Letter: School funding and the constitution
|Published: 12-03-2023 6:00 AM
On November 20 the Superior Court again ruled that New Hampshire does not provide sufficient funds to school districts to ensure that all students have the opportunity for an adequate education as required by the state’s constitution. It also ruled that the administration of the Statewide Education Property Tax (SWEPT) does not meet the constitutional requirement that all taxes for a state purpose be equal in rate throughout the state. Gov. Sununu’s response to this was to state, “New Hampshire currently spends among the most per capita on public education than nearly any other state.” The governor is correct. But that is not the issue. The plaintiffs in both court cases could concede that.
The governor did not address the fact that the state itself funds its schools at a lower rate than any other state. In doing so, it pushes the burden onto real estate owners to fund 70% of the total, resulting in highly unequal property tax rates among the towns. The question that Gov. Sununu and all candidates for governor should be asked is: “How will you ensure that students in every zip code in New Hampshire receive an adequate education that is funded only by taxes with equal rates throughout the state?” Gov. Sununu supportively mentioned a “decades-long precedent” of avoiding similar prior court decisions. No “decades-long precedent” can trump the state’s constitution. The constitution places constraints on what elected representatives can and cannot do. To suggest that they can ignore those constraints is very scary.