,” the DOE said in a statement when the site was launched. “Parents, guardians, and teachers are able to submit a public education intake questionnaire that will be reviewed by a [state Human Rights] commission intake coordinator to determine if there are grounds to file a formal complaint.”

Edleblut did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but his staff indicated that any complaints filed through the website would go directly to the state’s Human Rights Commission (HRC). Edleblut has said that by going to the HRC, the due process rights of any teacher accused of violating the law will be protected.

Ahni Malachi, the commission’s executive director, refused to say Tuesday how many cases, if any, had been referred to her office since the website was published. She did say that no cases have been fully adjudicated at this time. But it is not clear if there are any cases pending before the commission, are still in the investigative stage, or are heading for mediation. The commission’s website lacks transparent information on the number of cases handled, and there is no public data available on the website beyond 2018 numbers.

NHJournal has reported on multiple Granite State school systems, including Manchester, Laconia, and Litchfield, that were found to be using CRT-inspired content.

New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination reporting system caught flak from teachers unions after it was learned a group of activists, Moms For Liberty, was offering a $500 bounty for the first verified report made to the commission. While Edleblut distanced himself from the bounty scheme, the heads of New Hampshire’s two teachers unions accused him of engaging in dangerous vigilantism.

“Totally innocent teachers could lose their teaching license over claims that are not backed up by any evidence. Edelblut has declared a war on teachers, a war that the overwhelming majority of New Hampshire parents will find repulsive,” AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes said.

Meg Tuttle, president of the NEA-NH, said Edleblut was keeping New Hampshire children from learning about injustice.

“Politicians like Commissioner Edelblut are using the dog whistle strategy of distraction, division, and intimidation in their efforts to dictate what teachers say and block kids from learning our shared stories of confronting injustice to build a more perfect union,” Tuttle said.

To date, no bounty has been paid, according to Moms For Liberty. Both the AFT and NEA have since filed independent federal lawsuits against the state over the anti-discrimination law.

The lawsuits incorrectly describe the law as banning the teaching of “divisive concepts.”

NH Teachers Union Files Error-Filled Suit Against Anti-Discrimination Law

The New Hampshire branch of the American Federation of Teachers joined a handful of parents and teachers in a federal lawsuit Monday against “divisive concepts statute.” Only one problem: New Hampshire doesn’t have one.

The 50-page lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in Concord — which often reads like a political campaign flyer — uses the phrase “divisive concepts” 103 times, even though the “divisive concepts” bill never passed the legislature. Instead, the state passed an anti-discrimination bill attempting to stop the continued use of Critical Race Theory-inspired curricula.

The lawsuit also quotes from legislation that was never passed, as well as screenshots of social media posts by private organizations like Moms for Liberty, which are not named in the suit and have no role in New Hampshire’s education system.

“It’s not shocking to me that there’s a lawsuit, but it does shock me that the lawsuit filed completely overlooks the actual legislation that was passed,” said Ryan Terrell, the only Black member of the state Board of Education.

The lawsuit refers to the anti-discrimination law — which bans government employees from teaching or training that immutable aspects like race or sex make people inherently inferior, superior, or racist — as the “divisive concepts statute.” The actual law does not contain the phrase and explicitly allows for the teaching of U.S. history on the issue of race.

“They must have filed this lawsuit in the wrong state,” said state Rep. Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, the House Majority Leader. “New Hampshire does not have a ‘divisive concepts’ statute.

Contacted Monday evening, AFT-NH President Deb Howes, refused to answer questions before hanging up.

“Not right now, I’m the car,” she said when NH Journal’s reporter identified himself.

A national AFT spokesperson referred questions about “divisive concepts” back to Howes, but noted that many in the New Hampshire media have labeled the law as a “divisive concept” law that bans certain subjects from being taught.

State Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, can’t understand why the American Federation of Teachers wants to overturn an anti-discrimination law.

“New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination law prohibits teaching New Hampshire students that they are ‘inherently superior or inferior to people of another age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin.'” Bradley said. “Clearly any instruction that teaches students they are inferior or superior due to these characteristics is discrimination and it’s terribly disappointing that this lawsuit has even been filed.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of teachers and parents against what they claim is a “culture war” in the classroom.

“The ‘culture wars’ have no place in New Hampshire’s classrooms. Our public school teachers and support staff are dedicated public servants who have stepped up and devoted themselves beyond measure during the pandemic to continue to teach our children,” the lawsuit states. “Yet, they are being politically targeted and threatened with public shaming and undeserved disciplinary proceedings (not to mention the cost of defending themselves) for doing their jobs in accordance with the curriculum formally adopted by the state.

“New Hampshire parents, too, are entitled to send their children to school, expecting a full and robust exchange of ideas in the classroom, uncorrupted by censorship and extremist partisanship,” according to the lawsuit.

Parents opposed to CRT-based instruction say school administrators and teachers brought the culture war into the classroom by teaching their children they are white supremacists or part of upholding white supremacy, regardless of their behavior or beliefs.

Terrell opposed the original bill as censorship and an overstep. The anti-discrimination law that passed is something he supports, since it reinforces the American principle of equality, without dictating what can be taught in the classroom. He said the NH AFT’s lawsuit presumes New Hampshire teachers can’t handle nuance.

“This is a slap in the face to our teachers,” he said.

The suit names New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, New Hampshire Commissioner on Human Rights chair Christian Kim and Attorney General John Fomella as defendants. 

Edelblut declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

School Vouchers vs. ESA: The School Choice Debate in NH Heats Up

Education Freedom Accounts Serve the Public Good

The House Education Committee heard testimony on a Senate bill Tuesday that would establish “education freedom savings accounts” for students in the state. Emotions ran high during the crowded hearing in what has been a battle of school choice advocates versus supporters of public schools. Yet, the terms “school vouchers” and “education savings accounts” (ESA) haven often been thrown around synonymously at the New Hampshire State House, resulting in misinformation being spread around about Senate Bill 193.

The bill would allow parents of students between the ages of 5 and 20 to work with an approved scholarship organization to receive 90 percent of the per-pupil state grant funds (approximately $3,500) to be used to cover tuition or other costs at a school of the family’s choice. The family can use the funds to pay for private school tuition — including religious schools — homeschooling expenses, and other academic expenses. The bill passed the Senate on a 14-9 vote in March.

Opponents of the bill claim the ESA would take funding away from public schools that need it most, since students from underfunded or struggling school districts would most likely take advantage of the program. The critics also said the program would unconstitutionally provide taxpayer dollars to religious schools.

Supporters argue the bill would give parents more options for their students, since they know what’s best for their own children. They also claim that by granting parents alternatives to public schools, it would create competition and encourage public schools to increase their performance.

“The American education system has substantially failed to produce what they’re charging for,” said bill sponsor Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, at the hearing.

“It is trying to resolve the problem of having the most expensive education system in the world, and not having the best prepared students in the world,” he added. “The argument we hear is, if we take all this money from our public schools – and this is what our public school administrators tell us – they tell us they won’t know what to do.”

Yet, several opponents of the bill have been using the terms ESA and school vouchers interchangeably to describe what the legislation would do.

The state’s largest teacher union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-NH), has also been telling its supporters that the ESA bill is code for a school voucher program.

“SB 193 is a voucher bill under the guise of ‘Education Freedom Savings Accounts,'” they wrote on their website.

Voucher programs and education savings accounts are similar, but not identical. However, the distinction between them is often muddled by politically-loaded terms. A state school voucher program grants parents a credit for a certain tuition value that they can use to enroll their child in a private school

ESAs are similar, but offer more flexibility to the parents. When parents get an ESA, they are awarded a yearly sum that can be mixed and matched to suit their children’s educational needs. The funds can be used all for private school tuition, like a voucher, or they can split it among many education opportunities like private tutoring, textbooks, and even saving for college.

The AFT-NH encouraged their supporters to fill out a robo-petition that would be sent to lawmakers encouraging them to vote “no” on SB 193 and creating ESA for students.

“Despite being labeled an ‘Education Freedom Savings Account,’ make no mistake this is a voucher bill which will directly take taxpayer dollars intended for our public schools and divert to private and other institutions,” the petition website states.

House Education Committee Chairman Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, said his panel would likely vote on the bill at the end of the month. The committee has until April 26 to act on this legislation, at which point, it would probably go to the House Finance Committee before reaching the House floor for a vote.

Due to Republicans holding a slight majority in the House, it’s likely the bill will pass committee. What ultimately happens when it comes to a floor vote in the full House is anyone’s guess.

A recent survey from Citizens Count, NH’s Live Free or Die Alliance found 54 percent of respondents were opposed to “granting parents a portion of state funds to pay educational expenses for private or home-schooled students” and 46 percent supported the measure.

The bill has even grabbed the attention of former Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who wrote a Monday op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader expressing his support of the ESA bill.

“Empowering parents with the freedom to choose encourages positive change because the right to educate their children no longer can be taken for granted,” Bush wrote. “It must be earned. I commend Sen. John Reagan and Rep. Joseph Pitre for introducing this legislation, and Gov. Chris Sununu, who has been a passionate advocate for school choice.”

There are still some questions to be answered and changes the bill needs before the House votes on it. House Finance Committee Chairman Neal Kurk, R-Weare, said he supports the bill, but the question over funds going to religious schools would need to be addressed. The state constitution expressly forbids taxpayer funds going to religious schools.

Anne Edwards, an attorney with the state’s attorney’s office, warned lawmakers at the Tuesday hearing that if they don’t tweak the bill in regards to the religious school issue, the state could face legal and constitutional challenges.

However, Kate Baker, director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund, said legislators shouldn’t let the threat of litigation stop them from passing the bill.

“I believe this will be in the courts, no matter what you do,” she said. “Parents want to go to court and fight for their right to make these choices for their children.”

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