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Monitor: 11 North Country superintendents join debate, although not the lawsuit, over state funding

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In the Concord Monitor today, yet more on the widespread pain inflicted by the lack of state support for public education:

Superintendents from 11 school districts in the North County have joined recent criticism about state funding in an unusual joint announcement, reflecting concern that is echoed by local school officials. [Note: Here is the full letter]

“Our current path will soon lead us to economic peril,” concludes a two-page letter released Thursday, signed by superintendents representing 40 towns and school districts north of the White Mountains.

However, the letter stops short of saying that the group will join a new lawsuit in which three school districts are suing the state over the level of financial support.

Many school districts are eyeing that lawsuit.

“It is on the radar of the Merrimack Valley School District,” Merrimack Valley School Board member Lorrie Carey said last week. “It has been a matter of discussion for some time.”

“It’s something we’re considering, just like everybody else,” said Franklin Superintendent Dan LeGallo. He said he will discuss the issue April 15 with the school board and meet with their attorney. “The revenue hits that we take every year are just killing us. The stabilization is going down, and adequacy is going down as our enrollment is dropping.”

LeGallo said, however, that the possibility of legislative action might make Franklin think twice about the cost of joining a lawsuit.

“There’s some sentiment out there that this maybe is not the right time to be thinking about this,” he said.

The letter from North Country superintendents, released Thursday, makes several arguments that have been part of the school-funding debate for three decades, notably a complaint that “state lawmakers continue to shift the cost of education to local communities.”

“The state provides $3,636 per pupil plus dollars based on free/reduced student populations, special education numbers and other factors. The rate is many years old and doesn’t reflect today’s costs. It’s too low,” the letter argues, saying average per-pupil tuition in the state is above $15,000.

This argument is similar to that made in a lawsuit filed March 13 in Cheshire County Superior Court by the ConVal Regional School District, based in Peterborough. Two nearby school districts – Monadnock Regional and Winchester – have joined the suit.

ConVal argues that state aid does not reflect costs for such things as transportation, facilities maintenance and teacher benefits……

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