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.
The report itself is 9 pages long, with a 2 page minority report from Rep. Mel Myler recommending further analysis, and 16 pages of appendices with calculations. The rest is very detailed minutes of the 15 meetings the committee has held since September of last year.
The report does not propose new revenue sources. However, the committee’s approach to the education funding issue closely reflects the analysis Attorneys Volinsky and Tobin present in the School Funding 101 forums they have held throughout the State. Members focused especially on the problems faced by small rural districts, using Pittsfield as a case study.
The committee saw a fundamental need to eliminate stabilization grants, saying,
“The stabilization grants are being paid based on school enrollment in 2011 and do not reflect the current student population of the state. Municipalities and school districts have come to believe they are entitled to receive money for non-existing students. When stabilization grants were introduced in 2011, it was the legislature’s intent that the money would help school districts transition to a new funding formula beginning in 2012. However, it was not until 2016 that the stabilization grant began to be reduced by 4% per year with a complete phase out scheduled to occur over a 25-year period. Education dollars should go to support current students.”
No new formula has emerged other than eliminating the stabilization fund over time so the committee’s task was to come up with something better. Their proposal is to increase the State’s total commitment to education funding by increasing base adequacy, increasing “differentiated aid” for Free and Reduced Lunch students, and targeting additional aid to property poor communities. Garry Reno’s analysis provides the detail.