PETERBOROUGH — Four more school districts — Hopkinton, Lebanon, Manchester, and Nashua — will join the ConVal School District’s lawsuit seeking equitable education funding from the state.
“The Lebanon School Board felt it was important to join with other school districts in the effort to require the State of New Hampshire to adequately fund public education,” Lebanon School Board Chair Richard Millus said. “The current financial model puts an unfair financial burden on local taxpayers and leads to inequities between districts.”
“The Hopkinton School Board is proud to join the school funding lawsuit,” said Jim O’Brien, Hopkinton School Board Chair. “Hopkinton taxpayers continue to pay a high price for the state’s reluctance to uphold its responsibility to provide adequate funding to support education. The current funding scheme not only harms taxpayers, but also students and families while perpetuating inequities in education.”
The ConVal District filed suit against the State of New Hampshire and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut in 2019. The suit maintains that the state does not meet its constitutional obligation to provide adequate funding for all students. Plaintiffs argue that base adequacy is not sufficient to fund an adequate education and falls far short of funding services, positions, and items that the State requires school districts to provide. In 2019 districts received $3,636 per student in base adequacy.
The Supreme Court of New Hampshire in March rejected the state’s requests to dismiss the lawsuit and returned it to Superior Court Judge David Ruoff. Ruoff will hold hearings that will allow ConVal and its co-plaintiffs to present factual evidence that the state underfunds education. An evidentiary hearing is unlikely to be held until summer 2022.
Judge Ruoff has given New Hampshire school districts until Friday, May 21, to decide whether to join the lawsuit.
Manchester, with more than 12,000 students, and Nashua, with more than 10,000 students, are the two largest school districts in the state.
The number of co-plaintiff districts now has grown to 16. Other co-plaintiffs are Claremont, Derry Co-Operative, Fall Mountain, Grantham, Hillsboro-Deering, Mascenic, Mascoma Valley, Monadnock, Newport, Oyster River, and Winchester. ConVal and the co-plaintiffs are educating almost one-quarter of New Hampshire’s public school students this year.
“The growing momentum toward requiring the state to provide equitable funding sends a message to the State,” ConVal Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders said. “School districts, from the largest to the smallest, recognize the inequities. It’s time for the state to do the same.”