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Volinsky, local school districts to host funding forum

  • Andru Volinsky



Monitor staff
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Concord, Allenstown and Pembroke school districts are hosting an executive councilor and a lawyer to talk about school funding in the state.

The N.H. School Funding 101 Forum will take place next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Concord High School’s Christa McAuliffe Auditorium. It will feature District 2 Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky and lawyer John Tobin, both of whom were part of the legal team involved in the original Claremont school funding lawsuit. The pair have held several similar forums across the state.

The event will explore the “complex history and structure” of school funding, as well as ideas on how the school system can be more effectively funded.

Concord Superintendent Terri Forsten said the alliance came about by proximity; she asked the city’s school board whether they would be interested in holding an event and then reached out to a few other superintendents, including Pembroke’s. Forsten pointed out that Deerfield, which is part of SAU 53 along with Pembroke, Epsom and Chichester, sends its high schoolers to Concord.

“I think our board is always interested in topics related to schools and education,” she said. “Like every school district, it’s something we talk about throughout the year; what our budget looks like, what tools we have for funding.”

While some property-poor districts have struggled to pay for their schools and wrestled with the state’s funding mechanisms – like Franklin severely cutting its teaching staff over three years or Pittsfield debating whether closing its high school would save the town any money – the discussion around adequacy affects Concord, too.

Forsten said she recently sent full-day kindergarten enrollment numbers to the state’s Department of Education, a requirement to get the additional $1,100 per pupil the state promised would be generated through keno sales. Expanding to a full-day program was discussed for years and was implemented for the first time this year – one of the biggest hurdles was always cost.

“If there’s anyway we can support the conversation around adequacy and around supporting schools, we’re up for that conversation,” Forsten said.

The event comes as a legislative committee prepares to wrap up its study of how the state funds its schools. That panel is expected to put a report out by November.

Last year, a report from the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies found inequities in education funding and property taxes haven’t changed since the 1997 Supreme Court decision. The court ruled then 4-1 that the state had failed to meet its constitutional responsibility to provide an adequate education.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)