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Manchester: We face different challenges so should not have to take the Smarter Balanced test

Manchester’s Mayor Gatsas fired the next round in his exchange with New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Virginia Barry, gleefully covered in the Union Leader under the headline, “Gatsas to NH education czar: Explain yourself.”:

“Gatsas told the board that Barry’s decision went against assurances she had made that the district would not be locked into Smarter Balanced and undermined its efforts to implement its own curriculum and assessment in place of Common Core, the controversial national education benchmarks. Smarter Balanced is designed to be compatible with Common Core.”

The Mayor’s letter said his students should not have to take the Smarter Balanced assessment because “the Manchester School District is unique.  The challenges we face are different than any other school district in the State of New Hampshire.”

This is not dissimilar to the concerns expressed months ago by some teachers in Nashua, the other New Hampshire city with high proportions of minorities and low-income families.  In their letter and subsequent discussions, teachers expressed a fear that their students would not be prepared for the difficult new test.

However, the Nashua Board of Education determined that the New Hampshire education commissioner did not have the power to grant a waiver – state and federal law required that they take the same annual assessment that would be used in every other district in the State (and in many other cities around the country, like Los Angeles, with even more challenging demographics).  So the district participated fully in the Smarter Balanced field test last spring and found that it wasn’t so bad after all.

Manchester did not participate the field test, so the district’s faculty and students will see the assessment for the first time next spring.  However, according to the Union Leader, Superintendent Livingston “said that she believed the district would have the capability to administer the test, by computer, in the spring.”


Manchester expresses surprise about New Hampshire testing policy

At its August 11 meeting, the Manchester Board of School Committee voted (the debate starts on page 60)  to send the New Hampshire Department of Education a letter requesting that the city not be required to administer the Smarter Balanced annual assessment.  Yesterday, the Union Leader reported that the Mayor Gatsas was surprised by Commissioner Barry’s reply and today editorialized that they were surprised by the Commissioner’s response as well.

This was no surprise.   (more…)

This American RadioWorks documentary about the Common Core that gets to the heart of the matter

Whatever you might think about the Common Core, you owe it to yourself to listen to this 53 minute American RadioWorks documentary on the standards (or read the transcript).  American RadioWorks has proved in over 100 education essays and documentaries to be a balanced and reliable searcher of the truth about American public education and this new documentary is true to that spirit.

The piece contrasts an enthusiastic and successful Nevada rollout of the new standards with the poisonous atmosphere New York created with its premature and poorly developed Common Core testing.   (more…)

Commentary on the Supreme Court’s voucher ruling runs negative

The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the plaintiffs did not have the standing to sue, so did not address the underlying constitutional issue of state funding to religious education.  Editorial opinion so far does not support the court:

From Gary Rayno in the Union Leader:

But the real impact was not lost on the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. Its attorney said it would have far greater effects than whether state money can flow to religious schools via tax credits.

“Today’s decision will have a significant impact on government accountability,” said Atty. Gilles Bissonnette.

“In striking down New Hampshire’s taxpayer standing statute, the (court) has made it far more difficult for the people of this state to constrain the actions of New Hampshire government bodies when those actions violate sacred constitutional rights.”

If personal injury or impairment of rights has to occur, then a law or decision has to be in place before a legal challenge can occur.

Does that mean a landowner cannot challenge a Site Evaluation Committee decision on the Northern Pass project until it is built and the value of his home plummets; or challenge a planning board decision to allow a mall in a field behind his house before it is built?

Likewise, no citizen could challenge a buffer zone around an abortion clinic until it is put in place, or state money going to religious schools, or changes to voter registration or gun permits.

The education business tax credit program has not been widely successful and Judge Lewis’ decision made it even less so.

The Supreme Court did not address the issue at the heart of the challenge and may never have to.

But it does set up what could be a fierce battle between the court and the Legislature and who has the greater reach. In the future, this decision may have as lasting an effect as Claremont.

From the Nashua Telegraph:

The court ruling wronged taxpayers in two regards. First, in an omission that smacks of an abdication of duty, it failed to render a decision on the merits of the scholarship program itself. That’s unfortunate, not least because it puts the program under a cloud.


The second area where the court failed the people of New Hampshire is in selecting the wrong standard to apply in deciding whether someone can sue the state. Thursday’s ruling allows courts to turn away taxpayers who may want to sue based on principle alone, rather than self-interest, and that’s a shame.

“This ruling closes the courthouse door on taxpayers who are having to subsidize religious education and on parents and children whose public schools are losing funding to this program,” said lead plaintiff attorney Alex J. Luchenitser.

The narrowing of the courthouse door is the most troubling aspect of the ruling, though it does appear to meet another kind of self-interest standard: a government entity handing down a ruling that makes it harder for taxpayers to sue their government.

Governor Hassan calls for repeal of the voucher tax credit law

Repeal of the voucher tax credit failed in the Senate last year, but the push will be on to repeal it in the next session.   (more…)

Statement on the New Hampshire Supreme Court decision on the voucher tax credit progam

We, the plaintiffs, want to thank our attorneys, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State for their committed work on this very important case to settle the question of whether New Hampshire’s recently passed voucher tax credit program conformed with the requirements of the New Hampshire Constitution.

While we challenged several provisions of the law, the central question was whether our constitutional prohibition against using state funds for religious instruction, even if that funding was provided indirectly in the form of tax credits to businesses who contributed to the program.

Bill Duncan said, “I am deeply disappointed by the decision, especially the fact that it was not decided on the merits.  This decision on standing disenfranchises taxpayers, parents and students throughout the state.  There may be other ways to challenge the voucher tax credit program in the future.  School districts harmed by the program could bring suit or a future legislature could repeal it. “

Supreme Court’s voucher tax credit decision: “vacated and remanded”

The New Hampshire Supreme Court today handed down its decision on the voucher tax credit case.  It said that the plaintiffs do not have the standing to bring this action.  Therefore, the Court vacated the decision and remanded the case to the lower court.


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