Key vote on N.H. Education Funding this Week

Marion Herbert's picture
Monday, June 4, 2012

From Pittsburg to Salem, every New Hampshire resident who has a child in public schools or pays property taxes has a stake in Wednesday's House and Senate votes on a proposed constitutional amendment that would largely overturn the landmark 1997 Claremont II court decision on school funding.

The plan leaders of the House and Senate and Gov. John Lynch want Granite Staters to approve on Nov. 6 says the Legislature, has “full power and authority” for the way state funding of education is raised and distributed.

Essentially, if passed, the amendment would allow future lawmakers to target aid to the neediest communities, presumably at the expense of the richest communities.

But some fear that without the Supreme Court to keep a check on lawmakers, such an amendment would allow them to drastically cut education aid to all cities and towns, effectively sending the state back to the pre-Claremont lawsuit days when property taxes footed more than 90 percent of the bill for education and communities with lower property values had to set their tax rates higher than “property-rich” ones to raise enough money to provide their children with basic educational opportunities.

Three-fifths majorities of the 395-member House (there are five vacancies) and 24-member Senate are needed on Wednesday to send the question to the voters. The governor's signature is not needed, but given Lynch's popularity and political influence, his support is viewed as critical to getting the necessary votes in the Legislature and support among the voters.

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