Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

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Attend the Education Funding 101 forum in Manchester tonight!

Here are the details. Kevin Landrigan tees it up in his column today:

Supporters for overhauling the education aid law will host a 12th forum tonight (Thursday) at Memorial High School in Manchester.

Meanwhile, two NH House committees took testimony earlier this week on several bills championed by the forum founders, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, and Concord lawyer John Tobin.

At the outset, Volinsky said Gov. Chris Sununu and the Legislature need to restore cuts made in the last two state budgets to stabilization grants that are meant to help communities hardest hit with high public school costs.

The two also seek a commission with professional staff to update the cost of a constitutionally assured adequate education and study ways to pay for it

“In part we want to encourage those attending to talk with their elected representatives and press the point that the local property tax is a terribly onerous burden for working families,” said Volinsky, who is considering a 2020 run for governor.

“For communities like Manchester with student populations that need additional services, the problem is just exacerbated.”

Volinsky and Tobin were part of the lead legal team that won the Claremont lawsuit, which led to the state Supreme Court ruling that reliance on the local property tax was unconstitutional.

But Volinsky said those local taxes pay 73 percent of total school costs.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes of Concord has signed onto an interim way to pay for these increases in grants (HB 686), which is to impose a 5 percent capital gains tax.

The bill would at least double the exemption that all working families would get from the existing 5 percent tax on interest and dividends and if adopted it would raise $84 million in 2020.

The forum starts at 6 p.m.

Five school funding reform bills reviewed on Tuesday

InDepthNH has great coverage of Tuesday’s House Education Committee and House Ways and Means Committee hearings on school funding.  (Reaching Higher NH videos of the hearings are here.)

Committee chair Rep. Mel Myler has indicated that he would form a subcommittee to debate and consolidate all education funding bills, hoping to send a single bill to the House floor and on to the House Finance Committee.  Here are highlights from InDepthNH coverage of the hearings: (more…)

UL article gives insight on the impact of the school funding formula on Berlin

Union Leader North Country reporter John Koziol describes how declining enrollment combined with declining state support for school funding resulted in the recent school board decision to close the Berlin’s iconic Brown Elementary School.  Here are some highlights: (more…)

The Concord Monitor: Edelblut’s diagnosis of what ails N.H. education is way off


New Hampshire’s education policy debate has come to the fore because over the past couple of years Governor Sununu has tried to put our public schools on a radical new path.  By appointing a homeschooling advocate as education commissioner and giving him his head, the Governor has embraced a commitment to individualized, privatized, publicly funded education.

And Commissioner Edelblut has written a series of editorials promoting the administration’s critique of New Hampshire public education.  A couple of months ago, the Commissioner made the case that our schools are stuck in a rut and that something called “education reform” is failing.  Most recently, he observed:

What does it look like when schooling gets in the way of education?  We do not have to look very far….


House Education Committee hears strong support for restoring stabilization fund

Last Thursday (sorry for the delay; grandkids took over), the education committee held its public hearing on HB 177, the Rep. Rick Ladd (R, Haverhill, former committee chair) proposal to stop process of reducing the stabilization fund so critical to property poor communities by 4% per year until it is gone.  (Garry Reyno puts the stabilization fund in context here and Reaching Higher NH provides great detail here.)

The Facebook stream of the hearing, provided by Reaching Higher NH, is here starting at minute 57 and continued here.  You can see great accurate coverage from WMUR here.  And in (picked up by many other papers as well), Gail Ober reports in detail on the hearing in the context of the larger education funding issue that Andy Volinsky and John Tobin have been discussing across the State over the past 7 months. (more…)

There will be a major “Education Funding 101” forum in Manchester on January 31

School Funding has emerged as a central issue for the current legislative session.  Key proposals include restoring the stabilization fund, establishing a serious commission to formulate fundamental school funding reform proposals.  Other bills would take a first step toward a more rational funding system by immediately increasing the per child adequacy payment.  And there’s much more….about building aid, the education tax credit and many other issues.

The forum at Memorial High School at 6:00 PM on Thursday, January 31 is the culmination of months of forums statewide and will be an opportunity to understand our current education funding system and its impact on New Hampshire communities.

Andy Volinsky and John Tobin will present the forum, as always, based on statistical analysis and research provided by retired New Hampshire policy analyst Doug Hall.  The team lays out its analysis of the impact of the Claremont decisions of education funding in Manchester in this data sheet.

Hassan Early College Academy proposal resurfaces as Governor Sununu’s key education initiative, with a key change

Governor Sununu’s “New Hampshire Career Academy” has become his most visible State of the State proposal.  Coverage includes this on WMUR, this AP report on the NHPR website and in many other state papers, Sunday’s front page piece in the Union Leader and surely more to come. New Hampshire high school students would get community college credits and a leg up on a job while still in high school – and even get an associates degree by continuing with the program for a fifth year.  Here is the department of education’s summary.  Here is Governor Hassan’s 2015 STEM Task Force recommendation (p. 28). (more…)

UL: “School closures could force action on education funding”

The Union Leader this followed up on this recent piece on ConVal.  Here are the highlights:

It’s unusual to see 50 people turn out for a school board meeting, but when the issue is possible closure of your town’s elementary school, emotions run high.

That was obvious when the school board for the nine-town Contoocook Valley School District (more widely known as ConVal) met on Dec. 18 to approve a warrant article for the district meeting that would downsize the Peterborough-based collaborative from 11 schools to five.

Small towns that cherish their local elementary school as a focal point of community life would see their children bused to a regional school. Despite overwhelming opposition to that idea from parents, the board voted 7-5 to let the broader electorate decide in March.


The Monitor contrasts legislative efforts to address school funding with the governor’s proposal to erase the state’s obligation to children with a constitutional amendment.

The Monitor tees up the education funding issue in a well reported piece:

In 2010, Berlin faced an economic reckoning, rocked by the closure of a Gorham paper mill and the swift loss of 240 jobs.

Then the school funding cuts kicked in.

It’s a familiar story. A 2011 legislative change to New Hampshire’s school funding formula saw Berlin take in substantially less state funds for students, pushing the town to increase its property tax rate to bridge the gap.

The Legislature created a stabilization fund the same year to dole out “hold harmless” aid to cities like Berlin and help them recoup the difference. But since 2015, that fund has faced a series of annual reductions, and is set for complete depletion by 2040.

Now, after years of scaling back, officials in Berlin say the school district is near a breaking point. With property taxes already abnormally high and outside aid low, the district may have to shut down the city’s last remaining elementary school if nothing changes, Superintendent Corinne Cascadden said.

“There comes a time when you cannot offer education under the minimum standards of approval without certain programs and personnel,” she said. “We’re really close to that threshold.”


UL: “ConVal proposal would close six schools” – unaffordable school property taxes contribute to loss of young families

The New Hampshire school funding formula leaves rural and property poor districts poorer every day, as this piece in today’s Union Leader points up.

School Board Member Stephan Morrissey of Francestown observes that the region’s unaffordability for young families means that the school population will continue to decrease as the population continues to age: (more…)