Supreme Court ruling: Further testimony will be allowed in ConVal funding lawsuit

  • ConVal school bus in snow Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/23/2021 1:12:45 PM

The New Hampshire Supreme Court sent ConVal’s funding lawsuit back to the Superior Court for further testimony in an opinion released on Tuesday. ConVal and other represented school districts lauded the decision as a further opportunity to make their case for receiving more state funding.

The ConVal School District initially sued the state in March 2019, arguing the state was not fulfilling their obligation to fund a constitutionally adequate education. Mascenic, Monadnock and Winchester school districts joined the case. In June 2019, Cheshire County Superior Court Judge David Ruoff ruled that transportation costs, among other costs, are to be paid by the state per the state constitution, and said it is the legislature’s job to fix the underfunding of education. The state appealed that conclusion in June 2020, which resulted in Tuesday’s decision.

The latest ruling took issue with how the court got to its 2019 conclusion, ConVal attorney Michael Tierney said on Tuesday. It concluded the case proceeded too quickly, and should have allowed the introduction of more evidence and witness testimony, he said, which is something the state argued for in its appeal after initially agreeing to a summary judgment. Tuesday’s opinion also clarified that the Superior Court itself, not the legislature, should be considering the costs and components of an adequate education, Tierney said. The state’s request to dismiss the case was rejected.

Superintendents from the ConVal, Mascenic, Monadnock, and Winchester School Districts expressed optimism on the new ruling. “The Court’s decision to remand the case to Superior Court Judge David Ruoff for review allows the District and its co-plaintiffs to present factual evidence that the State of New Hampshire is not providing adequate education funding,” they said in a joint statement. “The Legislature, though under court order to repair its funding formula, has not done so. This has shifted responsibility for education funding to the communities, whose residents have had to decide between education funding and rising property taxes. Inequities in taxation and funding now stretch across the state.”

“By remanding the case to the Superior Court, this ruling provides plaintiffs the opportunity to argue the harm in the state’s current adequate education funding formula,”  Senator Jay Kahn (D-Keene) said as one of several Democrat lawmakers in support of the ruling. 

“We’re prepared to move forward as soon and as expeditiously as possible,” Tierney said. “The state has not produced any evidence to suggest that you can have an adequate education provided at $4,000 per pupil.”


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