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11 North country superintendents urge legislators to create equitable funding system for our schools

Eleven North Country superintendents urged legislators to create an equitable funding system for our state’s schools in a letter to the Berlin Daily Sun. Here’s the full letter:

To the editor:

New Hampshire funds public education primarily through property taxes. The stress that this puts on property owners and educational institutions is significant. We recognize a need to change the system.

Through collaborative work among N.H. North Country School Districts, we have decided to take an active approach in imparting our state legislators and representatives to help bring about this change. We are hopeful that a change will not only provide some relief via property taxes, but will also allow public education systems to continue to provide a high quality educational experience for all of our unique learners. We truly believe that public education is a great value and is a hallmark of our society. As a public school system, we are the advocates for all our learners. That stated, an equitable funding system is necessary.

Advances in medicine have led to increased diagnoses of learning disabilities for students, along with mental health/social-emotional issues and opioid abuse. Educators have a changing dynamic in many of the young learners who enter our buildings on a daily basis. Even with slightly decreasing enrollment, we find ourselves in greater demand for services and personnel to meet the needs of our students. Knowing that states also have never received the promised Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding from the federal level, school systems find themselves in front of our communities asking for more as we continually strive to provide an engaging and high quality education to all of the children in our charge.

With N.H. demographics skewing older, fewer property owners, fewer who have a direct relative in the local school system, the downshifting of costs from the state on to local municipalities has meant property taxes keep going up — even with flat-funded budgets.

The stabilization program, of state Adequacy Aid, is being reduced by 4 percent every year and will be fully eliminated in 25 years. The program disburses about $150 million in state aid annually. Because schools are funded primarily through local property taxes, communities with poorer tax bases must tax their residents at a higher rate to raise the same amount of money as a wealthier community. Higher tax rates discourage new people from moving in and businesses from opening shop.

But, stabilization restoration is only the tip of the iceberg. Legislators in Concord continue to shift the cost of education to the local communities. The state of New Hampshire provides approximately $3,700 for adequacy payments for the cost of an average student. The average tuition to educate a student in the State of N.H. is approximately $15,000. The difference of $11,000 is paid by the local taxpayers through property taxes. The $3,700 per student is actually paid through the State Education Tax, so we, local taxpayers, pay the entire cost no matter what. The legislators in Concord need to take responsibility for the ACTUAL cost of an education for our children and develop a system of payment that removes the property tax burden from our local taxpayers. New revenue, a.k.a. income or sales tax, earmarked for public education needs to be presented to the legislative table. Legislators continue to ignore our most precious resource of New Hampshire — our children

Public education should be looked at as one of the greatest investments in building our economy and in keeping people in New Hampshire. We ask that in your representative rolls, be it a parent, citizen, taxpayer, legislator, community leader, please be vocal about state funding of public education. Our state government will need to bring substantive change that will provide relief for property owners, help restore the perceived value of public education, and most importantly allow school systems to positively impact all the unique learners that populate our buildings. How else will New Hampshire sustain and grow the local economies if there is no investment in education?

North Country Superintendents

Corinne E. Cascadden, SAU 3
Bruce Beasley, SAU 7
Kevin, Richard, SAU 9
Paul Bousquet, SAU 20
Laurie Melanson, SAU 23
Pierre Couture, SAU 35
Marion Anastasia, SAU 36
Michael Kelley, SAU 58
Judith McGann, SAU 68
Susan Hodgdon, SAU 77
Steven Nilhas, SAU 84

Serving towns/city: Berlin, Colebrook, Pittsburg, Stewartstown, Conway, Jackson, Bartlett, Albany, Madison, Chatham, Eaton, Gorham Randolph Shelburne Cooperative, Milan, Dummer, Errol, Bath, Haverhill Cooperative, Warren Piermont, Bethlehem, Landaff, Lisbon, Profile, Lafayette Regional, White Mt. Regional, Carroll, Dalton, Jefferson, Lancaster, Whitefield, Northumberland, Stratford, Stark, Lincoln, Woodstock Cooperative, Monroe, Littleton

Representing 8,851 public school students and potential N.H. taxpayers

Read the full letter here.

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