Education Funding

New Finance System Doesn’t Satisfy Governor

By Debra Viadero — October 11, 2005 1 min read

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.

New Hampshire

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner

Democrat

Senate:
8 Democrats
16 Republicans


House:
147 Democrats
250 Republicans

Enrollment:
202,000

Lawmakers in the Granite State spent much of their 2005 session retooling the state’s school finance system. The new law targets more aid to poor districts, shrinks a controversial statewide property tax that was created to pay for schools, and reduces the number of “donor” communities, which have to give some of the tax money they collect to less prosperous districts.

But the formula, like the funding mechanisms that have preceded it over the past 10 years, has generated opposition from towns that stand to lose money. A coalition of 19 such communities went to court over the summer to challenge the new system. (“New Hampshire School Finance Plan Heads Back to Court,” Aug. 31, 2005)

Gov. John Lynch, who has his own ideas about how to revamp the formula, let the measure become law without his signature. According to a spokeswoman, the Democratic governor dislikes the formula because it retains the statewide property tax. He chose not to veto the legislation, though, because it reduced the number of donor towns to three.

Overall, the legislature voted to spend $1.86 billion on K-12 schooling during the 2006 and 2007 budget years—an increase of $40.5 million, or 2 percent, above the total for the previous biennium. But state officials note that the budget numbers include about $842 million a year from the statewide property tax, which critics consider to be local, rather than state, funds.

Lawmakers also voted to table measures that would have expanded the state’s charter school and school choice laws.

A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 2005 edition of Education Week

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