School Funding Commission to publish final report

The Commission to Study School Funding Photo: Carsey School of Public Policy

On Tuesday, December 1, the Commission to Study School Funding will release its final report summarizing nearly a year of research and outlining recommendations for a more equitable approach to funding New Hampshire’s public schools. Created during the 2019 Legislative session, the 17-member Commission (16 regular members and one alternate) includes both elected officials and members of the public. They have been meeting weekly to research the current school funding model, explore alternative funding models, conduct focus groups with key stakeholders, and create policy recommendations for the upcoming Legislative session.

The University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy has assisted the Commission with research, public engagement, communication, and logistics. The independent research group American Institutes for Research (AIR), conducted an analysis of the state’s school funding system and developed a cost model that provides the foundation for the Commission’s recommendations. 

School funding has been a debate throughout New Hampshire for decades. School districts in New Hampshire spend about $17,000 per student, which is among the highest in the nation, but the state provides districts with about $3,700 per student. Towns and cities must make up the difference through local property taxes. 

“It’s a very low amount that we are spending per pupil… [W]e are second to last in terms of state funding to school districts. But, we are actually in the top 10 spending per pupil,” Caitlin Davis, a Program Director at the NH Department of Education, explained last spring.

The state’s highest court has required that the state fully fund an “adequate education,” in three Supreme Court cases known as the “Claremont lawsuits.” In 2018, a group of school districts led by the ConVal School District sued the state again over the way it funds schools, arguing that the amount the state provides to districts does not cover the cost of providing an adequate education. That lawsuit reached the state Supreme Court in September.

In 2019, lawmakers boosted state funding for education by $138 million over two years by fully restoring stabilization grants and reinstituting the Fiscal Capacity Disparity Aid (FCDA) program, which gives property-poor towns additional state funding. But the FCDA program expires at the end of 2021, putting more pressure on lawmakers to find a solution. 

All this week, Reaching Higher NH will be publishing materials that highlight, illustrate, and analyze the Commission’s work, including a brief of the key findings and recommendations, a video that explores school funding from a student perspective, a podcast with the Commission’s key leaders, and more. 

Read all our coverage of the School Funding Commission’s final report:

Read more about school funding in New Hampshire:

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 you all, 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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As part of the network, you’ll receive regular updates on Reaching Higher NH research, legislative advancements in school funding, the work of the Commission, and exclusive information on our community engagement initiatives.