Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

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Claudia Damon urges Concord Monitor readers to “Vote for education”

Ms. Damon summarizes the case concisely.  And for those wanting to follow up on her advice, here are some questions our candidates should answer for voters.

Ms. Damon’s brief letter:

How about that Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut? Chris Sununu appointed him although he knew nothing about N.H. public education, not even from his personal experience.

He says public schools are failing. Not true. He wants vouchers paid from public school funds, but the vouchers help only the wealthy. Vouchers will cover a small portion of private education costs. Only wealthy people can make up the difference.

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It’s time to hold candidates accountable for inadequate school funding and high property taxes

School funding is one of the most important issues facing New Hampshire and is emerging as the key issue in the fall campaign and for the next Legislature.  Voters should know where the candidates stand.

Here is a brief overview of the issue and the key questions you can put to candidates.  Attend a School Funding 101 forum to get the whole story.

The New Hampshire Constitution

The NH Constitution sets two core requirements for K-12 public education:

  • The State has a duty to pay for the cost of a “constitutionally adequate education for every K-12 public school student;
  • The taxes that the State uses to pay for this education must have a uniform rate across the state.

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Eagle-Tribune: Majority of the cost of education is paid through local property taxes and varies widely town to town

Here are highlights from the Eagle-Tribune coverage of the popular School Funding 101 forum executive councilor Andru Volinsky and attorney John Tobin presented in Derry recently:

Budgets, taxes and how to give students the best education possible were all topics of a recent forum aimed at issues dealing with how the state supports its schools.

Attorneys Andru Volinsky and John Tobin were guest speakers for an educational funding forum held recently at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School….

Derry residents approved a $82 million school budget at the polls in March, but the district has seen its school adequacy numbers fall in recent years.

Derry’s combined 2017 tax rate is $28.86, but the town has less property value that can be taxed, compared to a community like Londonderry where economic development and big industry supports the town’s financial structure and tax base.

“Derry’s taxes are high, but you have less to tax,” Tobin said. “The system makes you run harder and generate less.”

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Frank Sprague in the Valley News: Movement Builds to Reform School Funding in New Hampshire

It is widely understood that the State of New Hampshire does not fulfill its constitutional obligation to support an “adequate” education for its children. As a result, the burden falls on local property tax payers, especially those in property-poor towns.

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky and retired New Hampshire Legal Assistance attorney John Tobin, key attorneys in the Claremont decisions have been traveling the State bringing school funding into focus for citizens and elected officials.

Now a movement has begun building that is making school funding a significant issue in the fall campaign and in the 2019 legislative session.  Claremont school board chair Frank Sprague wrote about it in yesterday’s Valley News and suggested questions for candidates (Here’s a video of the Newport forum Mr. Sprague discusses below): (more…)

Scott Marion: “Dan Innis is Playing Fast and Loose With the Facts”

Scott Marion, of Rye, is the executive director of the Center for Assessment, a nationally respected Dover nonprofit helping state develop education policy.  Here is his response to Sen. Dan Innis’ recent statement supporting an expanded private school voucher program:

In his August 28th op-ed, Dan Innis likes to appear like a scholarly professor in his defense of school choice, but his selective use of “research” is anything but scholarly. First, Mr. Innis erroneously cites a 40-60 percent remedial education rate. As a national expert in educational assessment and accountability working in more than 35 states, I can tell you firsthand that those figures are wildly inflated. Mr. Innis should look closer to home where our NH community and technical colleges have done a terrific job in reducing remedial education challenges. In fact, a 2016 National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study, noted that New Hampshire four-year public colleges have the second highest college completion rates in the nation: 90.2 percent of full time students who started at one of New Hampshire’s four-year public colleges completed their studies within six years—the standard metric. That sounds pretty good to me!

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House candidate Tom Loughman responds to Sen. Innis on school vouchers: “More spending, higher taxes, less opportunity”

Tom Loughman is a serious, high-energy candidate for the New Hampshire House from Hampton.  He’s been tuned in to education issues and testified against SB 193 in the last legislative session.

And he shot right back when Sen. Dan Innis began advocating for an expanded voucher proposal.  Here’s is Mr. Loughman’s authoritative response in today’s Seacoast Media papers. (more…)

Sen. Dan Innis: I believe in school choice for all New Hampshire children

School funding will be the big issue in the next legislative session.  And here is Senator Dan Innis of New Castle running for re-election on his proposal to allocate New Hampshire’s scarce education dollars to private schools in the form of vouchers.  And he wants to expand last year’s $100 million voucher bill, defeated in a bi-partisan vote, by making all wealthy children eligible for private school subsidies, leaving local property taxpayers to cover for reduced state funding.

Tom Loughman, candidate for state rep from Hampton, published a great response in the Seacoast Media papers today and here is nationally known education expert Scott Marion from Rye unpacking Mr. Innis erroneous assertions point by point.  Bill Kingston of New Castle also responded in today’s papers.

Senator Innis making his case: (more…)

Garry Rayno in InDepthNH.org: Seacoast Schools Thrive, North Country’s and Others Mired In Funding Crisis

Gary Rayno, retired Union Leader statehouse reporter, knows his way around.  Here is his take on the education funding debate:

The math just doesn’t add up.

While the state of New Hampshire is rolling in revenue and has been for four or five years, property-poor school districts who won two landmark Supreme Court education decisions two decades ago, are in crisis while lawmakers reduce their state aid.

A study last year by the now defunct NH Center for Public Policy Studies found the gap between what property rich and poor towns spend per pupil and their property tax rates has closed little despite nearly three decades of litigation and legislative action.

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School funding forum to be held on September 20 at Keene Middle School, with many co-sponsors.

Attorneys John Tobin and Andy Volinsky will bring their popular series of school funding forums to Keene Middle School (167 Maple Ave, Keene)  at 6:00 PM, September 20.

The Keene forum is sponsored by the Keene, Monadnock, Chesterfield, Westmoreland, Nelson, Marlow, Harrisville, Marlborough, Jaffrey, Rindge, Winchester, ConVal, and Wilton/Lyndeborough school districts.

The Berlin forum will be 6:00 PM, September 6, at Berlin Middle School Auditorium (200 State St.).

This next year will see important debates in the Legislature and potentially in the courts on school funding, local property taxes and the education we offer New Hampshire’s children.  The School Funding 101 forums are a great way to get engaged and potentially make a difference in the future of our State.

John Tobin in the Concord Monitor: Hope for finding common ground on school funding crisis

Attorney John Tobin engages the business community on how best to fund public education in New Hampshire:

The current school funding system, with its crushing property tax rates, is decimating the school systems and economies of dozens of New Hampshire towns and cities, with more to follow. This crisis has pushed me to come out of retirement and start recruiting lawyers for a possible new school funding lawsuit. But I am also part of a growing group of people who are trying to bring the issues of school funding and property taxes into the center of public discussion and debate, during the coming election season and beyond.

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