Education Funding

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.

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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.