Ms. Fellows, a retired NHDOE staffer, attended the Newport School Funding 101 forum and explains the school funding issue in her letter to the Laconia Daily Sun:
Paying for public schools has become a crisis situation for many school districts. It is an issue the next Governor and Legislature must address in 2019.
Earlier this month, a large crowd gathered in Newport to listen to lawyers who successfully sued the state over education funding in the 1990s. They explained how the State is ignoring its obligation to pay for an “adequate” education and how this impacts property poor towns like Newport. That town has cut staff and asked teachers to cover classes they are not certified to teach.
The state average cost per student is $18,000 a year. State and federal aid covers 21% and 7% respectively. The remaining 72%, $13,000 per student, must be covered by local property taxpayers.
The average town in NH has a property base of one million dollars per student. A school tax rate of $13.00 per $1,000 of property value would raise $13,000 per student. For a home valued at $200,000 the school tax bill would be $2,600. You might be thinking that doesn’t seem too bad.
Unfortunately, across the state there is great disparity in the property base per student. Newport’s base is less than half the average, so to raise $13,000 per student the tax bill on a $200,000 home would be $5,200. In Berlin it would be $9,000. In Waterville Valley, where the base is $10 million per student, the tax bill would be $264.
The way New Hampshire funds schools is unconstitutional, unfair and unsustainable. What will happen when more towns can’t afford to hire qualified teachers? Or when a town simply can’t raise enough money to keep its school open? This is a crisis the Legislature will face in 2019.
I am running for House of Representatives because, after 30 years at the State Department of Education, I know all about school funding and the legislative process. You can read my plan to increase aid to school districts and provide property tax relief at www.Fellows4NH.com.
If you live in Plymouth, Holderness or Hebron I ask for your vote in the Democratic Primary on September 11th.