Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

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Press release: Lawsuit Surprises School Funding Coalition

MARCH 18, 2019


CONTACT: John Tobin 603-568-0735 or Doug Hall 603-229-2598


Long time school funding advocates John Tobin and Doug Hall released a statement in reaction to the lawsuit filed against the state of New Hampshire this week by the ConVal school district. The two are leaders of the NH School Funding Fairness Project, which has been working on a legislative solution to the state’s education funding issue.

“This week we learned that a lawsuit has been filed against the State of NH by ConVal School District, asserting that the State has failed to live up to its responsibilities under the NH Constitution and the Claremont decisions.

We had no involvement in, or advance warning of, ConVal School District’s filing of this lawsuit. It took us by complete surprise as it did almost everyone.

For nearly one year we have been working in good faith with large groups of legislators, school districts,

and community leaders from across the state to produce a legislative approach this year that will immediately address the worst inequities in the current system, and in the long term result in fair and full funding of our public schools. There are multiple bills in both House and Senate that we support and which begin to achieve that. We are concerned that the lawsuit may complicate remedies that could bring some relief to the most distressed school districts as early as July of this year.

Nevertheless, we agree with their objective to require the state to comply with its constitutional responsibility to provide students across NH with an opportunity for an adequate education supported by taxes that are reasonable and proportional. We also want to see the State make an honest calculation of what is the true cost of an adequate education. We support legislation to create a Commission to do just that. We had put aside the idea of a lawsuit at this time but we have assumed that a lawsuit might be necessary in the near future if the legislative process does not satisfy the funding and tax requirements that are part of the New Hampshire Constitution.”

Do supporters consider the Learn Everywhere program viable only if it eliminates local control?

In discussing Learn Everywhere at their March 14 meeting, SBOE members appeared to consider the program viable only if Learn Everywhere groups were granted a free pass to issue graduation credits at any New Hampshire high school.  There seemed to be a feeling that there would be no point to the program if SB 140 passed.

SB 140 merely reaffirms current practice.  It says, “Each local school board shall determine whether to grant academic credit for alternative, extended learning, and work-based programs.”

But there’s another way to see the Learn Everywhere program.  Seen as a partnership between local school boards and the State Board of Education, Learn Everywhere could serve as SBOE’s effort to expand the highly successful Extended Learning Opportunities program already in place in most New Hampshire high schools.  (more…)

A comprehensive report from Reaching Higher NH on the March 14 SBOE discussion of the proposed Learn Everywhere program

Here is a full and detailed post on the Learn Everywhere discussion held by the board on March 14.  This is the kind of coverage we need to make the State Board of Education fully understandable to parents and voters.  The post itself is hard to improve upon so we will not provide highlights here.  Just read it!

One surprising element is the mention of a March 18 “invitation only” stakeholders meeting to discuss needed changes to the Learn Everywhere rules.  This kind of meeting is frequently used to gather input on a proposed rule and has always been public in the past.  The board had not been notified of the meeting and was apparently surprised to hear about it.

It’s not clear that there is any statutory basis for holding a nonpublic meeting to take public feedback on proposed rules.  Hopefully, the board’s legal counsel will straighten this out.

ConVal sues to force the State of New Hampshire to fund a constitutionally adequate education

Here are all the court documents so far, and highlights from the NHPR report:

In a move that surprised many education funding advocates, the ConVal School District in southwestern New Hampshire filed a lawsuit today against the state, claiming lawmakers have failed to fund an adequate education.

The complaint names the state of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Department of Education, Governor Sununu and DOE Commissioner Frank Edelblut as defendants.


Conway Daily Sun: “NH Senate supports local control of academic credits.” Indeed – by a vote of 24-0

As the Conway Daily Sun coverage makes clear, the Senate yesterday responded directly to the overreach represented by the governor’s Learn Everywhere proposal, voting unanimously for Senator Jay Kahn’s SB 140.  The House will surely support local control as well.

The State Board of Education, which has had massive pushback on its proposed plan, could put the issue to rest by inserting the Senate’s language into Learn Everywhere when the board next takes up the Ed 1400 rules, possibly at its March 14 meeting.

And Conway School Board member Mark Hounsell has become a forceful new statewide voice for New Hampshire public education.  His quotes from the Sun are highlighted below: (more…)

Conway School Board member Mark Hounsell: Learn Everywhere is “the biggest threat to public education”

The last paragraph of the Conway Daily Sun article sums it up:

According to Hounsell, “The essential difference between Learn Everywhere and ELO’s is that Learn Everywhere is a program of private groups that precludes participation or decision-making by local school boards.”

Here are some highlights: (more…)

In the end, Commissioner Edelblut cannot win a battle over who gets to grant high school graduation credits

Empowering private “Learn Everywhere” groups to grant academic credit leading to high school graduation is the over-the-top priority for the governor and the commissioner.  It would be an education revolution bigger than vouchers.

But Learn Everywhere as currently proposed would be just the first shot in what would become a long running battle.  Return fire will come from the school districts, where the ultimate control of high school diplomas actually lies.  They have lots of options.  They could increase the requirements for diplomas that include Learn Everywhere credits.  Or create special lower value diplomas to carry Learn Everywhere credits that don’t meet their standards.  Or..or…or… (more…)

Much embarrassment all around on Learn Everywhere lobbying misstep

We’ve never seen anything like the current battle over Commissioner Edelblut’s “Learn Everywhere” program.  Everywhere you turn, in the face of wide-spread rejection of this proposal, the commissioner is there with his sales pitch – one-on-one with state board members, in meetings to organize visible support and in direct calls to superintendents seeking their support.

But the dustup in Manchester is a telling setback for the effort. (more…)

Brad Cook in the NH Business Review: It’s time to address school funding!

Brad Cook Sheehan Phinney attorney and potential Republican gubernatorial candidate in years past, has watched the statehouse closely for what seems like forever.  He has taken to the pages of the New Hampshire Business Review to agree with Andy Volinsky and John Tobin about the need for school funding reform.  Here is what he says: (more…)

SBOE’s Learn Everywhere testimony was loud and clear: “We don’t need a new program. Support the great Extended Learning Opportunities we already have!”

Here is the Reaching Higher NH video of the State Board of Education public hearing on the Department of Education’s proposed Ed 1400 rules, which the department calls “Learn Everywhere.”  Most of yesterday’s presenters also submitted written testimony which, together with the additional written comments the board will have received by the February 20 deadline, will be in the public record and will be posted here when made available.

And here is Reaching Higher’s thorough and reliable writeup on the hearing.  We will not try to improve on that here, but will make a couple of observations. (more…)