CONCORD — An effort to revive a bill that would change the way cooperative school districts through elected state board members has failed.
The House Education Committee this week chose not to add language from the previously filed document House Bill 1646 in an unrelated education bill. HB 1646 provided that members of a cooperative school board be elected by the city they represent, not by all of the cities that make up the cooperative.
“We decided not to do the amendment because we didn’t think we had the votes to pass it,” said Glen Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, who is vice chairman of the House Education Committee.
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HB 1646 was filed by State Rep. Melissa Litchfield, R-Brentwood, who said “it’s not fair for big cities to decide who represents small towns” on a cooperative school board. Litchfield was defeated in her bid for re-election to represent her town on the Exeter Area Co-operative School Board in March. While she won her hometown hands down, she lost to Scott Dennehy when the votes of the other five towns were counted.
While his bill was supported by the House Education Committee by a 19-0 vote, it was introduced by the full House by a 297-49 vote after concerns raised. expressed by legislators regarding implementation and local control.
An effort to revive the bill and tie its language to SB 353 (linked to the Professional Education Standards Board) was led by Litchfield with State Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill and Rep. Patrick Abrami, R-Stratham.
Abrami said he decided to help after the bill was introduced due to feedback received from voters.
“Other people say to me, ‘Why do the people of Stratham have to vote for all the other representatives of the five towns and not just the Stratham candidates? “, Abrami said. “We have no idea who these people are (from other cities).
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Abrami said the group tried to address concerns raised in the original bill.
They added language stating that school district council members must be elected from within their own district, or “other methods of selection approved by the State Board of Education.”
However, the new language still faced opposition.
Barrett Christina, executive director of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, interviewed by the State Board of Education. Christina said that would defeat the purpose of a locally controlled, cooperative school district board.
“We are limiting options for voters to decide how they want to elect their local representatives to our local school boards,” Christina said.
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Litchfield said the added language was designed to give people an option for local control.
“We’re not removing local control,” Litchfield said. “If (the election) is working well for a district, then they are welcome to report it to the Department of Education, but it’s important that they educate the public (about election alternatives).”
Others have also spoken out against the bill.
Former State Representative Patricia Lovejoy said she was a member of the Exeter Area School District Board of Trustees for nine years. She said being elected by all six cities made her “a better member of the board.”
“I’ve been to every city, I’ve been to every candidate party, I’ve been to local board meetings… just to get to know the city better,” Lovejoy said. “I don’t remember ever voting thinking, ‘How would this be better for (my city)?’ It was best for all students and citizens of the six channels.
Cordelli said HB 1646 is dead for the year, but has the potential to be introduced as a new bill next year.
“We have another bill related to a cooperative school district that we will be considering over the summer,” Cordelli said. “So we could look at membership as part of that.”
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Litchfield said she will continue to work on the bill this summer. She said the purpose of the bill was “to ensure fairness for all”.
“I want to continue,” Litchfield said. “Rick Ladd and I (along with Patrick Abrami) will continue to work on this bill all summer. We will reintroduce it and improve it.”