On Friday, the Senate Finance Committee approved an amended version of the House’s budget and sent it to the full Senate, which will vote on it on June 6. Assuming the Senate confirms it, a Committee of Conference (comprised of Senators and Representatives) will be formed to work intensively over a period of days, hammering out differences between the House and Senate budgets.
Although the Senate Finance Committee’s amendment retained two critical school funding measures that were in the House budget (restoration of stabilization grants to 2016 levels and funding for an independent commission to develop a long-term solution), it reduced by about $71 million the amount of interim aid the House budget had included for struggling districts. (*More detail on the Committee’s proposed budget is provided at the end of this newsletter.)
The NH Constitution requires that the State provide funding to ensure the opportunity for an adequate education for all NH children. While neither the House nor the Senate budget does that, the House budget is significantly better for school districts and local taxpayers. Therefore, we want to support the House’s position when the conference committee meets.
*Stand with us at the State House*
We’re encouraging interested people to come to the State House on a day in mid-June when the Committee of Conference is meeting. (The day has yet to be determined, as explained below.) The plan is to stand in the hallway before the meeting begins, with each person holding a sign naming the city/town from which s/he came. When it’s time for the Committee of Conference to begin its session, people will file into the meeting room to observe, as a means of silently encouraging members of the committee to bear in mind the devastating impact that inadequate school funding has on communities and schools all around the state.
We’re hoping that people from at least twenty different communities will show up. If school is out, it would be great if some students could join in. This will most likely be our last chance to influence the legislature on these issues before they send a budget to the Governor.
Here’s the tricky part: we won’t know exactly when the Committee of Conference will meet until a few days before it does. So we’re asking people to try to be flexible about being available to come to Concord on a few days’ notice, sometime in mid-June (probably between June 13 and June 20, but we can’t be certain). And maybe you could round up a few people from your community, in hopes that if one person can’t make it, another could.
Please let us know if you’re likely to come (and please spread the word!)
For planning purposes, it would help us to know how many people are likely to show up for this event, and from where. Recognizing that a firm commitment isn’t possible until we have a firm date, would you please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if you think you might be able to attend (depending on date), what municipality you’d be coming from, and whether you have a back-up if you can’t make it?
And don’t forget to contact the Governor, if you haven’t already!
During this whole process, the Governor has been and will continue to be negotiating with lawmakers about the budget. Please contact him to help him understand how the school funding crisis is impacting your school and community. Be sure to mention not only the need for the kind of immediate and interim relief contained in the House budget, but also the importance of a funded, independent commission to develop a long-term, sustainable and constitutional school funding plan.
Contact information for the Governor:
Governor Chris Sununu, State House, 107 North Main Street, Concord, NH 03301
(603) 271-2121, (603) 271-7680 (fax)
North Sutton: A “School Funding and Property Taxes 101” presentation will take place on June 19 at 6:00 p.m., at Kearsarge Regional Middle School, 32 Gile Pond Rd, North Sutton, NH.
If you’d like to have a presentation in your community, please send an email to email@example.com.
For additional updates and information, follow us on Facebook: NHSchoolFundingFairness
*More detail about the Senate Finance Comm’s amendments:
Included in the Senate Finance Committee’s amendments to the House budget bill are the following:
- Stabilization grants: whereas the House restored stabilization grants to 2016 levels for FY 2020 and then added different, greater funding for FY 2021 and beyond, the Senate Finance Comm. version would restore stabilization grants at 2016 levels for 2020 and subsequent years.
- Interim funding:
- Fiscal capacity disparity aid: The Senate Finance Committee kept the concept of fiscal capacity disparity aid (i.e. funding on a sliding scale, with more money going to districts that had lower equalized property valuations – known as EqVal – per student). However, it drastically reduced the amounts. For instance, under the House bill, a town with an EqVal of $350,000 or less per student would receive $6,000 per student in disparity aid (above and beyond the regular adequacy grant), but under the Senate Finance Comm. proposal that extra amount would only be $675 per student. In the House bill, municipalities with EqVal per student of $1 million or less would receive some level of disparity aid; under the Senate Finance Committee proposal the ceiling would be reduced to $900,000.
- Additional funding based on free and reduced lunch: The Senate Finance Committee eliminated all of the additional funding that the House budget would have directed to districts based on the percentage of students eligible for free/reduced price lunch. This was additional aid above and beyond differentiated aid that districts already receive for students eligible for FRL.
- Independent commission: The Senate Finance Committee retained the provision in the House budget bill that established and funded an independent commission to study education funding and develop a sustainable, long-term solution.