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Debate Over N.H. Education Funding Could Heat Up in 2019

Manchester School District

 

The way the state helps school districts cover the cost of public education will be on the agenda in the New Hampshire State House next year.

The state currently provides $3,636 per student - called "adequacy aid" - to districts, and sends supplemental aid for English language learners, students with special education needs, and students in poverty.

A proposal this fall from legislators on the Committee to Study Education Funding and the Cost of an Opportunity for an Adequate Education would bump adequacy funding to nearly $4,000 for every student.

But State Representative Marjorie Porter says this isn't nearly enough.

Porter is the prime sponsor of a bill that would increase adequacy aid to around $8,000 per student, a figure her constituents in the Conval School District calculated this fall.

"This bill says: 'Look you're saying that this is what it costs to provide the bare minimum adequacy you're wrong and you're wrong by a big amount, and this is what the bare minimum really is,'" she says.

State adequacy grants currently cover about 18 percent of education funding for New Hampshire schools; 60 percent comes from local property taxes.

The state sends additional aid - called stabilization aid - to property-poor districts. Stabilization aid has declined since 2015, and is set to expire entirely by 2040.

Conval is one of several districts considering school closures because of a combination of declining enrollment and loss of stabilization aid.

Some lawmakers believe education funding could get more attention in 2019, as education advocates consider a third lawsuit against the state to pay more to districts, and lawmakers who campaigned on education and property taxes head to Concord.

"I think a lot of us during our campaigns talked about ways that we might be able to help reduce the property tax burden that people are facing," Porter says. "One way we can do that is to look at how we fund education."

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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