Educators and local leaders across the state are speaking out against Chris Sununu’s effort to divert taxpayer money away from public schools, which could raise property taxes in communities across New Hampshire.
Read more from The Concord Monitor and Foster’s Daily Democrat:
Concord Monitor: Here’s What the State Budget Means for Education Funding
Opponents say school vouchers hurt public schools by taking away key funding they need to support their students. An ongoing lawsuit waged by the Contoocook Valley School District and 15 others argues that $4,500 per pupil is too little for an adequate education in the first place, and the amount should be closer to $10,000 for public schools to be successful.
Bow-Dunbarton superintendent Dean Cascadden said he is “very very” concerned about the impact of the school voucher program on public school districts like his own.
“I am concerned about the money going to an individual student instead of going through a public school, supervised by an elected school board,” Cascadden said. “It's a very concerning piece of legislation and having no ability to comment on it because it’s tucked into the budget bill doesn’t seem right.”
Foster’s Daily Democrat: Here's Why Tri-City Leaders Say Sununu's NH School Voucher Plans Will Hurt Public Schools
Tri-City leaders are speaking out against what they say are cuts to public education in New Hampshire's proposed two-year $13.5 billion budget. Dover, Rochester and Somersworth officials, NEA-New Hampshire (the state teachers union), Granite State Progress and the Kent Street Coalition gathered in front of Somersworth High School to send a message to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, stating they oppose the statewide school voucher program included in the budget. [...]
The activists protesting the voucher program Wednesday cited research by Reaching Higher NH stating the voucher program would cost the state $69.7 million over three years in new state spending and could disproportionately affect rural districts and districts that have lower capacity to raise revenue through taxes. Some in opposition fear it would divert critical funds away from the public schools and into the private sector.
The research found Rochester would lose $1.17 million in state aid over five years if the proposal becomes law, Dover would lose $725,000 and Somersworth would lose $438,000. Rochester and Somersworth would have to increase their tax rates by 5 cents per $1,000 of property value to compensate for the reduction in state aid while Dover would have to raise it by 2 cents per $1,000.
Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard is the longtime middle school principal in the city and will soon become assistant superintendent of the district's schools. He said the proposed budget includes a "a series of unvetted and unwise policy decisions" that will greatly impact taxpayers and education.
"Despite the collaboration that we have done in this community ... we continue to get our legs and our knees chopped off by a state that does not support public education," Hilliard said. "Do we really want to make things worse for local property taxpayers? Do we really want to continue to cripple communities like Somersworth that have worked so hard to build collaborative approaches for education, to make things difficult not only for the property taxpayers, but for our students?"
Brandy Barshaw, co-president of the Dover Paraeducators Association, said state budget cuts for public education is hurting districts that already struggle financially and find it difficult to maintain equitable education.
"A reduction in the state funding translates into less money for students in Dover," Barshaw said, noting that due to the budget woes this year in Dover, the district had to cut kindergarten paraeducators to produce a tax-compliant budget.
Somersworth City Councilor Matt Gerding said he is one of 80 local elected officials who signed a request for the state government to incorporate into the budget recent recommendations from a commission to study school funding, after seeing decreases in education funding year after year. Gerding said he personally backed the findings of the commission, which proposed equitable solutions and a proposal to alleviate the burden on local taxpayers, while maintaining educational funding for students. He said he and others were disappointed to not see those proposals included in the budget.
"The money the state is cutting should not just be seen as a line item or decimal points. It is money for our schools, our educators' jobs," Gerding said. "The commission's proposals were glaringly absent from the budget bills we see once again only proving that the state is set to kick the can for another few years further worsening the education funding crisis."
Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Hawkins said the current state budget proposal leaves a more than $25 million hole in state education aid next year with no recommendations to remedy it. ###