Granite State lawmakers in this year’s recently concluded session passed a school accountability measure that ends an 18-year-old lawsuit over how the state pays for schools.
The bill, signed into law July 18 by Gov. John H. Lynch, requires schools to prove that they’re meeting state academic standards. It addresses the last of four requirements issued by the state Supreme Court in response to the long-running Claremont v. Governor lawsuit, which was originally filed in 1991 by five “property poor” jurisdictions. The court said the state, besides holding schools accountable, must define what it considers an “adequate education” under its constitution, price it, and figure out an equitable formula to pay for it.
Difficult budget issues also dominated the legislative session, which ended in June. Despite facing a projected deficit of $500 million to $600 million, lawmakers agreed to spare education from some of the deepest cuts.
197,956 (fall 2008)
Under the state’s total $11.6 billion budget for the 2010-11 biennium, schools will receive $967 million—a $20 million decrease from the previous biennium, according to the state budget office. That amount will be buoyed, however, by an infusion of $160 million from New Hampshire’s share of federal economic-stimulus funds, according to budget officials.
That means direct state aid to school districts—at $890 million over two years—will continue to be fully funded under the state’s relatively new school funding formula.
Charter schools, which have been struggling to gain a toehold in New Hampshire, also are to be included in the state-aid payouts.
The education areas that suffered budget cuts include catastrophic aid for special education, which is used to offset the expense of court-ordered placements in private schools for students who are severely disabled, and state contributions to local teacher-retirement costs. That change also applies to contributions for police- and fire-personnel pensions.
The New Hampshire School Boards Association and other groups are debating whether to protest the retirement-system changes in court.
A version of this article appeared in the August 26, 2009 edition of Education Week as Accountability Measure in N.H. Ends 18-Year-Old Financing Suit