Forum, May 8: Attacks on public schools jeopardize equity

Published: 5/8/2022 6:01:51 AM
Modified: 5/8/2022 6:00:10 AM
Attacks on public schools jeopardize equity

Gov. Sununu and his unqualified Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education Frank Edelblut have signed onto a challenge with 17 states against President Biden’s new rules for necessary regulation on charter schools (“Sununu, Edelblut protest reforms,” April 26).

In their alternate reality, they claim that charter and religious schools are the victims of undue and disproportionate oversight.

They disingenuously add that oversight will harm minorities and the poor. Meanwhile, the voucher program is funding for-profit and religious establishments, which do not have curriculum and admission requirements or fiscal accountability.

The aforementioned processes are inherent in the public school system through school boards and open meetings.

Oversight is only harmful when the point is to evade scrutiny or avoid teaching certain subjects.

Charter schools and voucher program schemes have evolved over time.

They began over race, continue to be about race and more recently have destroyed any possibility of discussion about the history of race or gender. Euphemisms like the words “choice” and “freedom” are part of the ploy.

We are in the throes of a concerted effort to discredit teachers, to defund the system and to ultimately make our public schools unsustainable. This is what Sununu and Edelblut support.

Dissolving public school is what will harm minorities and the poor because public school acts as an equalizer.

It is possible to see the ideological plan clearly when analyzed step-by-step.

1) Fire up the religious and libertarian base.

2) Tax the hell out of homeowners.

3) Cite ridiculous untruths about what schools are teaching.

4) Encourage homeowners vote to cut school budgets.

5) Claim that the schools don’t function and education is inadequate — which it isn’t yet, but will be when they are done with their school project.

Sharon Racusin

Hanover

Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month with the arts

Somewhere along the line, our brains developed a keen sense of longing for art. From personal adornment and the rituals of song, dance and storytelling in nomadic times to the present day, we enjoy art in many forms.

Out of these aesthetic experiences comes the field of study known as neuroaesthetics. Neuroaesthetic research explores how the brain rewards us when we enjoy art by secreting feel-good brain chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals trigger sensations of pleasure, reducing stress and anxiety.

Research also reveals that aesthetic experiences impact our bodies, such as changes in breathing, heart rate and skin responses.

According to the AVA Gallery and Art Center’s exhibition manager, Samantha Eckert, “For me, maintaining an artwork practice is integral to keeping my anxiety at bay. I believe an active right brain is essential to a healthy state, body and mind.”

Neuroaesthetic researchers would agree. Rhyme and rhythm in poetry have similarities to the visual arts. Video recordings of poetry readings showed participants getting chills and goose bumps while feeling intense emotions as they listened.

These physical responses happen at the same time as the right hemisphere of the brain processes metaphor to integrate meanings of two unrelated concepts. Art, through poetry, stretches the body and mind to help it process feelings and conceptual notions simultaneously.

It seems appropriate, then, that poetry populates the walls of the AVA Gallery’s latest exhibition, The Thing With Feathers, alongside visual art created by many local artists and poets.

This exhibition is a collaborative effort between AVA and West Central Behavioral Health to recognize and celebrate May as National Mental Health Awareness Month.

All month long, we can elevate our moods by enjoying art in its many forms — the visual, the written, the performative, the spoken, the sung, and even through the sheer enjoyment of the natural beauty that surrounds us here in the Upper Valley. Let’s get goose bumps together, laugh a little, de-stress and enjoy time with art throughout the month. It’ll make us all feel good.

Brooke Adler

Lebanon

Pete Bleyler

Lebanon

Matthew Houde

Cornish

The writers are members of the board of directors of West Central Behavioral Health.

 A clearer picture on Charlestown redistricting

I felt the need to respond to a letter by Kathleen Eames, of Charlestown, regarding redistricting because it contained so many errors (“Charlestown needs own representative,” April 27). It was generally agreed that Sullivan County was the most challenging county to apportion. We are required to be within 10% total deviation of “perfect population” for the state plan. This means that when you divide the total state population by 400 (the number of representatives), you need to be within roughly 5% over or under in each county. We also cannot cross county lines because the representatives from a county also make up the County Delegation.

Sullivan County had two large changes in this census that made keeping the old districts impossible. Claremont lost significant population in one ward, and Grantham gained significant population. This put us in violation of the federal one-man one-vote standard.

Eames stated that the data used was not made publicly available. Census data is publicly available. Census data and information regarding our redistricting process is and has been available at the House Special Committee on Redistricting website, or www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committee_websites/Redistricting_2021/default.aspx.

Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution does not require “each town with the minimum population to have its own representative.” It states that when a town is within a reasonable deviation of perfect population, it should have its own representative as long as other towns are not disadvantaged. The New Hampshire Supreme Court addressed this issue in 2012, making it clear that properly proportioned districts took priority over the 2006 amendment. It also stated that being under 10% deviation was critical. You can read it yourself at https://www.courts.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt471/files/documents/2021-08/2012061redistricting.pdf.

The plan I submitted would have kept Claremont as it is today, and Charlestown would have still had its own representative. Unfortunately, that would make the state plan over a 10% deviation. It was decided to not proceed with a plan likely to be challenged in state and/or federal court and instead accept the House Democrats’ plan. It is a bit disingenuous for a political party official to try to cry partisan foul now. Sullivan County’s plan was truly bipartisan.

Rep. Steven D. Smith

Charlestown

The writer is deputy speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and vice chair of the House Special Committee on Redistricting.




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