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NHPR: Democrats’ Proposed Tax to Boost School Aid Draws Applause and Apprehension

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With strong citizen support, school funding has been a bipartisan priority so far but, as NHPR reports, partisanship may well be reemerging:

On Thursday, the Democratic-led House will vote on its version of the state budget. The budget, which is expected to pass, includes a $160 million increase in state aid to schools – the largest since the state ramped up funding twenty years ago in response to the Claremont lawsuits.

But with Governor Sununu’s veto pen at the ready, the budget faces an uphill battle in the next few months.

The education funding package comes after months of testimony from school board members, administration, and families who say the state’s reliance on local property taxes to fund schools has pushed some districts to a breaking point.

“You have Berlin which has to close its elementary school and Pittsfield which has had to cut teachers and programs,” says House Education Chairman Mel Myler of Hopkinton. “It’s kind of a tsunami that’s come forward to us and everyone knows that we need to deal with this.”…

The budget proposal stops cuts to stabilization grants and restores those grants to 2016 levels. The next year, it replaces the grants with $150 million of targeted aid to property-poor towns, much like the per-student adequacy formula did prior to legislative changes in 2011.

For Berlin, this would mean over $4 million more in funding over the next two years. In Manchester, it would mean nearly $20 million. In Pittsfield, nearly $2 million.

The Democrats say the state can raise the $150 million with a new tax on capital gains, but many Republicans, including Werner Horn of Franklin, question that.

“We need a stable funding source for adequacy reform, and an unproven tax is not stable,” he says. “We don’t have any metrics for how it is going to perform.”…

Horn says Republican-sponsored school funding bills were more economical than the Democrats’ and would have a better chance of passing Sununu’s desk. Republicans will likely propose versions of these as amendments during the budget debate on Thursday….

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