School Funding Commission meets to divvy up work; subcommittees to convene later this week

Credit: University of Tübingen

The Commission to Study School Funding met on Monday, May 4, to review their progress to date, review the bidding progress of the external research organization, and map out the tasks of their three working groups going forward. The adequacy, community engagement, and fiscal policy working groups will begin their formal meetings on Thursday, May 7, via teleconference. 

The working groups are public meetings and call-in information can be found on the NH Carsey School for Public Policy’s website. Sign up for Reaching Higher NH’s School Funding Newsletter to receive up-to-date information on all things school funding in New Hampshire!

Working Groups

Commission members have split into three working groups, and have set out tentative tasks for each:

Adequacy Working Group: Tasked with defining and determining the cost of an adequate education, identifying disparities in student opportunities and outcomes, suggesting frameworks for a “distribution of effort” that remedies disparities, and establishing means for ongoing review and accountability. 

Tentative Research Priorities: Analyzing academic outcomes based on student and community demographics and socioeconomic variables, school-based variables like teacher experience and curriculum, and other measures; the parts of education that are included in the adequacy formula; fiscal capacity of districts; and more. 

The next meeting of the Adequacy Working Group will be Thursday, May 7, at 10 a.m.

Public Engagement Working Group: Tasked with planning engagement initiatives and collecting and analyzing input from stakeholders, students, and the public. 

Tentative Public Engagement Initiatives:  Stakeholder focus groups (8-10 people each, in 9 regions); statewide survey through UNH Survey Center; student outreach through online modules and discussion guides; and, statewide community conversations. 

The next meeting of the Public Engagement Working Group will be Thursday, May 7, at 1 p.m.

Fiscal Policy Working Group: Tasked with collecting and interpreting fiscal data, including tax policy, the state budget, and more. 

Tentative Research Priorities: Gathering information on revenue sources for K-12 education; determining the definition of “equitable” in the context of fiscal policy; court interpretations of the cost of an adequate education; modeling fiscal policy options; reviewing other states’ methods of raising revenues for education; and, proposing alternative sources of revenue for education.

The next meeting of the Fiscal Policy Working Group will be Thursday, May 7, at 3 p.m.

Research Vendor 

Part of the Commission’s $500,000 budget includes funding for an external research organization to assist members with collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data related to educational disparities in opportunity and outcomes; gathering information on New Hampshire fiscal policy and currently unfunded mandates; and, modeling of potential policy recommendations related to the way New Hampshire funds its public schools. 

A Request for Proposals (RFP) was released on March 19, and closed on April 24. The Executive Committee, consisting of Chairman and State Representative Dave Luneau (D-Hopkinton), Representative Mel Myler (D-Contocook), Representative Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill), and Senator Jay Kahn (D-Keene), is scheduled to meet this week to conduct interviews and score the proposals before the May 11th meeting of the full Commission. 

The Executive Committee fielded questions from commission members about the progress of the RFP process. Information about the applications received, scoring rubric, and bidders call are unavailable to the public at this time. 

Progress to Date

Before the General Court had closed in early March due to the state’s stay-at-home order, the group had kicked off their research with presentations from the NH Department of Education, the state’s Office of the Attorney General, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the New Hampshire School Funding Fairness Project, and the Education Commission of the States

Presentations on behavioral health, early childhood education, Career and Technical Education, and other topics were scheduled for late March. Those meetings have been shifted out to mid- to late-May, and the working groups are set to take up some of that work. 

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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