ConVal files counter appeal in new supreme court battle over adequate education 

  • ConVal High School.  File Photo 

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/8/2019 6:37:35 PM

The ConVal School District has filed a counter appeal in the Supreme Court of the appeal the state filed at the end of August to contest the Cheshire County Superior Court decision that sided with ConVal by declaring that the state is underfunding the constitutionally required adequate education.

“It is a cross appeal in the State’s Appeal,” ConVal attorney Michael Tierney said in an email Friday. “Once a party appeals a decision then any other party may bring a cross appeal to raise additional questions in the same case. Both the State and the Schools are appealing the Superior Court’s decisions albeit for different reasons.”

In the state’s appeal dated Aug. 28, the state questions whether its funding is “unconstitutional” when the state law is applied to the ConVal School District and the other school districts named in the original lawsuit. The state is also questioning if it is unconstitutional for it to not fund school expenses such as transportation. And the state is appealing the superior court’s decision that the state is now responsible to pay for the school districts’ attorney fees, the cost of which is about $130,000.

ConVal shot back with its counter appeal on Friday which asks 13 questions including, “In light of the fact that the State has failed to implement a constitutional education funding system in the twenty years since Claremont I was decided, did the Superior Court err in concluding that it was ‘prohibited from instructing the Legislature on what is included in a constitutionally adequate education or how funding must be calculated[?]”

Th ConVal appeal also asked if the superior court erred by not declaring state imposed costs – such as superintendent services, school nurse services and food services – part of a constitutionally adequate education. And asked about transportation costs, “Did the Superior Court err in not holding the State’s per pupil transportation funding was unconstitutional where it did not fund the actual transportation costs in large and rural school districts which are higher than the state average and higher than the transportation costs in small and urban districts?”

The original lawsuit, filed by the ConVal School District on March 13, argued that the state does not fund a constitutionally adequate education. The Mascenic, Monadnock and Winchester school districts later joined in the legal fight.

The complaint said using the state’s own formula and the state’s own data, the state’s base adequacy funding falls far short of constitutionally sufficient funding for the children of the ConVal, Mascenic, Monadnock and Winchester school districts as well as throughout New Hampshire.

ConVal and the other school districts claimed in the petition that the actual cost of an education, based on Department of Education data, is about $18,901 per student. The complaint asked the court to set the base adequacy amount at $9,929 per student for fiscal year 2020 and $10,843.60 for 2019.

The state currently sets the base adequacy aid award for all schools at $3,562.71 per student. The state’s number is based on a formula determined by a legislative committee, 11 years ago, in 2008.

Cheshire County Superior Court Judge David Ruoff released his decision in June, in which he sided with ConVal and the other school districts. The state’s current law that sets the base adequacy aid for schools is “unconstitutional” because it underfunds the ConVal School District and three other school districts that petitioned the court for relief, Judge David R. Ruoff said in a 98-page decision on June 5.

Ruoff said in his decision that transportation costs, among other costs, are to be paid by the state per the state constitution.

Ruoff stopped short of saying what the base adequacy amount should be in his decision but ruled that the state must pay the plaintiff’s attorneys fees because the school districts acted in the public good.


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