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Turning to the Senate

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NH School Funding Fairness Project newsletter, 4/21/19:

There are no public hearings this week related to the school funding issue, but there’s plenty of work to do.  The focus of our efforts now shifts to the Senate, which will consider education funding issues in the context of the budget passed by the House last week. 

We’ve come so far….

It’s important, though, to take a moment to recap all the progress that’s been made.  A year ago, school funding was not in the news, nor was it a focus of the 2018 legislative session.  But last June, the first School Funding 101 presentation took place in Pittsfield, to an audience of more than 100.  Since then, 25+ such presentations have been held all around the state. In the fall, voters began asking legislative candidates what they would do about the school funding crisis.  The issue was picked up in the media, and candidates acknowledged its importance.

By the time the 2019 legislative session began in January, numerous bills related to school funding had been filed.  However, the success of the bills was far from certain. So people from all around the State – including taxpayers, school administrators, mayors, teachers, business people and students – showed up at legislative hearings and/or contacted their legislators, telling their stories about the funding crisis and its devastating impact on their communities and schools.  Meanwhile, media coverage increased. You may have noticed numerous articles and opinion pieces about the subject over the past months. Recently, NHPR began a regular series called Adequate.  

Representatives heard the message loud and clear. Throughout the session, during their work sessions and on the floor of the House, they repeated the compelling stories they’d been told. They consolidated various ideas into three bills, addressing restoration of stabilization grants (“stop the bleeding”), meaningful interim relief to districts and taxpayers, and a long-term plan to study and restructure the school funding system.  These three measures were wrapped into the budget that passed the House last week.

That we’ve come so far is largely due to the efforts of people like you, who took the time to understand the complexities of school funding and used your knowledge to educate and persuade legislators.  In a recent article in the NH Bar News, John Tobin described this effort as “a remarkable exercise in local and statewide civics, citizen education, and grassroots policy-making.”

Now what?

Now it’s time to take to the Senate the same strategy that accomplished so much in the House.  Senators, like representatives, have hundreds of bills to consider and can’t be expected to come to the table with a full comprehension of each one.  As an informed citizen, you can help your senator understand the complex issue of school funding and its impact.

Please contact your senator by phone or email, or even better by setting up a group meeting with him or her.  

  • Describe cuts your schools have been forced to make in programming and personnel because state “adequacy” funding falls so far short of adequate, and/or  
  • Explain how the disproportionate tax rates imposed to make up for shortfalls in state funding impact taxpayers and businesses in your community.
  • If a School Funding 101 presentation is coming to your senate district (see schedule below with Senate Districts indicated), urge your senator to attend it.  You can identify your senate district and who your senator is, along with contact information, here.  

Meanwhile, it’s important to continue to get the message out to citizens throughout the State so that they may add their voices. If a School Funding 101 presentation has not yet taken place where you live, would you be willing to help organize one?  We have resources to help; we just need a school district (or several districts working together) or other organization willing to host it and provide publicity. If you’re interested, please contact: schoolfundingfairness@gmail.com.

It’s up to us!

The issue of school funding is now front and center, but let’s face it, it’s not an easy problem to solve.  Lawmakers are understandably concerned about where the money will come from – a question that legislators and governors of both parties have dodged for decades.  But the truth is that the money is already coming from somewhere –  taxes imposed on property owners at disproportionate rates in towns with vastly disparate property values, leading to wide variations in opportunities for kids.  

Lawmakers must come to understand that we, their constituents, won’t settle for anything less than a sustainable and truly adequate school funding plan that complies with the NH Constitution and is fair to students and property taxpayers alike.

Upcoming School Funding 101 Presentations

Spread the word!  The following presentations have been scheduled:

Plymouth (Senate District 2; Senator Giuda):  May 1 at 6:00 p.m. in room 220, Hyde Hall, Plymouth State University

Wolfeboro (Senate District 3; Senator Bradley):  May 8 at 7:00 p.m at Wolfeboro Town Hall, 84 South Main Street, Wolfeboro

North Conway (Senate District 3; Senator Bradley):  May 15 at 6:00 p.m. at Kennett High School, Loynd Auditorium, 409 Eagle’s Way, North Conway

For additional updates and information, follow us on Facebook: NHSchoolFundingFairnessProject


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