Education Funding

The town of Bedford is one of about 40 communities across New Hampshire waiting to hear how the state will respond to the recent education funding lawsuit decision.

A Sullivan County Superior Court judge ruled earlier this month the state’s cap on adequacy grants to fast-growing school districts was unconstitutional.

The city of Dover filed the suit, and was awarded one point five million dollars as reimbursement for the last fiscal year. The ruling also entitled other affected districts to back pay for last year.

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

Senate president Chuck Morse is calling for the state to enter into a settlement with Dover after a judge ruled a spending cap placed on the districts’ schools was unconstitutional.

Last week a judge ruled a legislative spending cap that had kept money from fast growing schools districts like Dover, was unconstitutional.

Now, Senate President Chuck Morse, who had intervened to defend the cap in the lawsuit, says the state Attorney General should settle the case for the amount the cap cost Dover in fiscal year 2016. Dover says that’s about $1.5 million.

Dover School District

A judge has ruled that a cap on the amount of money the state sends to local school districts is unconstitutional.

Each year, the state sends money to local school districts to satisfy a constitutional mandate to provide an adequate education. The amount it sends is calculated by a formula determined by the legislature.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

When David Griffin started teaching middle school in Berlin more than three decades ago, he thought he knew what to expect. He never imagined that stocking a food pantry might be part of the job.

Sure, Griffin says, he always anticipated a few needy kids in each class. But in the past few years, especially, the number of students who need help — and the complexity of their needs — seems greater than ever.

Dover School District

On Friday, all three branches of New Hampshire’s government will meet in a courtroom, in the latest dispute over how the state pays for public schools.

The showdown is prompted by a lawsuit brought by the city of Dover. It challenges a spending cap the Legislature has placed on how much money public schools can get from the state each year.

Scroll down for a chart and map tallying the impact of this policy over the past few years.

NHPR’s Jason Moon recently talked with Morning Edition host Rick Ganley to discuss the case and its place in a long history of education funding battles.

rickpilot_2000 / flickr cc

The Attorney General’s office has refused to defend the law that caps state aid to schools in a case brought by the city of Dover.  It’s the latest in a long string of battles over education funding in the state.


Facing a school funding lawsuit from the city of Dover, the attorney general's office is not defending the law that caps how much state money growing school districts can receive each year.

The decision puts the executive branch at odds with Republican legislative leaders, and House Speaker Shawn Jasper and Senate President Chuck Morse are intervening in the case.

Paul Townsend via Flickr CC /

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Dover School District

The city of Dover is suing the state, claiming it’s failing to meets its responsibility to fund an adequate education.

In the suit filed in Strafford County Superior Court, attorney Andru Volinsky says the city is seeking to overturn a cap enacted in 2011 that limits state aid to schools.

Two proposed changes to the the state's education funding formula have been passed by the two chambers of the New Hampshire Legislature. Both seek to increase or lift altogether the state's cap on growth in per-pupil spending. And both would pay for such it by reducing so-called "stabilization grants," created in 2011 to keep certain school districts from losing huge amounts of funding after the last round of changes to the base aid formula.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR; Data: SAUs 28, 30 & 62; Legislative Budget Assistant
Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

With lawmakers now in the final phase of crafting the state budget for the next two years, schools around the state are watching the process uneasily. The Legislature is looking, once again, to tweak the formula it uses to send money to local districts. 

Melissa Moreno / Flickr/CC

New Hampshire has been engaged in a perennial argument about the state’s role in paying for schools. In 2011, a compromise put that debate on hold. But dissatisfaction has been brewing and now a bipartisan bill would tweak the formula, igniting speculation about who would win and who would lose under a new arrangement.


Christopher Sessums via Flickr CC

The fraught topic of education funding is again before lawmakers as two bills seek to eliminate a cap aid to local schools that was imposed in 2011. The bills hope to head off a possible lawsuit from school districts that have missed out on millions of dollars because of that cap. 

The push for change has bipartisan support, even though it could result in less funding for many schools.

Failing to reach consensus on a constitutional amendment to change the state’s education funding formula has become an annual rite of passage for lawmakers.

But Democratic Representative Gary Richardson of Hopkinton believes next year will be different.

Richardson is working with state Senator Nancy Stiles, a Hampton Republican, to come up with a proposed amendment to be considered in the next legislative session.

Ben McLeod / Flickr

The University System of New Hampshire’s board of trustees is requesting that the legislature restore its state funding. At a board meeting Tuesday they approved a budget request for the near-$50 million that was cut last year.  In exchange for the funds, the USNH is offering to freeze tuition for two years.   

University chancellor Ed MacKay says that New Hampshire’s tuition costs are among the nation’s highest not because of inefficiencies, but because of a lack of funding from the state.

Sen. John Gallus, a Republican from Berlin, was among 17 Senators voting in favor of a constitutional amendment – CACR 12 - that would have given voters the chance to change the state constitution and give the Legislature more control over public school funding. 

But while eight North Country representatives also voted for it in the House Wednesday the amendment did not have the three-fifths majority needed.

Seven North Country representatives voted against it and one was excused from voting.

Education Funding Amendment Fails

Jun 6, 2012
Sara Plourde / NHPR

This year’s effort to pass a school funding constitutional amendment failed where such efforts tend to fail – the New Hampshire house. 

Since the Claremont decision of the mid 90s, New Hampshire has debated the locus of authority and responsibility in funding our K-12 public schools. Over 80 proposed amendments have seen their way to a vote in state legislative chambers over the past several years. Last year marked the first time any such amendment passed the house and the senate passed a version of its own. The two chambers failed to reconcile their differences, however, and the issue was tabled.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Enacting any constitutional amendment is tough. It requires a three-fifths vote by both House and Senate, and two-thirds support from voters at the polls.  Add to this the fact this amendment deals with school funding and that lawmakers have killed 80-odd  Claremont-inspired amendments over the past 14 years, and the guardedness of even the boldest of lawmakers is understandable.