Home > Uncategorized > Another Year, Another Lawsuit Against New Hampshire’s Funding for Public Education

Another Year, Another Lawsuit Against New Hampshire’s Funding for Public Education

March 15, 2019

Yesterday’s “Advancing New Hampshire Public Education” (ANHPE) blog posted the news that the Conval School District in the southern part of the state filed a lawsuit against the state for failing to provide the funding needed to provide an adequate education to students. The suit caught several funding advocates off guard because the legislature is currently deliberating on how much money to provide in the coming fiscal year based on an as-yet-unfunded settlement with a group of property poor districts. Coeval, unlike the districts in the current litigation, is NOT property poor… and despite their presumed ability to pay for schools is filing the suit under the pretext that the level of funding the state is offering for an “adequate” education is woefully inadequate. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

The lawsuit says the current price tag for a base “adequate education” —  $3,636.06 — does not reflect accurate costs for facilities, transportation, and teacher salaries and benefits….

By ConVal’s calculation, the state should pay $10,343.60 per student, which would total over $22 million per year.

An NHPR broadcast journalist indicated that the lawsuit troubled some advocates for higher spending because of the timing of the suit, a sentiment echoed by Carl Ladd in the ANHPE post:

Carl Ladd, the executive director of the N.H. School Administrators Association, says he worries about the lawsuit’s timing.

“I can really sympathize with school board and community, but the courts aren’t going to be a quick fix,” he says. “My fear is that if this is back in court, the legislature will just wait and not do anything.”….

I fear that Carl Ladd is correct in his assessment of the timing of this suit… but… it begs the question of whether there will EVER be a “good time” for a lawsuit and whether NH will ever change it’s system for funding public schools. When I first came to NH as a Superintendent in 1983 there were rumblings of lawsuits by property poor districts and since then there have been “victories” in court that have not translated into fair and equitable funding in reality. The Conval suit is unlikely to result in any quick fix unless the filing by a district with relatively strong tax base paves the way for a full scale debate over school funding in the 2020 gubernatorial election. As Michael Tierney points out, the “arguments that Conval is making would be applicable to many school districts across the state” and if the voters in those “many districts” get behind a candidate who wants more State money to go to schools maybe another court victory won’t be needed. Indeed, as we have witnessed for decades, a court victory without legislative support will go nowhere.

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