MANCHESTER — A letter sent by Gov. Chris Sununu to Manchester officials in response to a request for additional funds for local schools has drawn sharp criticism from Queen City senators.
Back on Sept. 1, the Manchester school board sent a letter to Gov. Sununu and state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut asking both to work with the state’s federal delegation “to provide adequate education funding to the families and students of the Manchester School District.”
“These needs cannot be realistically met by local property taxpayers alone,” the letter states. “Manchester schools need funding to address the deficiencies in education that existed prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been highlighted and exacerbated by it. Despite the best efforts of our administration and educators we acknowledge that there will be a long-term effect on our students from the current crisis. These negative effects will be educational, social, emotional, health and welfare related. We cannot allow a generation of children to be damaged emotionally and educationally.”
Sununu’s response, released to the press last week and dated Sept. 17, details the state’s efforts to attempts to help Queen City schools with $39,806,080 in new education funding over the last four years, including $6.6 million in educational CARES Grant funding — an amount representing roughly 20% of the total educational CARES Grant funding in the state.
In his letter, Sununu also points out $32,070,060 provided in general municipal aid to Manchester, $17,136,932 for substance and mental health support programs — including almost $2 million for a new vendor to run the Manchester Doorway and $648,868 for first responders through the CARES Act, to go along with $9,516,871 in housing funds.
Sununu goes on to call out the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen and their recent vote to have $3.5 million in infrastructure grant funding intended to be used to address impacts to Manchester’s schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic be put toward tax relief instead.
“There are more state and federal resources going into Manchester than at any other time in history,” writes Sununu. “In short, it is undeniable that over the past four years the State of New Hampshire has provided the city with unprecedented additional resources for schools and city services.”
Late last week, state senators Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), Kevin Cavanaugh (D-Manchester), and state Senate President Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) issued statements in response to Sununu’s letter.
“As the largest school district in the state, Manchester is facing extreme funding challenges in order to meet the safety requirements necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sen. D’Allesandro. “In recent testimony provided to the GOFERR Legislative Advisory Board we heard how the School Superintendents Association and the Association of School Business Officials International estimated how an average district of 3,600 students would require an additional $1.8 million dollars to cover the costs of health monitoring, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, hiring additional staff, providing adequate PPE, and transportation. Manchester is four times that average. I fully support Manchester’s requests for additional education funding and am disappointed to hear the governor publicly criticize their efforts to support our students.”
“When the city was unable to apply the additional $3.5 million to our school budget, it created a funding gap that has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sen. Cavanaugh. “The city of Manchester will continue our efforts to do right by our students, both for their safety and their education. If the governor has questions about why the $3.5 million in State Adequate Education Aid wasn’t applied to our school budget, I would suggest he reach out to the members of his own party who sit on the Board of Aldermen.”
“After hearing public testimony as a member of the GOFERR Legislative Advisory Board, Manchester’s requests are keeping in line with what the city needs to meet the requirements to support our students’ safety and education,” said state Senate President Soucy.