On Monday, March 18, the New Hampshire House Finance Committee conducted a hearing on the governor’s proposed budget for the next biennium. The hearing was held in Representatives Hall in our State Capitol, and many individuals provided testimony to encourage the Finance Committee to support a variety of initiatives.
Unfortunately, the governor’s proposed budget does not support three initiatives that would be helpful to Pittsfield students and taxpayers and have been proposed in one or both houses of the legislature:
- Stabilization Grants: Pittsfield has been losing $87,000 per year in stabilization grants, which were originally intended to support property poor school districts deal with the inadequacy of the state’s “adequacy grants” to support public schools. The reduction of an additional $87,000 per year for twenty-five years would eventually reduce state education funding to Pittsfield by more than $2,000,000, while not reducing funds to non-property poor towns. Proposed bills would end this program and restore the level of funding 2016 levels when the reductions began.
- Adequacy Grants: The state provides a base rate of about $3600 per student in what the legislature has considered “adequate” to educate a student in New Hampshire. However, according to the state itself, the average cost of education is nearly $16,000 per student (in 2017-18, the latest data available). Use of the term “adequacy” is grossly inaccurate. Proposed bills would raise the rate paid to districts, though no bill has proposed true adequate funding. This is a short-term fix that would help both students and taxpayers in property-poor towns like Pittsfield.
- Equitable Funding System: The state’s funding system does not meet with the state’s obligations set forth in the New Hampshire Constitution and affirmed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Proposed bills would create a commission to overhaul the funding system. The commission would be composed of legislators who would also enjoy the benefit of experts in the field of public education funding.
I am very proud to share the fact that two PMHS students – Colton Gaudette and Colby Wolfe – provided testimony to the Finance Committee as an outcome of a senior English class assignment on argumentative writing organized by PMHS English teacher Amybeth Engler.
Colton completed his very genuine and powerful statement by observing that All students, regardless of the community in which they live, deserve access to an excellent, equitable education. Because while children make up 20% of New Hampshire, they make up 100% of our future.
Colby spoke strongly from his experience as student representative to the School Board, observing that as a student rep on the School Board, I’ve witnessed monetary inadequacy first hand, and concluded by sharing his fears, I love my town and school, and I know I’m not the only one. I am truly afraid that if this annual cutting keeps going, there won’t be a Pittsfield School District.
For further information on the school funding issue and how it impacts Pittsfield, click on Education Funding in New Hampshire on the district website for links to several resources. Also, NHPR is currently presenting a five-part series on school funding (a story focusing specifically on Pittsfield is scheduled for airing on March 28); links to past stories and the schedule of future stories can be accessed at https://www.nhpr.org/.