School Districts are Transforming Public Education in Violation of NH State Law - Granite Grok

School Districts are Transforming Public Education in Violation of NH State Law

Sununu crowned bobblehead

Governor Sununu has no authority to create positive law, allowing public school districts to transform public education in violation of NH state law. Nor can the governor downshift any unfunded expenses upon the districts to create these alternative learning programs in addition to their normal statutory obligations.

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However, if these alternative programs are implemented, i.e., distant learning or hybrid learning, parents have every right to appeal to the NH Board of Education under the Manifest Educational Hardship law for relief.

Public schools are required under NH state law to provide full-time instruction to children in an approved public school building for at least 180 days per year.

RSA 193:1 Duty of Parent; Compulsory Attendance by Pupil. –
I. A parent of any child at least 6 years of age and under 18 years of age shall cause such child to attend the public school to which the child is assigned in the child’s resident district. Such child shall attend full time when such school is in session …

RSA 189:24 Standard School. – A standard school is one approved by the state board of education, and maintained for at least 180 days in each year, or the equivalent number of hours as required in the rules of the department of education, in a suitable and sanitary building, equipped with approved furniture, books, maps and other necessary appliances, taught by teachers, directed and supervised by a principal and a superintendent, each of whom shall hold valid educational credentials issued by the state board of education, with suitable provision for the care of the health and physical welfare of all pupils. A standard school shall provide instruction in all subjects prescribed by statute or by the state board of education for the grade level of pupils in attendance.

Public schools do not have any authority under NH state law to provide students with online distance learning at home or hybrid learning in the place of typical full-time instruction by a teacher in an approved public school building.  The only home learning program allowed under NH state law is home education, which is under the control of the parent, not the public school.
Governor Chris Sununu took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and state laws of New Hampshire. Allowing the Department of Education to provide inappropriate guidance to public schools, which violates state law, is an epic failure. His decision will adversely impact thousands of public school students, whose parents need to get back to work, or may be unqualified to assist with their special needs or English Language Learner child. Low-income families will be the most adversely affected group as they can’t provide tutors to make up for a public school’s failures.
Governor Sununu does not have the authority to allow districts to implement any program, including hybrid programs, in violation of state law. The NH Constitution does not allow the governor to trample and re-write state law. That is the Legislature’s duty.

Gov. Sununu has essentially declared Martial Law, suspended the NH Constitution, and created positive law in violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branch.

Every student, who lives in a district that refuses to provide an adequate full-time learning environment, should be allowed to tuition-out to another public or private school, which will fulfill this basic educational responsibility, at the expense of the student’s district. This is standard practice for districts like Croydon, which only offers in-district instruction for grades K-4. The Croydon school board tuitions-out students to nearby public or private schools whenever they are unable to provide adequate full-time instruction for their students.

Finally, if the parent does not receive satisfaction through his district, he may appeal to the NH Board of Education under the Manifest Educational Hardship statute for relief.

RSA 193:3 Change of School or Assignment. –
I. Any person having custody of a child may apply to the school board for relief if the person thinks the attendance of the child at the school to which such child has been assigned will result in a manifest educational hardship to the child. If the person having custody of the child is aggrieved by the decision of the school board, the person may appeal to the state board of education, and the state board of education, after investigating the case and giving notice to the school board, may order such child to attend another school in the same district, if such a school is available, or to attend school in another district. In case the child is assigned to attend school in another district, the district in which such child resides shall pay tuition computed as provided in RSA 193:4 to the district in which such child attends. The state board of education may also permit such child to withdraw from school attendance for such time as it may deem necessary or proper or may make such other orders with respect to the attendance of such child at school as in its judgment the circumstances require. Children with disabilities as defined in RSA 186-C:2 shall be accorded a due process review pursuant to rules adopted under RSA 186-C:16.
II. The state board of education shall adopt rules pursuant to RSA 541-A, relative to manifest educational hardship and related issues which affect a child’s attendance at school. Each school district shall establish a policy, consistent with the state board’s rules, which shall allow a school board, with the recommendation of the superintendent, to take appropriate action including, but not limited to, assignment to a public school in another district when manifest educational hardship is shown.

Frankly, the Commissioner of Education ought to reconsider his support for distance learning and hybrid problems, which will illegally transform public education in opposition to existing state law. The Commissioner ought to publicly state that he will encourage the NH Board of Education to approve every appeal made by parents to obtain a free and appropriate full-time in-school learning opportunity.