NH Education Roundup, Sept. 25

This Week in NH Education News: September 25,  2020
In this issue of Reaching Higher NH’s Education News Brief: The NH Supreme Court hears the ConVal lawsuit; the School Funding Commission seeks input from community members and takes a closer look at the AIR report; and the House Education Committee reviews 2020 legislation for the 2021 session.

Have something to share? Email us at staff@reachinghighernh.org
State Supreme Court Hears ConVal Case — No school district can provide an adequate education with the funding provided by the state, Michael Tierney, the attorney representing the ConVal School District and three other school districts who sued the state over its contribution to public education, argued before the NH Supreme Court on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Filed in March 2019, the lawsuit landed at the Supreme Court after both sides appealed a ruling by the Cheshire County Superior Court in June 2019. Twenty-six school districts and the NH School Boards Association have signed onto an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.

In defending the state’s position, Solicitor General Dan Will said the suing districts had not sufficiently distinguished adequacy costs, now set at $3,708 per student, from actual per pupil spending, which averages $16,300 per student.

There is no set timeline for the court to render a decision.

John Tobin, the attorney who filed the amicus brief, spoke with Reaching Higher this week about what’s at stake for New Hampshire schools and communities. Listen to the interview here.

Public Engagement Sessions Scheduled — The Commission to Study School Funding’s Public Engagement Workgroup is seeking input from a broad range of demographics this fall. Upcoming focus groups, which will be organized and facilitated by NH Listens, include the following:

Youth Voice (High School Students and Recent Graduates of NH Public Schools)
Public Commenting Sessions are September 23 and October 7, 4-5 pm
Focus Groups are October 13, 6-7:30 pm (register here) and October 14, 4-5:30 pm (register here)

Taxpayer Association Focus Group
October 1, 5:30-7 pm (register here)

65+ Resident Focus Groups 
October 6, 8-9:30am and 4-5:30 pm (register here)

School Funding Commission Takes Closer Look at Funding Model — At its Sept. 21 meeting, the Commission to Study School Funding completed a review of a draft report prepared by American Institutes for Research (AIR) that lays out a proposed school funding model. The model sets “adequacy” based on outcomes, using a combination of test scores, graduation rates, and attendance rates. The report provides scenarios in which transportation both is and is not included in adequacy funding, and uses weights to allocate increased funding to districts with more special education students, English Language Learners, and students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. There are also weights identified for smaller districts and those serving students in grades 6 and higher.

The report also provides revenue scenarios for the Commission to consider, including a mandatory minimum local contribution and a change in the way the statewide education tax functions. The scenarios represent a significant shift from the current model but retain the property tax as the main revenue source.

The Commission is slated to release its recommendations by December 1.

House Education Committee Recommends 2020 Legislation for 2021 – The House Education Committee recommended several bills for further legislation at its work session on Tuesday, Sept. 22. HB 1344, a bill relative to reimbursement of transportation costs for students attending a career and technical education center was recommended in a 13-0 vote, with legislators citing ongoing conversations in the Commission to Study School Funding’s meetings. 

Rep. Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) shared that he believed in this bill’s intent and policy: “Any student who requires transportation for CTE, regardless within the district or not, it’s a safety issue, it’s about getting more students participating in CTE…I think we should be moving this forward.”

As written, this bill expands the definition of a “sending district,” enabling more CTE Centers to qualify for transportation reimbursement by the state.   

School COVID Cases Force Closures — Several cases of COVID-19 have been identified in students attending public schools around the state, forcing some schools to return to remote learning. Currently, 11 schools around the state have reported cases of COVID-19 according to the COVID-19 School Dashboard. The positive cases have caused staffing problems for some districts and seem to have prompted some families to opt for remote learning in at least one district. 

DeVos Unveils Per-Pupil Spending Tool — Citing heightened interest in how well schools are meeting student needs, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced a new per-pupil spending tool last week. The website shows the breakdown of federal, state, and local funds that constitute the per-pupil expenditures for each school and district, using data that states are required to report under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The tool features an interactive map, individual state pages, and a downloadable Excel file. New Hampshire is one of 20 states for which data is currently available. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

Why Students Still Can’t Access Remote Learning: How Schools Can Help
Education Week, Mark Lieberman, Sept. 15, 2020

Closing COVID-19 Equity Gaps in Schools
Education Week, Christina Samuels, Sept. 16, 2020

What is Good Teaching? 
The Atlantic, Kristina Rizga, Sept. 16, 2020