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My Letter to the Editor on NH Funding Appeared Today

June 21, 2019

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on the NH Supreme Court Decision on school funding and, at that time submitted a letter to the editor on the same topic. Th letter, pasted below, appeared in today’s paper:

The report on Cheshire County Superior Court Judge David Ruoff ’s decision that New Hampshire’s current level of education funding is unconstitutional (“Judge: School funding lacking,” June 7) omitted two key conclusions: The first: “The distribution of a resource as precious as educational opportunity may not have as its determining force the mere fortuity of a child’s residence. It requires no particular constitutional expertise to recognize the capriciousness ofsuch a system.” The second: “As every court decision on the matter has recognized, school funding is no small task, and the burden on the Legislature is great. Yet, as every court decision has similarly recognized, the Legislature is the proper governmental body to complete it. As has been the result in the past, the Court expects the Legislature to respond thoughtfully and enthusiastically to funding public education according to its constitutional obligation.”

The article did provide Gov. Chris Sununu’s response, that his administration continues “to believe these critical funding decisions are best left to local elected leaders — who represent the people of New Hampshire — not judges in a(courtroom).” Sununu’s response emphasizing local control overlooks the reality that there is no way “local elected leaders” in property-poor communities can ever provide adequate funds for the children attending public schools. But the governor knows enough math to also realize that there is no way for the Legislature to devise an equitable formula without getting more revenues. To paraphrase Ruoff, it requires no particular economic expertise to know that the revenue gap cannot be closed by expanding the lottery or adding more fees.

Both the governor and the Legislature realize that the only way to increase revenues sufficiently is to (gasp) expand taxes.

The bottom line question for parents and children in the state is this: Will “The Pledge” prevail, or will the Legislature respond to this court decision and craft a system of taxes in which a student’s ZIP code no longer determines whether an equitable educational opportunity in available?

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