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

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Coalition Announces Effort to Permanently Solve Education Funding Dilemma

Nov. 26, 2002

The Coalition Communities today announced a major effort to create a permanent solution to New Hampshire’s education funding dilemma through a new targeted aid grant program for state education aid to communities. The Coalition said its goal is to seek enabling education grant legislation in the new Legislature that will pass constitutional muster, target aid to needy communities, utilize existing tax resources to fund education, and no longer be dependent on the statewide property tax or any other single revenue source.

The Coalition has assembled a team of distinguished experts in educational finance and New Hampshire constitutional law who already have begun work. It is expected that the analysis on a new aid formula will be completed by late December and a full legislative proposal will be ready for the new Legislature at the beginning of January, with implementation possible in the Fiscal Year 2004 and Fiscal Year 2005 State Budget. The Coalition has begun briefing legislative leaders and Gov.-elect Benson on the outlines of the new program.

“I think it is very appropriate that we are announcing this initiative during the week of Thanksgiving because I know all the citizens of New Hampshire will be extremely thankful to have this problem resolved once and for all,” said Mayor Evelyn Sirrell, leader of the Coalition of 34 municipalities.

“As of next year, 60 percent of the communities in our state will either be Donor towns or Receivers who are receiving less in education aid. Education funding was the No. 1 issue in the recent elections. Now it’s time for everyone to roll up their sleeves and get to work on implementing a permanent solution that truly benefits our schoolchildren,” she said.

The project is being headed by well-known economist Dr. Daphne A. Kenyon, the former President of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. Other members include: internationally known education finance expert and University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Andrew Reschovsky, who will act as senior advisor on school funding formulas; two NH data experts and technical consultants -- economist Lisa K. Shapiro, who directed the 1999 study “The Economic and Fiscal Impact of a Uniform Statewide Property Tax,” and former Office of Legislative Budget Assistant Director Charles Connor; and constitutional expert and legal advisor Martin L. Gross, a senior member of the Concord law firm of Sulloway & Hollis.

“I am elated to have the opportunity to work on this challenging problem, and to be heading an outstanding team of experts who are working very hard to permanently solve the dilemma of how to ensure that education funding goes to the schoolchildren who truly need it,” Kenyon said.

The targeted aid grant program will utilize an education funding formula similar to those in other states that compare educational costs and needs in a community with a town’s ability to raise revenue. It also will use the most recent U.S. Census data, which was unavailable when the current formula was developed four years ago. Also, the proposal will recognize that the State is responsible for funding equal education opportunity throughout New Hampshire, and will include a practical means for “grandfathering” aid, or other transition mechanisms, to communities whose education grants would decrease under a new formula targeting money only to needy communities.

Under the current simplistic education funding formula, the State essentially compares aid on a per head basis for the number of schoolchildren in a community to the total value of its property, resulting in a net aid “grant” that fails to take into consideration true educational need or the ability to pay. As of next year, there will be 59 Donor towns and 94 Receivers receiving less, for a total of 153 towns (60%) being negatively impacted by the current system.

The targeted aid grant program would begin immediately in next year’s State Budget and include a constitutional amendment provision to ensure that the solution is permanent and will not be overturned by future legal challenges. If the amendment to fully fund the program fails to garner the necessary two-thirds approval of N.H. voters, the enabling legislation would “sunset” in 2004. The intention is to solve the problem once and for all - in a manner ensuring educational opportunity for all of New Hampshire’s schoolchildren - and with costs that are affordable and predictable in the future.

(Click here for more information on the team members)


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