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House set to vote down proposed rural teacher recruitment fund

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House set to vote down proposed rural teacher recruitment fund

May 21, 2024 | 6:22 pm ET
By Ethan DeWitt
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House set to vote down proposed rural teacher recruitment fund
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Senate Bill 217 would establish the “Rural and Underserved Area Educator Incentive Program." (Getty Images)

The New Hampshire House is poised to vote down a bill that would create a grant program to boost teacher recruitment in rural schools, after Republicans on the House Finance Committee said it could create future financial burdens for the state. 

Senate Bill 217, which passed the Senate by voice vote, would establish the “Rural and Underserved Area Educator Incentive Program.” That program would eventually allow teachers who sign up to work in certain schools up to $12,000 in grants over four years. But the bill that passed the Senate does not actually fund those grants; it sets aside $1 of state funds as a placeholder through June 2025. 

Democrats and other advocates for the bill say it could be a major boost to school districts that have struggled to recruit staff since COVID-19, particularly those in far-flung communities. And they argue the placeholder money would allow a commission to begin designing the program in anticipation of future funding. 

“The program was modeled after the successful Idaho incentive program targeting rural teacher shortages and is supported by NH’s critical stakeholders,” wrote Rep. Mary Hakken-Phillips, a Hanover Democrat, in remarks in the House calendar. 

The grants would be available to teachers who take jobs in school districts with fewer than 20 students enrolled per square mile, as well as schools in areas that the Department of Health and Human Services has deemed rural. The program would also allow the state Department of Education to identify schools that are affected by educator shortages, and to give priority to those that are rural and economically disadvantaged.

The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously in April and received a voice vote in the House.  

But Republicans on the House Finance Committee argued that even if the bill does not commit state funds for the next year, passing the bill could tie the hands of future lawmakers. The committee voted, 13-12, to recommend that the bill be killed. 

“This bill has merit and should be considered during the next budget cycle,” wrote Rep. Tracy  Emerick, a Hampton Republican, in a report in the House calendar. “Adopting this bill at this time would obligate future legislatures. In light of recent revelations of accelerating liabilities due to youth detention center lawsuits, obligating a future legislature is not recommended.” 

The House will take up the measure at its session on Thursday.