State requests that documents in ConVal lawsuit be stricken

  • ConVal High School in Peterborough, N.H. (Monadnock Ledger-Transcript photograph) Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/30/2019 9:35:49 AM

A Cheshire Superior Court judge has denied a request by the state to strike three documents from the record in ConVal’s adequate education funding lawsuit.

Deputy Attorney General Jane E. Young argued in an emergency motion filed Wednesday that recently filed court documents that add the Mascenic and Monadnock Regional School Districts to the lawsuit include “new, substantive allegations” that are “incompatible” with the current expedited schedule that aims to resolve the case by the end of the school year. 

Young asked that the court strike the districts’ second amended petition for declaratory judgment, injunctive relief and damages, an objection to the state defendants’ motion to dismiss, and a motion for summary judgment.

The motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment were requested to be dismissed as they were based on the second amended petition, which the state says brought forth new information that “fundamentally change[s] the nature of this proceeding.”

Attorneys representing the school districts in the lawsuit said in court documents on Friday that the motion to strike should be denied as the state’s argument misconstrues “the content and effect of the Second Amended Petition, elevate[s] form over substance, and constitute[s] an attempt to delay this case from proceeding before the turn of the fiscal  year to deprive Petitioners relief.”

“The Second Amended Petition does not change the legal theories upon which Petitioners have been proceeding from the outset: the State defendants fail to fully fund a constitutionally adequate education, requiring some local communities to raise property taxes disproportionately, resulting in an unconstitutional tax,” the document reads. 

Presiding Justice David W. Ruoff said in his order issued Monday that the documents will not be stricken as the addition of two school districts does not pose any prejudice to the state because the issue central to the lawsuit is whether the state is “fulfilling its constitutional obligation to fully fund an adequate education.”

“As there are no new issues, the State’s attempt to strike the Petitioners’ Motion for Summary Judgment suggests that the State does not actually take issue with the amendment but rather intends to delay this litigation and disrupt the Court’s ordered timeline,” Ruoff wrote. 

Ruoff also denied the state’s request for a case management conference to establish a new litigation schedule as the districts’ legal theory remains unchanged throughout the additional documents. 

A hearing on the merits of the case is currently scheduled for the week of June 3. 

The ConVal School District filed the lawsuit on March 13, alleging that the state falls short of funding a constitutionally adequate education. 

The Winchester School District has also joined the lawsuit as a co-petitioner.

The state provides $3,606.26 in base adequacy per student but the average cost of providing education – including transportation and tuition – to a student in 2017-18 was $18,991. 

Court documents filed by ConVal argue that the state should provide $10,843.60 per student. 

The lawsuit seeks immediate relief for the 2018-19 school year and a permanent solution to the adequacy shortfall. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. 


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