What to know about the House Finance Committee’s proposal for the state budget

On Wednesday, March 29, the NH House Finance Committee finalized their recommendations for the 2024-2025 state budget. The proposal has significant implications for public schools in New Hampshire, and the full House chamber is expected to vote on the budget bills (House Bill 1 and House Bill 2) on Thursday, April 6.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • According to our analysisGovernor Sununu’s proposed school funding formula would eliminate an estimated $1.3 billion in need-based funding for public schools over 10 years. By increasing per-student adequacy amounts and eliminating stabilization grants and relief aid, the formula would cause high-need school districts like Berlin and Claremont to lose funding over time, assuming no changes in enrollment. 
  • The Division II Finance subcommittee favors adding an additional $40 million in the biennium in targeted aid. In response to the Governor’s recommendation to all but eliminate need-based funding for schools, the Division II subcommittee has tinkered with the proposed formula. Representatives Mary Heath and Kate Murray have spent the past two weeks urging their fellow committee members to increase, or at least restore, targeted funding for high-need schools; other members agreed last week, but they opened their meeting on Monday lauding the Governor’s proposal. To date, the subcommittee is agreeing to increase the amount for the extraordinary need grants — as well as increasing the threshold for the grants, resulting in an additional $40 million in the 2024-2025 biennium for high-need schools. Our team is working on an analysis of their final recommendations. 
  • The “Weyler Amendment” would reduce the state’s contribution to the Education Trust Fund for public and charter schools and shift special education, building aid, & CTE programs to the General Fund. Division II is recommending an amendment sponsored by Finance Chair Ken Weyler to further reduce the state contribution to the Education Trust Fund, resulting in an estimated $450 million loss in ETF contributions from business taxes over the 2024-2025 biennium. The Weyler Amendment would also shift special education, school building aid, and CTE funding out of the ETF and into the General Fund. The ETF has had record surpluses over the past few years, but lawmakers have rejected attempts at increasing funding for public schools. Now, Chairman Weyler says that the surplus should be moved to the General Fund to pay for other programs. 
  • Division II is recommending an increase in eligibility for the school voucher program. The Division II subcommittee has voted, along party lines, to recommend adding the text of HB 367, which would increase the income threshold from 300% to 350% of the Federal Poverty Guideline (effectively increasing the threshold from $90k for a family of four to $105k), and HB 464, which would eliminate the income threshold for certain subgroups of students (including those experiencing homelessness, those with a disability, those with a manifest education hardship, and those who qualify for school meals). 
  • Other changes: The Division II subcommittee is recommending that HB 2 include the state’s participation in the Medicaid Direct Certification program (which would streamline enrollment to school meal programs), increasing funding for the Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Program, and removing the Governor’s $75 million allocation for a new School Building Aid Fund (separate from the school building aid program). 

Join us for a briefing via Zoom on the House Finance Committee’s proposed budget on Monday, April 3 at 12 noon. Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_H4_rQEqCS0K7UBVFKOGtkQ

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