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Education funding a growing concern

April 03, 2019
BERLIN — In the 1990's, a series of lawsuits resulted in the Claremont decisions, in Claremont School District v. Governor, 138 N.H. 183, 635 A.2d 1375 (1993) (Claremont I), the New Hampshire Supreme Court interpreted Part II, Article 83 of the New Hampshire Constitution to "impose a duty on the State to provide a constitutionally adequate education for every educable child in the public schools in New Hampshire and to guarantee adequate funding."

There are currently several school funding bills under consideration by New Hampshire's Legislature. HB676, which was deemed 'inexpedient to legislate' would have eliminated the statewide education property tax and transferred the cost of providing an adequate education to the state's general funding obligations. Other bills seek to increase funding per student, change the funding formula, and provide additional funding.

A lawsuit filed by the ConVal School district, which claims that the state has failed in its obligation to provide an adequate education, seeks to force the state to increase education funding.

Our correspondent did not uncover any effort to define an adequate education in the 21st century. But for New Hampshire's property rich towns and cities, providing children with an adequate education isn't an issue. Berlin, on the other hand, relies on an already high property tax rate, and declining state funding, to pay for education. Can a school system which is struggling to meet the basic needs of its students prepare its students to compete against students who are provided with every advantage money can buy?

Studies show that children in wealthier districts have an edge, that advantage comes in the form of more support staff, smaller class sizes, better textbooks, more class offerings, and technology.

Berlin students and educators have lobbied for an increase in funding, and a cessation of cuts in stabilization funding. A group called Save Our Schools (S.O.S.) has been formed to lobby for changes in the current system and can be found on Facebook. This fight is important, not only to the students but to the city's future.

Varney Smith
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