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Independent Study Reaffirms Need for Targeted Aid Bill

June 4, 2003

An independent think tank's conclusion that New Hampshire's education funding system is an abject failure reaffirms the need for a complete overhaul that moves the state toward the type of targeted aid contained in House Bill 717, the director of the Coalition Communities said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the non-partisan, non-profit Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy released a blistering report saying not only has the current education funding system failed to improve the relative situation of poor towns, it actually may be making things worse.

"This well-researched, excellent analysis of the current system certainly calls out for a targeted aid plan just like House Bill 717," said Ted Jankowski, director of the 34-municipality Coalition.

"I hope that after the members of the Legislature consider this thoughtful analysis they, too, will come to the same conclusion that there is a need for true targeted aid, and review the merits of House Bill 717. It is the only true targeted aid legislation that's been proposed, it is the most extensively researched and it uses existing state resources," he said.

The study, entitled "The Results of the New Hampshire Education Funding Reform," concludes that since its 1999 enactment, education finance reform has done little to resolve the education funding issue.

"The current education system is clearly a failure. It has made little or no difference with the poorest towns on education spending, has seen them lose ground on tax rates, and has created a punitive class of towns," wrote Josiah Bartlett Center President Charles Arlinghaus in the study's foreword.

"While most politicians admit the current system needs to be 'fixed,' the Legislature has shied away from wholesale change. However, an analysis of the abject failure of the current system suggests the time for minor fixes has long gone by. At this point, wholesale changes are demanded," Arlinghaus concluded.

The report points toward the concept of targeted aid, a philosophy overwhelmingly supported by New Hampshire voters, according to a survey earlier this year by the independent Becker Institute.

Nonetheless, the Senate in May voted to kill HB 717, which was developed for the Coalition Communities after six months of research by the nation's top education funding experts. The House had passed it, along with the House Leadership Plan, House Bill 608. In its current form, HB 608 continues the statewide property tax at a reduced rate and while it targets some aid, it continues to rely on equalized property values as the main factor in determining a community's ability to finance education.

"In light of the increasing evidence of the need to move to a true targeted aid system, the Coalition is calling upon the Legislature to return HB 717," Jankowski said.

HB 717 includes median household income and would lead to more aid going to the five original Claremont lawsuit towns, among others, and less aid to the wealthier communities than either HB 608 or the current system. HB 717 is sponsored by Rep. Edmond Gionet of Lincoln, which has the state's lowest median household income but is a "donor" town under the current system.

HB 717 gradually phases in a targeted aid formula based on a town's education needs and ability to finance them, sets predictable controls on State costs, and returns control of property tax dollars to local communities. Currently, the State controls $1 of every $3 in property tax dollars raised locally for education.

For more info: Ted Jankowski, 431-2006, Ext. 222
Pat Remick, 431-2006, Ext. 281


 1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth, NH, 03801, Tel: (603) 610-7281Fax: (603) 427-1575 Email: Coalition@ch.cityofportsmouth.com