December 2, 2020

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education gives you strength

State Supreme Court hears lawsuit over school funding

3 min read
New Hampshire’s highest court is hearing arguments Thursday over how the state funds schools after...

New Hampshire’s highest court is hearing arguments Thursday over how the state funds schools after a lawsuit by several districts.>> Download the free WMUR appThe school districts that are suing New Hampshire say the state is not providing enough money to pay for an adequate education.Lawyers for the school districts said the $3,700 per student that the state provides is only about one-third of what is necessary to meet the constitutional mandate to provide an adequate education. “We’re not asking that the state necessarily apply what our actual costs are,” said attorney Michael Tierney. “We are asking that the state apply a costing formula that is rational and based on real facts.”A trial court ruled in favor of the school districts, but New Hampshire Solicitor General Dan Will said the issue was never properly vetted.”How do we know that you can’t provide an adequate education based on this?” he said. “You’ve got to prove that.”The lawyer for the plaintiffs said that issue was proven, citing affidavits submitted by school superintendents.”It was undisputed that these school districts cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education with the funding being provided by the state,” Tierney said.Some state Supreme Court justices wanted to know why the difference between actual costs and what the state provides isn’t evidence on the face of it that the state is failing to meet its burden. But Will said those costs include more than what is constitutionally mandated and shouldn’t be taken at face value.”That’s sort of like trying to define the cost of an engine by looking at the sticker price of a car,” he said.The justices have a number of options before them, including sending the case back to Superior Court for further review. It typically takes several months for the state Supreme Court to issue a ruling.

New Hampshire’s highest court is hearing arguments Thursday over how the state funds schools after a lawsuit by several districts.

>> Download the free WMUR app

The school districts that are suing New Hampshire say the state is not providing enough money to pay for an adequate education.

Lawyers for the school districts said the $3,700 per student that the state provides is only about one-third of what is necessary to meet the constitutional mandate to provide an adequate education.

“We’re not asking that the state necessarily apply what our actual costs are,” said attorney Michael Tierney. “We are asking that the state apply a costing formula that is rational and based on real facts.”

A trial court ruled in favor of the school districts, but New Hampshire Solicitor General Dan Will said the issue was never properly vetted.

“How do we know that you can’t provide an adequate education based on this?” he said. “You’ve got to prove that.”

The lawyer for the plaintiffs said that issue was proven, citing affidavits submitted by school superintendents.

“It was undisputed that these school districts cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education with the funding being provided by the state,” Tierney said.

Some state Supreme Court justices wanted to know why the difference between actual costs and what the state provides isn’t evidence on the face of it that the state is failing to meet its burden. But Will said those costs include more than what is constitutionally mandated and shouldn’t be taken at face value.

“That’s sort of like trying to define the cost of an engine by looking at the sticker price of a car,” he said.

The justices have a number of options before them, including sending the case back to Superior Court for further review. It typically takes several months for the state Supreme Court to issue a ruling.

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