Letter to the Editor: Senate committee rejects critical bill

To the Editor:

Earlier this February, the Senate Education Committee, in a 3-2 vote, voted to strike down Senate Bill 431, a critical bill which allows schools and organizations to collect the data necessary to provide with federal prevention grants, including those utilized for the system of children’s behavioral health care.

Currently, the Rochester School District is a recipient of $554,000 annually through the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Grant (US DHHS, SAMHSA), $100,000 annually through the Student Assistance Program Grant (NH DHHS, BDAS) $553,000 total through the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. All of these grants require administration of student surveys with target responses and progress monitoring benchmarks.

Without the exemption in this bill, it would become extremely difficult to meet the outcome data requirements, causing many programs to lose their funding for programs or grants, many of which provide important and necessary services to the students of New Hampshire. We have a strong concern that we would struggle to meet our deliverables for funding, leading to loss of services for our most at-risk and struggling students and families.

Requiring parents to opt-in directly jeopardizes the number of responses we receive, and the potential funding associated with these grants. Historically, we have had minimal, if any, experience with families wishing to opt-out of our required surveys, and by changing the requirements, it will cause mass confusion and misunderstanding within our family population.

If the full Senate were to adopt the committee’s recommendation, New Hampshire schools, behavioral health systems, and many others, will be at risk of losing more than $30 million in federal funding. I ask that legislators approve the proposed amendment to allow for all surveys associated with federal grants to be given with the opt-out option.

Melissa S. Cardin, Safe Schools/Healthy Students Project Director, Rochester School Department

Click here for the letter in Foster's Daily Democrat.