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2023 Murrow Awards - Continuing Coverage Entry, NHPR

A red Dodge Ram pickup truck parked outside the Croydon Town Hall holds signs saying: "We stand up for Croydon students."
Sarah Gibson
Last year, a group of residents from varying political backgrounds campaigned to reverse cuts to Croydon's school budget.

In many parts of rural New Hampshire, voters still debate their school budget as a community on town meeting day. Usually, turnout is low. And usually, what happens there doesn’t make big news.

But something unusual happened in the village of Croydon last year.

A group of anti-tax voters in this tiny town slashed the school board’s proposed budget in half. It was extreme, but it was legal. Croydon was suddenly a test case for a movement that’s gaining momentum across the country: to defund public schools and replace them with a private model that’s cheaper to taxpayers.

But parents in Croydon weren’t having it. A group of conservatives, liberals and self-described “apoliticals” launched a campaign for a revote. And eventually, they restored the town’s original school budget.

Thanks in part to NHPR’s reporting, Croydon ended up getting major attention in New Hampshire and across the country. The New York Times covered it in a front-page feature, and NHPR’s Sarah Gibson reported a separate story for This American Life that aired in July. NHPR's coverage of this issue, over several months in 2022, made clear that the budget battle in Croydon said something deeper about the precarity and potential of democracy. And it showed the possibility of public schools to unite, rather than divide, people from different political ideologies.

Listen to a montage of our coverage of this story at the audio player above, or find some of the original reporting here and here.

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