Mascenic joins adequate funding lawsuit

  • Mascenic Regional High School in New Ipswich. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/19/2019 2:52:36 PM
Modified: 4/19/2019 2:52:21 PM

Wednesday night the Mascenic Regional School District School Board voted unanimously to join the ConVal School District’s lawsuit against the State of New Hampshire for adequate education funding.

“The inequitable property tax burden that the current method of school funding places on may communities such as Greenville and New Ipswich, needs to be changed. The members of the Mascenic School Board look forward to joining with other school districts in pursuing this important matter,” the school district said in an announcement Thursday.

The lawsuit was originally filed by the ConVal School District on March 13 and argues that the state does not fund a constitutionally adequate education. The Monadnock Regional and Winchester school boards have since voted to join the lawsuit.

At the special meeting Wednesday night, the Mascenic Regional School District unanimously voted to join the lawsuit as co-plaintiffs. The Winchester School District is also a co-plaintiff, the role of Monadnock in the lawsuit has yet to be defined.

Mascenic Superintendent of School Dr. Stephen Russell said in the announcement that “there is no responsibility more important than ensuring that all of our children receive an adequate education in preparing for their future.”

“We also believe that adequate levels of school funding should not be determined through an arbitrary process of “pick and choose” dependent upon the subjective judgment of others. Adequate levels of school funding should be based upon that data compiled annually, by the Department of Education on the actual costs districts incur in providing services to our students,” he said in the announcement.

Following the announcement, the ConVal School District said in a press release that it “welcomes Mascenics’ participation and thanks the Mascenic Board for taking this important step to ensure that every child in New Hampshire has access to a constitutionally adequate education.”

“That another district has joined this movement is further indication of the importance of this issue,” ConVal said in the press release. “This shows the increasingly difficult positions of NH school districts as they seek to provide equitable education. We look forward to working with the Mascenic School District in this important action to hold the State accountable for its constitutional obligation.”

The state currently provides $3,606.36 in base adequacy per student, while state data shows the average cost of education in the 2017-18 school year was $18,991.

The lawsuit came before Cheshire County Superior Court judge David Ruoff in March in an initial hearing during which the ConVal and Winchester school districts argued that the state should provide $10,843.60 per student. If the state applies its own data to its own formula, the school district argued, it would arrive at the $10,843.60 figure for base adequacy aid.

In the March hearing, ConVal and Winchester asked for immediate relief based on that figure. ConVal requested around $17 million in immediate relief for the 2018-19 school year and Winchester, as a co-petitioner in the case, requested about $4.5 million in immediate relief.

The lawsuit also seeks a long-term solution to the shortfall in the state’s adequacy aid formula.

Although Ruoff denied the immediate relief, he said, in his decision that the current aid amount from the would not be adequate for any school district in the state.

“The base adequacy aid amount of $3,636 is a far cry from the actual (approximate) amount of $18,000 per pupil,” Ruoff wrote. “It does not appear, based on DOE data, that there is a single school district in the State that could function if it only spent $3,636 on each student.”

The state, however, argued in March that the state does provide for the cost of an adequate education under state law and that many school districts are just going above and beyond that figure to provide a better than adequate education. Additionally, the state’s Solicitor General Daniel Will argued, during the March 29 court hearing, that ancillary costs like transportation are not required to be funded by the state.


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