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

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July 22, 2004

PORTSMOUTH, NH - The four men running for governor of New Hampshire are being invited to participate in a Forum on Education Funding hosted by the Coalition Communities on Sept. 7 in Portsmouth, the 34-member group announced Thursday.

The event will be similar to the highly successful forum the Coalition hosted in June 2002 with participation from all of the gubernatorial candidates in advance of the primary election. The moderator for the 2002 forum, Roger Wood of Clear Channel Radio, has agreed to moderate this year's event as well.

Invitations are being sent to incumbent Republican Gov. Craig Benson and his primary opponent, New Castle Selectman Charles Tarbell, along with the two Democratic candidates -- businessman John Lynch of Hopkinton and State Rep. Paul McEachern of Portsmouth.

"We strongly believe that this type of event is the best way for the people of our State, in Donor and Receiver towns alike, to hear the education funding views of all the candidates and to have an opportunity to submit questions to these gentlemen," said Mayor Evelyn Sirrell, leader of the Coalition.

"This forum will focus only on education funding and the plans the candidates have for solving this continuing issue, which is both complicated and highly contentious," the Mayor said.

The Coalition is still formalizing details of the Forum, but it will begin at 7 p.m. at Portsmouth City Hall and provide an opportunity for each candidate to detail his education funding plan. Residents of the Coalition Communities will have priority in formulating questions to be posed to the candidates by the moderator. Members of the public may submit questions in advance via e-mail at Coalition@ch.cityofportsmouth.com or by telephone, 431-2006, Ext. 281.

Questions also may be submitted during the two-hour forum in the Portsmouth City Council Chamber. The public is invited, although citizens from Coalition Communities will receive priority seating.

The event will be "webcast" live and can be viewed by any computer with Internet access. In addition, the forum will be televised live on Portsmouth's local cable Channel 22, with tapes made available later to cable stations statewide.

Mayor Sirrell said the forum is just one of the many steps the Coalition is taking to ensure that solving the education funding problem remains atop the agenda of the next Governor and next Legislature. She said the Coalition continues to believe its targeted aid solution, HB717, offers the most reasonable long-term plan that truly gets aid to where it's needed. The new law, she noted, gives millions more to rich communities and less to the poorest, showing the importance of including an income factor in any equation used to determine education funding.

A recent survey by the independent Becker Institute found that more than 60% of voters support an increase in the cigarette tax, rather than an increase in the statewide property tax, to provide the necessary state aid to public schools. The prestigious Institute also found most voters prefer the concept of targeting aid to needy communities, rather than sending payments to every town. Overall, the survey said, one-half of voters consider school funding to be a very serious problem.

"Education funding will be our litmus test when we go into the voting booths in November. We are determined to fight for the end of Donor towns and for a long-term funding plan that benefits all of the children of New Hampshire without unfairly penalizing taxpayers simply on the basis of their zip codes," she said. "Our citizens need to know exactly where all the candidates stand on this critical issue that is devastating communities

For more information: Contact: Pat Remick, Coordinator, 431-2006, Ext. 281

Or Mayor Sirrell, 431-2006, Ext. 200


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