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, Nashua and Peterborough have been completed with hundreds in attendance and many questions answered.  Here are the upcoming events:

The next Education Funding 101 forum will be:

Belmont High School at 6:00 PM on Thursday, January 17, 2019.  This session will be co-hosted by Shaker Regional, Laconia, Gilford, and Merrimack Valley.  Belmont High is at 255 Seavey Road in Belmont.

Memorial High School at 6:00 PM on Thursday, January 31.  Memorial is at One Crusader Way in Manchester.  This will be a key forum and a great opportunity for anyone who has missed previous forums but would like to join the education funding discussion. 

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


There will be a major “Education Funding 101” forum in Manchester on January 31

School Funding has emerged as a central issue for the current legislative session.  Key proposals include restoring the stabilization fund, establishing a serious commission to formulate fundamental school funding reform proposals.  Other bills would take a first step toward a more rational funding system by immediately increasing the per child adequacy payment.  And there’s much more….about building aid, the education tax credit and many other issues.

The forum at Memorial High School at 6:00 PM on Thursday, January 31 is the culmination of months of forums statewide and will be an opportunity to understand our current education funding system and its impact on New Hampshire communities.

Hassan Early College Academy proposal resurfaces as Governor Sununu’s key education initiative, with a key change

Governor Sununu’s “New Hampshire Career Academy” has become his most visible State of the State proposal.  Coverage includes this on WMUR, this AP report on the NHPR website and in many other state papers, Sunday’s front page piece in the Union Leader and surely more to come. New Hampshire high school students would get community college credits and a leg up on a job while still in high school – and even get an associates degree by continuing with the program for a fifth year.  Here is the department of education’s summary.  Here is Governor Hassan’s 2015 STEM Task Force recommendation (p. 28). (more…)

UL: “School closures could force action on education funding”

The Union Leader this followed up on this recent piece on ConVal.  Here are the highlights:

It’s unusual to see 50 people turn out for a school board meeting, but when the issue is possible closure of your town’s elementary school, emotions run high.

That was obvious when the school board for the nine-town Contoocook Valley School District (more widely known as ConVal) met on Dec. 18 to approve a warrant article for the district meeting that would downsize the Peterborough-based collaborative from 11 schools to five.

Small towns that cherish their local elementary school as a focal point of community life would see their children bused to a regional school. Despite overwhelming opposition to that idea from parents, the board voted 7-5 to let the broader electorate decide in March.


The Monitor contrasts legislative efforts to address school funding with the governor’s proposal to erase the state’s obligation to children with a constitutional amendment.

The Monitor tees up the education funding issue in a well reported piece:

In 2010, Berlin faced an economic reckoning, rocked by the closure of a Gorham paper mill and the swift loss of 240 jobs.

Then the school funding cuts kicked in.

It’s a familiar story. A 2011 legislative change to New Hampshire’s school funding formula saw Berlin take in substantially less state funds for students, pushing the town to increase its property tax rate to bridge the gap.

The Legislature created a stabilization fund the same year to dole out “hold harmless” aid to cities like Berlin and help them recoup the difference. But since 2015, that fund has faced a series of annual reductions, and is set for complete depletion by 2040.

Now, after years of scaling back, officials in Berlin say the school district is near a breaking point. With property taxes already abnormally high and outside aid low, the district may have to shut down the city’s last remaining elementary school if nothing changes, Superintendent Corinne Cascadden said.

“There comes a time when you cannot offer education under the minimum standards of approval without certain programs and personnel,” she said. “We’re really close to that threshold.”


UL: “ConVal proposal would close six schools” – unaffordable school property taxes contribute to loss of young families

The New Hampshire school funding formula leaves rural and property poor districts poorer every day, as this piece in today’s Union Leader points up.

School Board Member Stephan Morrissey of Francestown observes that the region’s unaffordability for young families means that the school population will continue to decrease as the population continues to age: (more…)

Scott Marion reads the “Save Our Summers Study Commission” report for us. He’s not buyin’ it.

People may know of the governor’s effort to mandate that schools start only after Labor Day but be only dimly aware of the Save Our Summers Study Commission he has empaneled to make the case for him.  But they have issued a report and Scott Marion, an education researcher and Rye school board member, has actually read it.  He gives his analysis in a letter to the Portsmouth Herald.  Here’s his thesis:

Would adjusting the school calendar by a few days really bring to a windfall of money to New Hampshire? The story in last week’s Herald and the recent editorial describing the Governor’s “Save our Summers” commission report made it sound that way. Given this alleged great news, I read the full report, but came away with three major questions:

-*- The report and the editorial never mentioned what’s best for kids. Shouldn’t this be the primary purpose of any major change we make to our educational system?

-*- Are the logic and analyses of the report trustworthy?

-*- Isn’t the “Live Free and Die” State all about local control?


The NH state board of education proposes to grant graduation credits toward local high school diplomas

When Gov. Sununu says, “SB 435 was one of my major legislative priorities,”  he’s talking about a one sentence amendment to New Hampshire’s definition of an adequate education:

The state board of education shall adopt rules….relative to the approval of alternative programs for granting credit leading to graduation.

The harmless-sounding bill, sponsored by a dozen Republicans and three Democrats, sailed through both bodies on voice votes (based on near unanimous committee support).

Legislators and school administrators probably did not realize the trap that had been laid for them until the State Board of Education approved the initial draft of the of the rule required by that sentence.

What does the proposed rule actually say?  Here it is.  Under the proposed rule, the state board grants itself the authority to make use of the diploma issued by any local school board in New Hampshire. (more…)

The next Education Funding 101 forum: January 17 at Belmont High!

After a post-election hiatus in Education Funding 101 forums, four Lakes Region school districts have joined to co-host the next session.  It will be at 6:00 on Thursday, January 17 in the  Belmont High School auditorium, 255 Seavey Road in Belmont.

If you haven’t gone to a previous forum, this is a great chance to understand one of the most important issues before the new Legislature.

The Legislature’s education funding study committee has issued its final report and it is very interesting

The Committee to Study Education Funding and the Cost of an Opportunity for an Adequate Education established in 2017 has issued its 110 page final report.  Garry Reno has written an informative summary of the findings, available on InDepthNH and Manchester Ink Link.  Here are some highlights.

The eight member committee of six Republicans and two Democrats and chaired by House Finance Division II chair Karen Umberger, has produced an substantial and thoughtful report proposing an increase in education funding and improvements that target low income students and property poor communities. (more…)

Teacher of the Year Heidi Crumrine in the Concord Monitor: “What is a child worth?”

New Hampshire’s 2018 Teacher of the Year makes an eloquent plea in today’s Concord Monitor for giving all New Hampshire children a fair shot.  She brings her powerful insights as a classroom teacher and leader together with the powerful data from attorneys John Tobin and Andy Volinsky and analyst Doug Hall to make a powerful case that “We are systemically setting our most disadvantaged students up for failure before they even become adults.”  She urges us to realize that, yes, it’s about the money, but it’s really about the future of our children.

Read Heidi Crumrine’s call to action: (more…)