As the state’s Commission to Study School Funding continues to hear from state departments and organizations, they will set aside standalone time on a monthly basis, as well as a set time at the end of each meeting, for public comment. As they begin to form recommendations, they are eager to hear from New Hampshire residents about their thoughts and experiences with public education, educational equity, and how to pay for the state’s schools — including town and school budget issues.
Your voice matters; your personal story can help inform Commission members and bring to life the research and data they have studied for the past six months. The role of public schools in our communities, the services and environments that our students need to be prepared to learn, the ways that the state raises money to pay for schools, what’s happening in our local communities — it’s all important, and you’re the best person to share your perspective.
The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled for Monday, July 13, 2020, from 2-4 p.m. The standalone public comment session is scheduled for Wednesday, July 15, at 4:00 p.m.
How to submit public comment
Because the Commission still holds its meetings online, public comments should be submitted to Commission Chairman and Representative Dave Luneau at email@example.com
You can submit a written document or letter that will be distributed to the rest of the Commission, or you can ask for a time to speak during the meeting. Note that any correspondence with the Commission or its members, working in their official capacity, is public information.
During the meeting, if you are using a laptop, you can also use the “raise hand” function, which signals to the Commission that you want to speak. Chairman Luneau and the Carsey staff will recognize you and unmute your microphone.
Tips for speaking during public comment
There are a few things to keep in mind when speaking during a public comment time — especially in a virtual meeting. Keeping it brief and relevant, being on time, and being respectful of others in the room are important considerations.
Here are some other tips:
- Your voice matters! Everyone has a unique perspective when it comes to issues involving schools, resources, and the roles of key stakeholders. Policies affect everyone differently. That’s why public comment periods are so important — it gives Commission members an idea of how policies and practices affect real people, beyond spreadsheets and data points.
- Speak from your heart. Personal stories are very powerful, and you’re the best person to tell yours! If you can relate your experiences to factual data that they’ve learned, then that makes it even more influential.
- Respect goes a long way. People are usually more receptive to what you have to say if you remain respectful of their own lived experiences and opinions.
- Email the Chairman at least 4 hours before to let them know that you are interested in speaking, to give them enough time to plan the meeting accordingly.
- Make sure to check your phone or internet connection. Internet reliability is tricky in many areas of the state, but checking your connection before the meeting could help make the comment process smoother.
- If you don’t want to listen in to the entire meeting, join at least 15 minutes before the scheduled public comment time. The agenda typically specifies the public comment time, but be sure to join a few minutes beforehand in case they begin early.
- Stay focused. When commenting, it might be helpful to write out what you want to say so you stay focused and on topic. And, approaching people — including members of the Commission and others who are commenting — with respect will go a long way to making people receptive of your message.
- You don’t have to speak. You can submit written comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the Chair will send your comments to the rest of the Commission.
- And most of all, don’t be intimidated! Lawmakers and members of the Commission are parents, teachers, grandparents, and community members just like the rest of us. If you have something to say, don’t hesitate to speak up. They value your opinion and experiences.
Next steps for the Commission
The Commission to Study School Funding continues to meet every other week, and has three work groups that meet regularly as well: Adequacy, Fiscal Policy, and Public Engagement.
The Adequacy work group is tasked with defining and determining the cost of an adequate education, and identifying disparities in student opportunities and outcomes, among other tasks.
The Fiscal Policy work group is tasked with collecting and interpreting fiscal data, including tax policy, the state budget, and more.
The Public Engagement work group is tasked with planning public engagement initiatives and collecting and analyzing input from stakeholders, students, and the public.
The full Commission is tasked with researching the way New Hampshire funds its public schools, and must make recommendations on how to make the system more equitable by December 1, 2020.
The next meeting of the Commission work groups is scheduled for Thursday, July 16. More information is posted by the University of New Hampshire Carsey School for Public Policy.