CITIZEN VOICES® Keep state funding level for schools with falling enrollment?
Jan 11, 2019
Rep. Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) is sponsoring a 2019 bill that would stop the phase-out of extra funding for school districts with falling enrollment.
The current NH school funding system
Under the current New Hampshire school funding system, the state gives local schools a certain amount of money per-pupil. School districts get more money for some students, such as English language learners and students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Generally speaking, when a school’s enrollment falls, that school gets less per-pupil funding from the state.
However, a few years ago New Hampshire started giving “stabilization grants” to school districts with falling enrollment. Those grants save schools from any sharp drop in state funding. However, the grants do decrease by 4% each year.
Freezing stabilization grants before they drop?
HB 177, a 2019 bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Ladd, stops the 4% annual decrease in stabilization grants. Going forward school districts would get however much their stabilization grant was in fiscal year 2018, every year.
Supporters note that many of the towns with falling student populations are low income and property poor, and already struggling to locally fund education. By cutting stabilization grants, the state is failing its duty to provide an adequate education for students in those towns.
If grants continue to drop, towns such as Berlin and Claremont expect a decrease over $200,000 a year in state funding – the equivalent of a few teachers each year.
Phasing out stabilization grants as planned?
Opponents of HB 177 argue that stabilization grants were never intended to be a long-term education funding solution. If the current per-pupil formula does not provide an adequate education for low income students, the state should come up with a new system, not prop it up with outdated grants.
A 2018 committee tasked with studying education funding recommended ending the grants. According to their report, “Municipalities and school districts have come to believe they are entitled to receive money for non-existing students. … Education dollars should go to support current students.”
Other opponents argue that New Hampshire should pass a constitutional amendment that would allow schools to be funded entirely at the local level.
Do you think New Hampshire should guarantee level grants for school districts with falling enrollment, so that those schools will not lose state funding? Let us know in the comments below.