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.
It says the “adequacy aid” that the state sends to districts needs to triple to meet basic requirements laid out in state law.
The complaint references a series of New Hampshire Supreme Court decisions from the 1990s called the Claremont cases. These spanned seven years and had 18 lawyers working on behalf of property-poor school districts.
In the end, the court said New Hampshire needed to fund an adequate education with fair and equitable taxation…..
The lawsuit says the current price tag for a base “adequate education” — $3,636.06 — does not reflect accurate costs for facilities, transportation, and teacher salaries and benefits….
By ConVal’s calculation, the state should pay $10,343.60 per student, which would total over $22 million per year.
Micheal Tierney, ConVal’s attorney, says he did not confer with attorneys or districts that were involved in the Claremont lawsuits, but the court’s decision on this lawsuit could have sweeping effects.
“Many of the arguments that Conval is making would be applicable to many school districts across the state.”….
Carl Ladd, the executive director of the N.H. School Administrators Association, says he worries about the lawsuit’s timing.
“I can really sympathize with school board and community, but the courts aren’t going to be a quick fix,” he says. “My fear is that if this is back in court, the legislature will just wait and not do anything.”….
I fear that Carl Ladd is correct in his assessment of the timing of this suit… but… it begs the question of whether there will EVER be a “good time” for a lawsuit and whether NH will ever change it’s system for funding public schools. When I first came to NH as a Superintendent in 1983 there were rumblings of lawsuits by property poor districts and since then there have been “victories” in court that have not translated into fair and equitable funding in reality. The Conval suit is unlikely to result in any quick fix unless the filing by a district with relatively strong tax base paves the way for a full scale debate over school funding in the 2020 gubernatorial election. As Michael Tierney points out, the “arguments that Conval is making would be applicable to many school districts across the state” and if the voters in those “many districts” get behind a candidate who wants more State money to go to schools maybe another court victory won’t be needed. Indeed, as we have witnessed for decades, a court victory without legislative support will go nowhere.
I agree. Without a demand from the public that the legislature solve the problem, it won’t be solved. The school funding forums should be a first step toward wider direct action to solve the problem. It’s disgraceful that New Hampshire has allowed these inequities to persist for generations. How did Grover Norquist gain more control over New Hampshire than the 77% of NH communities that lose out?