Lawmakers Alter Course on School Aid Reform
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2003 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Controversies over school voucher proposals and school funding dominated the 2004 legislative session in New Hampshire.
Lawmakers were poised to revamp the state’s controversial school aid formula, which borrows from wealthier districts to send property-tax money to schools in poorer areas. At the last minute, though, they settled for a more modest overhaul that reduces the statewide property tax and targets more dollars to needy districts.
Some complained that the plan fails to take into account the added costs schools incur for bus transportation and for educating students with limited English proficiency and children who have disabilities. ("N.H. School Aid Changes Draw Little Praise," June 9, 2004.)
In the end, lawmakers appropriated $527 million to K-12 education for the 2005 fiscal year—an increase of about 8 percent over last year.
Bills that would have allowed parents to use state funds to send their children to private and religious schools came up three times in the session, with legislators narrowly defeating them each time.
Lawmakers did, however, pass a proposal from Gov. Craig Benson to cap increases in state spending on schools to the annual rate of inflation.
They also approved measures that require school districts to adopt policies to promote physical activity by students; authorize the state education department to assign students identification numbers; and require schools to inform parents when their children are involved in bullying incidents.
Vol. 23, Issue 44