Home > Uncategorized > NH “History of Education Funding” Illustrates Why Status Quo Is Hard to Change

NH “History of Education Funding” Illustrates Why Status Quo Is Hard to Change

September 28, 2018

Over the past few months, the Advancing New Hampshire Public Education (ANHPE) blog has provided comprehensive coverage on the efforts of two NH attorneys as they travel across the state to drum up support for equitable school funding. Andru Volinsky and John Tobin, “key members of a legal team that brought the Claremont school funding lawsuit against the state“, are currently barnstorming in New Hampshire in an effort to make the school funding issue a focal point of the gubernatorial race.

Yesterday evening’s post by ANHPE summarized WMUR’s report of their most recent meeting in Pittsfield, NH, a property poor town that was part of the lawsuit brought by Claremont NH in 1993. The post illustrates the dilemma tax reformers face in my home state, which vehemently opposes any form broad based taxation. Yet a consequence of this is that property poor towns have a MUCH higher tax burden than towns with a broad tax base. The result is a stand-off. Most affluent communities are very happy with the current tax structure since their incomes are not taxed and their local property taxes are relatively affordable. Someone earning, say, $100,000 doesn’t mind paying an $8,000 property bill because his income is untouched by taxation. In the meantime, property poor towns have to pay a much higher rate to fund schools but their constituents see no reason to see their income taxes raised on top of their already onerous property taxes.

The article describes how Pittsfield’s representative John Reagan’s bitter opposition to the efforts made by Volinsky and Tobin, and whose candidacy was flagged at the forum:

Volinsky singled out Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, whose district includes Pittsfield.

“He has campaign signs that say he is a tax fighter, but he’s not fighting property taxes. He’s adding to his constituents’ burden every year,” Volinsky said.

Reagan, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said the agenda of those who complain about the current system has not changed in several decades.

The call is always for more money and that we have to have income tax,” he said. “They are trying to create an income tax because they want a bigger government.”

Unfortunately, neither party is calling for an income tax… and that is a bone of contention with Volinsky and Tobin who are clear-eyed in their understanding that the equity problem cannot be solved without some kind of increase in revenue:

Volinsky and Tobin have prepared a memo titled “school funding talking points” that is distributed at the forums.

The talking points do not specifically blame either major political party. They blame both parties….

“It’s gratifying that people are paying attention, but it’s sad that we are having to do this 20 years later,” Volinsky said.

It IS sad that he and his colleague are still doing this after 20+ years… but it is even more sad that civil rights advocates are witnessing re-segregation after 60+ years… and both problems exemplify the daunting challenge true reformers face when they try to change the status quo. Here’s the sad truth in both cases: until we can view ourselves as a nation that wants to help those who are disadvantaged due to the zip code or race they were born into we will perpetuate the system we have in place and continue to find rationalizations that “prove” the current system is fair. It isn’t.


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