This year the House Education committee held back a bill that would amend New Hampshire’s constitution to give the Legislature complete power over school funding.
That bill, CACR 7, will come up for debate next year. If it passes the Legislature with enough votes, the public will get to vote on the amendment in November 2018.
CACR 7 gives the Legislature “full discretion to determine the amount of, and methods of raising and distributing, State funding for education.”
Right now courts rule on school funding
New Hampshire’s school funding is guided by a series of state Supreme Court rulings that require the state to fund an adequate education for all students.
The Legislature came up with a funding formula that gives school districts a set amount of money per student. Districts get more money for low income students, special education students, English language learners, and third graders who are struggling to read.
The Supreme Court rulings give the Legislature little wiggle room to cap funding for rich districts or target funding to poorer districts.
Visit our issue page to learn more about the Supreme Court rulings governing school funding in New Hampshire.
Should the Legislature have more power?
If New Hampshire amends the constitution, the Legislature would be able to distribute statewide property tax dollars to school districts however it chooses.
Some supporters argue this might help poorer school districts in the state. Those districts already have higher local property taxes and still aren’t able to provide as much funding per student as rich districts. A recent study from the NH Center for Public Policy Studies found that spending per student in each town is just as unequal now as it was when the Supreme Court ruled on education funding in the 1990s.
Others argue that it would be right for the Legislature to have power over school funding, since the Legislature is elected and therefore more responsive to voters. Supreme Court justices are appointed, and therefore are not accountable to voters.
Downsides of giving the Legislature a blank check
Opponents of a constitutional amendment argue that if the Legislature is given free reign over school funding, there’s a good chance they will set a funding formula that is unfair for some school districts.
Given budget constraints, it is also likely that the Legislature might at some point cut back state funding for schools, placing a larger burden on local taxpayers to fund education.
Past attempts to amend the constitution failed
This is not the first time the Legislature has considered a constitutional amendment to override the Supreme Court rulings and give the Legislature more flexibility to change the school funding formula.
In 2015 the Senate killed CACR 3 and in 2012 the House failed to pass CACR 12, both bills similar to CACR 7.
Do you support a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature complete power over school funding? Share your opinion in the comments below.