Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

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Come to a School Funding 101 Forum

“The current state funding system allows for children in school districts with more valuable real estate to benefit from higher per-pupil spending, while their parents pay property taxes at much lower rates.” – Attorney John Tobin

Students and taxpayers in property poor towns do not get their fair share of limited education funding in New Hampshire. The Claremont lawsuits that challenged the state’s school funding mechanism were intended to remedy that but, as we know, the inequities remain.  In fact, after an initial improvement, the tax burden on property poor towns has returned to about what it was before the lawsuit.

Executive Councilor Andy Volinsky and retired head of New Hampshire Legal Assistance John Tobin, , two of the Claremont attorneys, are traveling the State holding forums in which they educate citizens and local leadership about how the combination of, primarily, local property taxes, with a little additional state and federal funding school funding finances our schools.  They make the funding system as it exists today understandable and show how it is not fair to New Hampshire’s property poor towns and taxpayers.  Here’s a news report on the their highly successful June forum in Pittsfield.

Here is an overview of the state of school funding in New Hampshire and questions for candidates for office.  Click here for the full ANHPE coverage of the school funding issue.

Andy and John’s “School Funding 101” forums are a great opportunity to understand New Hampshire school funding and discuss with with fellow citizens and two of the most knowledgeable and clear education funding experts in the State.

Highly successful forums in Pittsfield, Derry, Newton, Berlin, Keene, Haverhill (for SAU 23 and northern Grafton County), Canaan (for Mascoma and southern Grafton County), Concord (also hosted by Allenstown and Pembroke), Rochester and Nashua have been completed with hundreds in attendance and many questions answered.  Here are the upcoming events:

Peterborough: 7:00 – 8:30, November 13.  This will be a different format from the School Funding 101 forums.  It’s a “Community Conversation” in Bass Hall at the Monadnock Center for History & Culture at 19 Grove St. in Peterborough.

We’ll post additional forums here as they are scheduled.  To hold a forum in your community, click here.

 

Valley News Editorial: N.H. Has the Cash, and Its Schools Need Help

Here are highlights from the Valley News editorial on the school funding challenge:

In the course of crowing the other day about the state of New Hampshire’s economy, Gov. Chris Sununu said, “One of the problems we have right now at the state is we have more money than we know what to do with. We literally have a $150 million surplus.”…

In light of all this rosiness, it’s reasonable to ask why New Hampshire continues to shortchange its public schools and the many property-poor communities that struggle to pay for them.

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Franklin Candidate forum to address school funding crisis at 6:00 on October 24th at the Franklin Opera House

The Laconia Daily Sun teed up the candidate forum on school funding by providing detailed reporting on how the reduction in stabilization aid impacts local communities:

Candidates seeking to represent Franklin and Northfield in the state legislature will address New Hampshire’s school funding crisis at a forum on Oct. 24. The forum will be held at the Franklin Opera House, 316 Central St., from 6-8 p.m. State Senate candidates and all House candidates for Merrimack County Districts 2, 3 and 26 have been invited to attend.

The funding crisis is the result of reductions voted in by the state legislature. “In 2015 the legislature voted to gradually eliminate education stabilization grants at a rate of four percent per year, with the goal of total elimination by 2037,” said Northfield Town Administrator Glenn Smith.

“As a result of legislative action Northfield loses almost $100,000 per year in state aid to education,” reports Selectboard Chair Wayne Crowley.

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Candidates in the ConVal area campaign on their commitment to public education!

saying….”Strong Public Schools are the backbone of our Democracy…..”

School Funding Ad 1

“Suncook Valley Supports Equity in Education” puts school funding fairness on the campaign agenda

Suncook Valley Supports Equity in Education asked their candidates four key school funding questions:
  • What will you do to ensure that NH updates its adequacy grants to realistic levels?
  • What will you do to make school property taxes fair and equal across the state?
  • As an immediate measure, would you support a moratorium on cuts to stabilization aid?
  • If you are in favor of a constitutional amendment on school funding, what would such an amendment say?

The Suncook Valley group is one of a growing number of community groups formed in response to the School Funding 101 forums that attorneys Andy Volinsky and John Tobin have been holding in communities throughout New Hampshire.  Here is the ambitious initiative taken by the ConVal communities, which has already been emulated in Newport and other communities, including Monadnock, Keene, and Claremont.

SVSEE got important and informative answers, published on their Facebook page and in the Suncook Valley Sun, which covers Barnstead, Chichester, Epsom, Gilmington, Northwood and Pittsfield. (more…)

Listen the John Tobin and Karen Hatcher on how to mobilize for school funding fairness

After the School Funding 101 forum September 20th in Keene, Mike Danielli, of the Monadnock Broadcasting Group, interviewed attorney John Tobin and Peterborough selectboard member Karen Hatcher about the school funding fairness issue and, especially, the work Karen is doing to give communities across the State a clear way to take action and be heard.

Here’s the interview.  It’s very much worth a listen to be inspired by Karen’s energy and passion about the issue: (more…)

NHBR: The other New Hampshire – The state of the state’s 19 largest ‘property-poor’ communities

Zip code is destiny for New Hampshire’s children.  We have a school funding system that leaves New Hampshire communities on their own to raise whatever they can on local property taxes.

Now, the New Hampshire Business Review has taken has provided a detailed analysis of the fiscal plight of our property poor communities as they try to come up with the money to pay for their schools.  Author Michael Kitch zeros in on the 19 most property-poor cities and towns with populations greater than 1,000 people – here is a map.  He captures their plight in his opening paragraph:

In Claremont, the property tax rate is $42.66 per $1,000 of valuation – the highest in the state. Households earn a median income of $47,555, less than 70 percent of the statewide median. More than one in 10 residents live in poverty, one in five receive food stamps and more than one in four are enrolled in Medicaid.

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Add your voice to ConVal’s! Let your candidates know how important school funding fairness is to students, parents, property tax payers and local elected officials.

Inspired by the School Funding 101 forums, the communities making up the Conval School District (Antrim, Bennington, Dublin, Francestown, Greenfield, Hancock, Peterborough, Sharon and Temple) have organized in a way that may be an inspiration to many other New Hampshire communities.

Spearheaded by Peterborough selectboard member Karen Hatcher, the leadership of the 9 communities have composed an impressively well researched and written letter to their elected officials and candidates.  Signed by all of the ConVal school board members and authorized representatives of the nine Town Select Boards, the letter has been sent to all of their current elected officials and the candidates running for office this November in our local districts and at the state level.

The letter persuasively makes the case that we must raise the issue of funding our public schools to a top priority this election season and in the subsequent legislative session.  The ConVal letter is posted here, below, for easy copy and paste.  If you would rather work from a Word template, you can download this one that Karen has created.  Finally, Karen has provided a one page call for a statewide movement for education funding fairness and an oped that will run soon in the Monadnock Ledger and could serve as a starting point for others concerned about school funding fairness. (more…)

Valley News on the Mascoma forum: Attorneys say, “N.H. Has Failed Its Students”

The Valley News covered the Mascoma School Funding 101 forum with its usual insight. Here are the highlights:

Two attorneys who helped lead historic efforts to improve how the Granite State funds its schools said on Thursday that New Hampshire has failed to deliver on hard-earned promises made more than two decades ago, when the Claremont school funding cases were decided.

Speaking before an auditorium of about 30 parents, educators and politicians at Mascoma Valley Regional High School, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky argued against the status quo of using local property taxes to pay for the majority of education costs. He also called on lawmakers to help property-poor towns that are struggling because of reduced state education grants.

“We don’t really have a system of school funding,” said Volinsky, a Democrat from Concord whose district includes Unity and Newbury. Instead, he said, most towns are left on their own to fund students’ needs.

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WMUR review: Is it time for a ‘Claremont III’ education funding lawsuit?

John DiStaso has produced a very helpful review of the background and context for the school funding issue as it comes to the fore in the New Hampshire political debate.  Here are some highlights, but the full piece is not behind a paywall and is well worth reading:

They’re back. They say the state has dodged its constitutional responsibility to fund an adequate level of education for too long. Now, it is time to bring the issue to the forefront again, as it was 25 years ago, and make it a voting issue, they say.

And, they say, it may even be time to sue the state again.

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More than 20 years ago, Andru Volinsky and John Tobin were key members of a legal team that brought the Claremont school funding lawsuit against the state.

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Concord Monitor: Major School Funding 101 forum in Concord on Tuesday, Oct 2

The Monitor wrote this morning about the School Funding 101 forum to be held on Oct 2 at 6:00PM at Concord High:

The Concord, Allenstown and Pembroke school districts are hosting an executive councilor and a lawyer to talk about school funding in the state.

The N.H. School Funding 101 Forum will take place next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Concord High School’s Christa McAuliffe Auditorium. It will feature District 2 Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky and lawyer John Tobin, both of whom were part of the legal team involved in the original Claremont school funding lawsuit. The pair have held several similar forums across the state.

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