Windham to Take Wait-and-See Attitude on Lawsuit against State

September 4, 2015

 

The Windham School Board has voted to express its support for the City of Dover’s lawsuit against the State over school funding.  The statute at issue in Dover’s lawsuit places an unconstitutional cap on educational adequacy aid that deprives growing communities like Windham of their full payment for educational adequacy.  The cap is arbitrary and unconstitutional.  Its effect is to downshift cost from the State to local taxpayers.  We urge the Governor and the State to quickly resolve the suit by agreeing that the cap is unconstitutional and removing it beginning with the adequacy payment due to schools on September 1, 2015.  The removal of the educational adequacy cap would result in all districts in the state to be fully funded in Fiscal Year 2015.  The full payment of adequacy aid to all districts in accordance with the formula for determining education aid should be applied to all schools in New Hampshire equally.

Windham School Board:  Ken Eyring, Tom Murray, Dennis Senibaldi, Rob Breton, Daniel Popovici-Muller

 

by Barbara O’Brien

As the City of Dover moves forward with a lawsuit against the State of New Hampshire, regarding appropriate funding for adequate aid to public education, other communities affected by the loss of money are being urged to take a wait-and-see attitude.

Windham School Board members held a special meeting on Aug. 26, the day after representatives from Dover held an invitation-only meeting at the New Hampshire Municipal Association in Concord to discuss the issue.  According to Windham School District Attorney Gordon Graham, approximately 30 people attended the session.  Representing Windham, in addition to Graham, were school board members Tom Murray (vice chairman) and Ken Eyring (chairman), Ross McLeod (selectman), David Bates (state representative) and Tina McCoy (interim superintendent).

During the past five years that a cap has been in place on adequacy aid to education, 78 school districts statewide have been affected by a loss of funding.  Currently, there are still 44 school districts losing money on an annual basis, including Windham.  The lawsuit against the State of New Hampshire claims that the cap on funding is “unconstitutional.”  Adequacy aid is based on a per student payment.  “It’s a straight forward formula,” Attorney Graham said.  “Therefore, there can’t be a cap.  It’s not complicated.”

According to information discussed during the meeting in Concord, if the decision is in Dover’s favor and the cap on funding is unconstitutional, that decision will also apply to every other school district in New Hampshire.  Therefore, Dover city officials are saying that there is no reason for other towns to file suit at this time.  “If it’s true of Dover, it’s also true of all other communities,” Graham emphasized.

There are two aspects to the legal action being taken by Dover.  The first is to have the cap on adequacy aid removed moving forward, beginning Sept. 1.  The second would be an attempt to get retroactive funding lost through the cap back to 2009.  Graham said he expects a decision on the removal of the cap moving forward to be made this coming October or November.  The second section, however, he said, is “more complex” and could take considerably longer for a decision to be reached.  “It’s a much different animal,” Graham said.  “It could drag on much longer.  We need to keep an eye on it.”

In the meantime, Dover is encouraging any citizen who is concerned about this issue to express those feelings to a member of the New Hampshire Legislature or to Governor Maggie Hassen.  Dover also requested a letter of support from the Windham School Board; a request that was approved unanimously (5 to 0).

Eyring and McCoy were assigned the job of staying in contact with those involved in Dover’s lawsuit and also monitoring any progress being made on the possibility of retroactive relief.  “It was a very helpful meeting about how people can potentially come together” to solve this dilemma, McCoy said.  “I hope it will be successful.”  “I’m glad we’re staying on top of the issue.  We owe it to the taxpayers of Windham to pursue all options,” she said.  During the past five years, the Windham School District has received $11.7 million less than was originally called for through the formula for adequate aid to education.

“It was a good meeting, well attended with lots of good questions,” Graham said.  “Representative Bates was very informative.”  Bates has been instrumental in putting forth legislation that would remove the cap placed on adequacy aid.

Chairman Eyring expressed his gratitude to Bates.  “This was not an easy effort to get so many people in synch,” he said.