Through Dave luneau (Chair of the 2020 School Funding Review Commission, representative of District 10 of Merrimack County (Hopkinton and Concord) and former chair of the Hopkinton School Board))
Bill ardinger (Member of the 2020 School Funding Study Commission)
On June 3, 2021, the New Hampshire Senate voted to approve its version of the state’s two-year budget. This version of the budget would spend a total of $ 5.4 billion in state and education funds for the two fiscal years beginning July 1, 2021 and 2022. The budget adopted by the Senate will be considered by the House on June 10.
The budget includes a 207-page bill known as âHouse Bill 2â. This legislation comprises a very detailed and complex set of laws and instructions that will implement the budget and important policies of the state over the next two years. As might be expected, there is a lot of information contained in this law, and very few people, including lawmakers, have had the opportunity to consider all aspects of these proposals.
A series of changes would implement very significant changes to our public school funding system. The authors were recently members of a study commission on school funding for a year. This commission published its final report on December 1, 2020.
Together, the members of the Commission spent a great deal of time unraveling the problems and challenges of New Hampshire’s publicly funded education system, and we came to a very important conclusion: the current formula that allocates the dollars of the state budget between our school districts unfairly and unfairly because it does not direct more aid to school districts whose children have the greatest needs.
The Commission relied on a national expert (American Institutes for Research) whose work showed that while New Hampshire enjoys very good results and spending on average in public schools, there is a dramatic gap in opportunities. to achieve good results in districts facing the greatest challenges. . And, unfortunately, our current law on the allocation of state budget dollars fails to address this “lack of student opportunity.”
Not only would the Senate budget perpetuate this failure, it would make it worse. What the work of the Commission has recommended is a reorientation of state aid so that the top priority is to close the gap of opportunities. This requires a fairer formula that would direct more aid to the communities that need it most, such as our largest cities (Manchester and Nashua) and the original plaintiffs in the Claremont litigation. Other communities, which AIR says already offer well above average opportunities for their children, would continue to do so. This fundamental focus on student equity does not require additional spending, just equity in our distribution formula.
Instead, the Senate budget would effectively increase state aid to communities that already offer above-average student opportunities. And that would do very little to help the communities most in need.
For example, in FY2023 Formula HB 2 would increase state aid over FY2020 amount for the wealthier towns of Hampton Falls and Hancock by 74% and 82%, respectively. Since Formula HB 2 provides a new special grant of $ 15.2 million to 44 of the richest cities in real estate, cities that did not receive any state grants in fiscal year 2020 like Hampton, Hanover, Newington and Rye would now receive state grants.
Unlike these deals, poorer neighborhoods, including those that were claimants in the original Claremont litigation (Pittsfield, Claremont, Berlin and Lisbon) would see only minimal increases of 2.82%, 3.12%, 3 , 48% and 3.89%, respectively. These dismal results are not mitigated by a small aid to neighborhoods with a greater number of students eligible for free and reduced meal programs ($ 17.5 million spread across 171 cities).
These moves favoring richer cities over cities with greater challenges mean that HB 2 would expand our state’s already large gaps in student opportunities.
While the Commission’s report did not come up with a specific plan, the Commission’s principles suggest outcomes that would actually move the ball forward in the direction of justice and fairness for students. Assuming the same levels of state budget spending for comparison purposes, the Commission’s Foundation Equity approach shows significantly higher state aid distributions for our worst affected districts. These would include Manchester, Haverhill, Nashua, Derry, Dover, Laconia, Keene, Goffstown, Rochester, Somersworth and Newport, all of whom would receive grants at least 20% higher than the unfair system of HB 2. Of course, filling our gaps in opportunities would also dramatically improve outcomes for the Complainant Cities of Claremont. And none of these efforts to improve fairness and equity for students would require an increase in state taxes.
We cannot support HB 2’s setback in fairness and fairness for students. We believe that such a measure will invite the courts to take a closer look at our system of public financing of education. It is against the basic tenets of Claremont business – that the state should distribute state aid in a way that provides an equal opportunity for a good public education for all New Hampshire children.
We plan to continue working to build a broad public and private coalition in support of a Foundation Equity Reform Plan that will establish equity and equal opportunity for students as the norms governing the school funding system. New Hampshire Public Education.
Representative David Luneau
Merrimack County District 10 (Hopkinton and Concord Ward 5)
New Hampshire House of Representatives
House Education Committee