Yesterday the members of the Committee of Conference on the state budget struck a deal on school funding. If their plan is approved by the full House and Senate and signed by the Governor, $138 million in new funding will be sent to struggling school districts around the state. This kind of increase in school funding hasn’t been seen in decades, and it’s a significant step toward addressing the inequities inherent in our current funding structure. The plan also includes the establishment of an independent commission to study and recommend a sustainable, constitutional, long term solution to the school funding crisis. And $40 million in municipal aid will be an additional boost to communities whose taxpayers have been stretched to their limits, in large part because of the State’s downshifting of school costs to localities.
This budget will be voted on by the full House and Senate next Thursday, June 27. After that it will be up to the Governor. Now is the time to let Governor Sununu know that students and property taxpayers around the state are counting on him to approve these school funding measures. He can be reached at 603-271-2121 or by writing to him at the State House, 107 N. Main St., Concord, NH 03301.
It’s important to recognize the role that citizens played in getting to this point. For the past year, John Tobin, Andru Volinsky and Doug Hall have traveled around the state giving scores of “School Funding and Property Taxes 101” to help people understand how the current school funding system results in inequities for students and property taxpayers alike. Throughout this legislative session, municipal officials, school administrators, parents, students and other interested citizens have contacted legislators, testified at hearings, written letters to the editor, and held signs at visibility events. All of this interest led to a greater focus on school funding at the legislature than has been seen in years. Both the House and the Senate included in their budgets significant funding for schools to address the immediate crisis they are facing, as well as a plan to develop a long term solution.
On Tuesday, as lawmakers entered the Legislative Office Building to work on reconciling differences between the House and Senate budgets, they were greeted by citizens from at least 34 different NH communities who came to Concord to speak up once again for NH students and taxpayers. Carrying signs with slogans like “Equity for Pittsfield”, “Fully Fund Fremont”, and “NH Kids Can’t Wait”, participants were motivated by their conviction that the current education funding system unfairly disadvantages students and taxpayers in many communities. People even came from “property-wealthy” towns, in the belief that all NH kids deserve a fair shake.
The Governor is threatening to veto this budget after it passes the House and Senate. Please let him know a veto would be completely unacceptable. Twenty-five years after the Claremont decision, it’s way past time to address the school funding crisis. NH kids can’t wait!