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Report: NH education funding still very unequal

Jun 21, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

According to a new report, spending per student in each town is just as unequal now as it was when the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled against the state’s education funding system in 1997. 

The 1997 ruling said the state needed to provide funding to ensure that students in poor towns had just as much access to an adequate education as students in rich towns. 

As a result, the state provides funding for each student, with extra money for low income students, special education students, English language learners, and third graders who are struggling to read.

According to the new report from the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, state funding has not closed the gap between rich and poor districts. 

The report examined spending per pupil in each town in 1998 and 2015.  In both years there is an almost identical spread in how much each town spends per student, with the richest towns spending more than three times as much per student as the poorest towns.

According to projections from the Center for Public Policy Studies, planned revisions to the state funding formula will result in even lower funding for poor towns in coming years.  The report concludes that the state should consider extending extra grants to poorer towns.

“Five years after the Claremont II decision, the state reached its zenith in contributing to school funding, and we've been retrenching ever since then," said Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who was also the lead attorney in the 1990s lawsuit over education funding. "At one point we did a lot better, and we've fallen. Ever since then, every governor, every Legislature has found ways to slowly back away from that to the point where we are just as bad now as we were 20 years ago.” 

For some policymakers, however, more state funding will not make education better for students in poor towns. 

According to a 2007 report from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, state court rulings that aim to equalize spending per student have not consistently improved student achievement.  

In 2014 the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute studied SAT scores and state education funding going back to 1972.  They similarly concluded that “there is essentially no link between state education spending (which has exploded) and the performance of students at the end of high school (which has generally stagnated or declined).” 

Those against additional education spending therefore support innovation in how school funding is spent.  For example, schools could add online learning and consolidate administration.

How would you distribute education funding in New Hampshire?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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RELATED ISSUE

School Funding: Constitutional Amendment | 1 comment(s)
Should NH pass a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature more control over the distribution of school funding?

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