School Funding Commission Welcomes Youth Input: Sept. 23 and Oct. 7

The Commission to Study School Funding is hosting two public comment sessions dedicated to youth voices. On September 23rd and October 7th, from 4 to 5pm, the Commission is welcoming students to share their thoughts and experiences with public education, educational equity, and how their schools are funded.

The voices of students matter; students’ personal stories can help inform Commission members and bring life to the research and data they have studied for the past seven 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 students are some of the best people to share their perspectives.

The Youth Voice Public Comment sessions are being held on Tuesday, September 23, from 4 to 5pm, and October 7, from 4 to 5pm. Interested students can visit the Carsey School’s website for the Commission to Study School Funding to access their Zoom meeting link.

In addition to the Youth Voice Public Comment sessions, NH Listens will host two Youth Voice Focus Groups. On October 13, from 6 to 7:30pm and October 14, from 4 to 5:30pm, high school seniors and recent high school graduates will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and perspectives on public education in a group setting. Pre-registration is required and can be done by visiting the links provided.

How to submit public comment

There are a few ways to submit public comment for the Commission meetings:

  • Before the meeting:
    • You can submit a written document or letter that will be distributed to the rest of the Commission. Note that any correspondence with the Commission or its members, working in their official capacity, is public information.
    • Any written testimony can be sent to Commission Chairman Luneau at schoolfunding.commission@unh.edu.
  • During the meeting:
    • Visit the Carsey website for the phone and Zoom access information for each specific meeting.
    • During the meeting, if you are using Zoom, Chairman Luneau and/or the Carsey staff will ask interested participants to use the “raise hand” feature. They will then call on you and you will be able to 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 — they give 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. Although this isn’t required, it is helpful for the Commission to know that you’re planning to attend!
  • 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 schoolfunding.commission@unh.edu, 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. More information is posted by the University of New Hampshire Carsey School for Public Policy.

Our Involvement

In late 2018, the board and staff of Reaching Higher NH determined that our leading organizational policy priority will be to inform and support public engagement on the issue of school funding. We believe that re-exploring how NH funds its public schools is among the most important public policy opportunities of our time. To that end and for the foreseeable future, a lot of our policy work will be focused on providing the NH public with the timely research and resources you need to understand and make informed decisions about school funding policies in NH. This work will include in-depth original research, like our Whole Picture of Public Education project, as well community engagement initiatives, and public awareness and information efforts. 

Join our network of New Hampshire parents, educators, business leaders, and community members who are interested in school funding.

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