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26 years after Claremont, ConVal sues for adequate funding

  • ConVal High School Staff photo by Meghan Pierce



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 1:26PM

The ConVal School District has filed a complaint with the Cheshire Superior Court, arguing that the state’s funding of public education is not constitutionally adequate.

ConVal School Board Chairman Myron Steere said Wednesday afternoon that the district is searching for a permanent solution to benefit taxpayers and children within the district and throughout the state.

“We feel that taxpayers are getting overburdened… we felt it was necessary to be supportive of the taxpayers and to make sure children get an adequate education,” Steere said.

The school district also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction with the court.

The state currently provides a base adequacy aid rate of $3,636.06 per student to districts throughout the state, a large shortfall from the $15,865.26 average cost to educate a student in the state in the 2017-18 school year.

“It’s about closing the gap,” Steere said. “… that entire burden and difference goes to the taxpayers.”

Discussions regarding the court filing began last year, according to ConVal Superintendent Kimberly Saunders. The board had been questioning the cost of an adequate education for years.

“I think for ConVal, [the school board] is looking for a permanent solution to a 26-year problem,” Saunders said, referring to the Claremont decision – in which the state’s Supreme Court determined that it’s the state’s obligation to ensure that children in the state have a constitutionally adequate education.

In a press release Wednesday, the ConVal School District said there have been efforts in the state’s legislature since 1993 to resolve various funding shortfalls, something that still hasn’t been solved in 2019.

“I think [this complaint] is really to make sure that someone takes a really hard look at that base adequacy number,” Saunders said. “I think the hope is that there is a permanent solution, not just for ConVal but for all of the communities and districts throughout New Hampshire. We’ve seen a lot of downshifting and unfunded mandates.”

Both Saunders and Steere said the current problem facing ConVal and other school districts is that districts have to balance budgetary increases by looking at potential cuts to staffing and programming.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Frank Edelblut, the commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, said:

“The amount and source of education funds, in addition to educational attainment associated with that investment, is a vitally important conversation to have for our children’s future. I hope that through this action, the Legislature can actively engage in constructive dialog and we look forward to supporting them in that effort.”