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Senate Finance Committee Budget Deliberations This Week

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NH School Funding Fairness Project – Newsletter 21, 5/19/19

The Senate Finance Committee’s public deliberations on the budget will begin this week. All of the budget work sessions listed below will be held in the State House, Room 103. Public input is not taken at these sessions, but feel free to sit in and listen.

  • Monday 5/20   9:30-11:00 a.m.; 2:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday 5/21   3:00 p.m.
  • Friday 5/24      9:30 a.m.

In addition, on Tuesday, May 21, at 1:00 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on a new revenue proposal (offered as amendment 2019-2031s), that would impose payroll deductions on wages in excess of the Social Security tax cap, with revenues to be dedicated primarily for education purposes.  

What to do

Our strategy remains the same as outlined in last week’s newsletter: urge senators to adopt the school funding measures that were developed through a bipartisan effort by the House Education Committee and incorporated into the House budget now being considered in the Senate. [See * at the end of this newsletter for a recap of these measures.]

It’s critical that senators understand:

  1. That some school districts and taxpayers have been pushed to the brink by school funding inadequacies and others aren’t far behind, and
  2. That MANY of their constituents care deeply about this issue.  Here in NH, raising revenue is a touchy subject, and lawmakers worry that if they support raising enough revenue to fully fund education, they may lose votes.  We need to convince them that the opposite is true. Voters expect them to find the means to fulfill the State’s constitutional obligation to fund NH schools.

Action steps:

With these goals in mind, we continue to recommend the following actions for those who haven’t taken them already:

  • meet with your own senator, alone or with a group of fellow constituents, or call or email him or her.  Explain how state funding cuts and inadequacies have affected you, your schools, and/or your community. Be sure to also express support the independent school funding commission that’s currently in the House budget.  It’s the provision that will have the longest-term impact on schools and taxpayers, because it requires the commission to come up with a constitutional, long-range plan for funding education.   Senators’ names and contact information may be found here.
  • write a letter to the editor of your local paper and/or the Concord Monitor or Manchester Union Leader, drawing attention to the funding increases your school district and/or neighboring districts would receive if the House budget were to be enacted.  (You can find preliminary projections here.
  • send emails to the entire Senate Finance Committee, expressing your concerns about school funding and your support for the House budget provisions.  To do so, go to this link and scroll down to “Finance”.  We’ve found that the option to “email entire committee” doesn’t always work; if it gives you trouble, please click on each senator’s name and email him or her individually.   

If you do contact a senator, we’d love to know what they’re telling constituents.  If you’re comfortable sharing this information, please let us know at schoolfundingfairness@gmail.com.

Petition:

In addition, a group of Pittsfield residents have drafted a petition to send to the Governor and the legislature, urging them to “fulfill their constitutional obligation to fund an adequate education for our public school students throughout the state by taxes that are proportional and reasonable as required by the NH Constitution.”  If you’d like to gather signatures for this petition, you can print it from here.  The form contains instructions on where to send signed petitions.  If you’d like to sign the petition electronically, go here.  But please don’t stop there!  Direct contact with your senator and letters to the editor are critical.  

The senators’ dilemma

As senators consider the budget, it’s clear that they are concerned about a variety of social and economic issues and have prioritized some of those issues ahead of education funding.  Few would deny that the issues they’re focused on, such as access to mental health services and adequate staffing of child protective services, are compelling. However, we question whether in a state as wealthy as NH, at a time when our economy is strong and our budget shows a surplus, we really have to choose between those priorities and providing all children with a fair opportunity for a constitutionally adequate education.  Shouldn’t we be able to do both?

More than 20 years ago, the NH Supreme Court ordered the NH legislature and governor to find a way to adequately fund education and they have failed to do so.  If they don’t comply with the order now, at a time of relative prosperity and economic growth, when will they?

Upcoming School Funding 101 Presentations

Please note the changed location of the School Funding 101 presentation scheduled in North Sutton.  It will be held on  June 19 at 6:00 p.m., at Kearsarge Regional Middle School, 32 Gile Pond Rd, North Sutton, NH.

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

*The provisions in the House budget addressing school funding include:

  1. stopping the cuts in stabilization funding and restoring stabilization grants to 2016 levels,
  2. adding significant new “targeted” aid targeted for property-poor districts and districts with high percentages of students qualifying for free or reduced-cost lunches in schools, and  
  3. funding an independent commission comprised of legislators and stakeholders to study the issue and recommend a long-term, sustainable funding structure that meets the requirements set out in the NH Constitution.

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