New Hampshire school funding formula unfair to students with highest needs, according to report

According to a national study by the Education Law Center, New Hampshire’s school funding formula underfunds schools with the highest needs, putting students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and students facing trauma at risk. The study also found that New Hampshire’s schools lost $1.9 billion in funding between 2009 and 2018 due to disinvestment in our state’s public schools

The study was released as the state begins a new budget cycle, where Governor Chris Sununu has recommended changes to the school funding formula that could further exacerbate the school funding disparities in New Hampshire’s highest need schools.

A fair, equitable, and adequate school funding formula is the basic building block of a well-resourced and academically successful school system for all students, ” the report reads. “A strong funding foundation is even more critical for low-income students, students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, and students facing homelessness, trauma, and other challenges.”

This research serves as a launching point for important discussions about the future of our schools and how we can give all students a high-quality, meaningful, and rigorous education that prepares them for their future. The report provides important insights into how New Hampshire funds its public schools and reaffirms the findings of the legislative Commission to Study School Funding in 2020. 

About the Report

The Education Law Center’s Making the Grade report offers a yearly summary of the status of school financing in each state in the United States. The 2022 report paints a picture of how states invested in their public school systems during the 2019–20 school year.

This report uses three fairness measures:

  • Funding Level – cost-adjusted, per-pupil revenue from state and local sources.
  • Funding Distribution – the extent to which additional funds are distributed to school districts with high levels of student poverty.
  • Funding Effort – funding allocated to support PK-12 public education as a percentage of the state’s economic activity (GDP). 

Source: Making the Grade 2022

Funding distribution among school districts is measured in relation to the concentration of pupils from low-income families. A “progressive” distribution system, which means that states allocate more funding to schools with high concentrations of poverty, is used in 19 states. Seventeen states have “regressive” systems, which means states allocate less money to schools with high concentrations of poverty. 

Receiving an ‘F’ in Funding Distribution indicates that New Hampshire is failing to provide funds to the districts that need them most. Findings indicate that in New Hampshire, high-poverty districts receive approximately 27% less than low-poverty districts. New Hampshire ranks last for New England states, and second nationally, in how effectively it allocates state funding for public schools. 

New Hampshire’s school funding system has been a critical topic for decades

In New Hampshire, equitable distribution of school funding has been debated for decades, with many potential solutions being floated and discussed. In 2019, in an attempt to take steps towards solving this perennial debate, the New Hampshire Legislature created the Commission to Study School Funding and charged the Commission with reviewing the education funding formula and proposing potential changes. 

The Commission presented its final report in December 2020, with the intention of the recommendations being incorporated into the state’s budget that spring. A key finding was that the current funding formula does not distribute resources equitably, leaving some students and communities under-resourced. However, the proposed changes that were included in the Commission’s final report have yet to be adopted by the New Hampshire Legislature.

School Funding in the 2023 Session 

Several bills in the Senate and House would impact school funding this legislative session. In early March, lawmakers voted to attach the following bills to the 2024-2025 state budget: 

  • House Bill 529, which restores targeted funding for communities based on tax capacity & student needs.
  • House Bill 540, which increases funding for special education.
  • House Bill 272, which increases funding for public charter schools. 
  • House Bill 364, which increases funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers. 

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