No quick end to N.H. school funding lawsuit 

Monitor staff
Published: 4/9/2019 4:20:46 PM

School will be out for the summer before a judge decides on a lawsuit challenging the way New Hampshire helps pay for public education.

Cheshire County Superior Court Judge David Ruoff has denied a request to make an emergency finding in favor of the two school districts that brought the suit. In his order, Ruoff asked for more information from the districts and the state and indicated that they can still seek the money before the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

The ConVal and Winchester school districts said the amount given by the state per pupil – $3,636 – falls short of the constitutional requirement of providing an “adequate education” because  it doesn’t cover such things as teacher salaries, facilities, or transportation.

The two districts asked Ruoff to order an immediate payment of $21 million to be part of the final adequacy aid disbursement of the fiscal year. That figure is some $18 million above the payment they were slated to receive, according to the lawsuit. In denying the request, Ruoff described it as “significant alteration of the status quo.”

The state argued that the emergency payment “would upend the present budgetary process, severely disrupt the operations of state government, and result necessarily in this Court usurping the powers of the legislative and executive branches of state government.”

The lawsuit, filed in March, names the state, the Department of Education, Gov. Chris Sununu and Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

The lawsuit brings to a boil the long-simmering debate over state funding of public education at the local level. Since it was filed, superintendents from 11 school districts in the North County filed an unusual joint announcement echoing the concerns, although they didn’t join in the lawsuit, and several Concord area education leaders have said they are following the issue closely.

The requirement that New Hampshire must provide a “constitutionally adequate education” came out of another lawsuit from school districts. That one was filed by the Claremont School District and other communities and after years of legislative and legal debate produced a 1997 ruling by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

(Material by the Associated Press was used in this report.)

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