November 4, 2022

Jacob Goodwin: New Hampshire’s Locally Controlled Schools Are Under Threat

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Jacob Goodwin is a sixth grade history teacher and the 2021 New Hampshire History Teacher of the Year. New Hampshire has seen a ramping up of attempts to privatize public education by its own legislature. Goodwin outlines the issue. 

New Hampshire has a tradition of local control for many functions, including education.

Historically, the state has had a limited role in determining how schools are run. Consequently, New Hampshire has provided a minimal amount of school funding. While the concept of local control can be both empowering and a burden of responsibility, students and teachers cannot carry out their important work without adequate funding.

Recently, school privatizers seized curricula as a new front in their pressure campaign against teachers, determined to further squeeze public schools financially. Lacking widespread public support, New Hampshire’s legislature restricted classroom conversations about race and gender in 2021—enacting a law which drew ire for its disproportionate penalties and vague requirements. The confusing act prompted the New Hampshire Department of Justice to issue a statement of guidance, confirming the harsh penalties and doing little to protect teachers from potentially career-ending false accusations. The law has placed additional costs on districts in terms of teacher retention and recruitment, compounding staffing shortages in the profession.

This follows the current playbook for privatizers–sow distrust of the public education system, and drive trained professionals out of the classroom. 

Nationwide, attacking teachers and neighborhood schools has become part of a broader strategy to divert taxpayer money away from public accountability. Profiteering and mismanagement scandals in states like Florida and Pennsylvania warn of the danger of moving decision-making from parent volunteers in the auditorium to executives in corporate board rooms.

This playbook involves making education worse for the vast majority of students who stay in their public schools.

Distracting the public from the actual needs of over 90 percent of students who attend public schools is part of the coordinated strategy against local control in New Hampshire. The refusal to address funding adequacy, meaningful mental health support for students, and building maintenance are among the major issues that are seldom addressed.

The work of educators is too important for such flippancy. Each and every day, educators prove the value of their work. The chance to make a difference is what kept educators going as they faced the challenges of the pandemic, of learning new online tools and figuring out how to capture students’ imagination while wearing protective masks.

Read the full piece here. New Hampshire’s problem is a nationwide one, and you may well recognize some of what’s going on in your own state.

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