Claremont PowerPoint Presentation Notes Slide 1
Welcome. We are posting this PowerPoint presentation on the Claremont web site to assist those who are interested in presenting up-to-date, accurate information about the lawsuit to others, particularly small groups. You may freely copy the contents of this presentation. If you make changes, you should inform your audience that you have done so and that the changes are not sanctioned by us. The Claremont Legal Team.
Education funding litigation is not peculiar to NH. Most states have experienced some form of litigation. The above graphic shows the states in which plaintiffs (generally, poor school districts) have won. These tend to be the more recent cases. The most successful litigation was in Kentucky in Rose v. Commonwealth. The Court decided the case in 1989, within six months, under the leadership of a strong governor, a remedy was in place that continues to serve the people of Kentucky. The graphic is from the NY plaintiffs.
We included this excerpt from a recent NY Times article to show that disparities continue to exist. The problems of economic segregation and related funding disparities will continue to exist unless caring people are ever vigilant. Children do not vote. The people in poor communities are often disenfranchised from the electoral process. The state legislatures often find themselves ill equipped to deal with the problems of educating poor children.
School funding litigation began in California. Originally, the litigation was based on the U.S. Constitution. In the Rodriguez case, however, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the federal constitution only provided minimal protections in this area. Legislative decisions were given great deference and a basic education was all that was required. The litigation then shifted to state constitutions that often included specific education clauses. The NH Constitution has an education clause. It is Pt. 2, Art. 83 of the NH. Const.
The NH Supreme Court has not acted precipitously in this area. The first judicial mention of funding disparities was in 1971. The Court did not issue its first Claremont decision until 32 years later. In the interim, another group of districts tried to litigate the funding issues in the early 80s. The litigation was settled in 1986 when Gov. Sununu agreed to adopt a targeted funding program called the Augenblick Foundation Aid formula. Unfortunately, this promise was never fully kept as the Augenblick Formula was never fully funded.
These are all the Claremont related decisions. The Opinions of the Justices are cases in which members of the legislature specifically asked the Court for an advisory opinion about the constitutionality of a particular proposal.
The Court, in Claremont I recognized the State’s responsibility to provide an adequate education. The Court then remanded the case for trial. Governor Merrill vetoed an effort to fully fund the Foundation id program that had been passed eight years earlier. The Claremont Coalition has never indicated whether it would have accepted the fully funded Foundation Aid program as a settlement of our case. It is clear, however, that legislative solutions are not reliable unless supported by clear court decisions.
The parties had a six week trial before the judge who had previously dismissed the school districts’ case. The judge again ruled against the school districts. It is estimated that the State spent over $500,000 on experts to bring its case to trial. One expert, Paul Snow, testified that computers were not required to teach computer education. Ovide Lamontagne, the chair of the State Board of Education, testified that students could do without books. The State’s special education director testified in favor of holding tutorials for special education students in a bathroom, in case toileting was an issue.
This is the key decision, Claremont II. Here the Court found NH’s school funding scheme unconstitutional. The Court found that taxes to fund a constitutionally adequate education are state taxes and, therefore, must be uniform throughout the state. It also found that education is a fundamental right. The Court did not decree a specific remedy. Instead, it deferred to the Legislature and Gov. Shaheen to craft a constitutional response. The Court set a 16 month deadline for action. The State, after being denied an extension, missed the deadline.
Gov. Shaheen’s only real effort to address the funding and education issues raised by the Claremont decisions was in her ABC plan. Although the plan described strong educational initiatives, the funding portion of the plan left in place the unconstitutional system condemned by the Court. Three days after the Court’s decision, the Gov. vetoed the Court’s computer budget. It was not restored until 2001. Eight different efforts to amend the constitution to reverse Claremont failed. Most received the support of Gov. Shaheen and then speaker, Donna Sytek.
The State barely avoided a great catastrophe when it belatedly adopted its temporary aid plan to comply with the Claremont II decision. Unfortunately, the plan had little to do with the decision. The plan was designed to take credit for funding that already existed and to cap state aid at $825 million. A serious effort to determine what schools actually cost was not undertaken. The $825 million was a product of political compromise.
NH developed its school funding system in 1999. It was to be a temporary program based on the limited available information. The program was made permanent, without change, in 2001.
State funding for school adequacy provides assistance with operational costs only. It does not include capital costs. The formula used by the State is based on part of the per pupil costs in the districts in the pie chart. The districts were chosen because they were low spending. This may relate to the size of the districts driving the costs down on a per pupil basis. The districts were also chosen because they fall in a group in which 40-60% of the students “passed” the state assessment tests. Not all districts in the funding model meet state minimum standards. These districts have waivers or are in the early stages of compliance.
Senator Fred King proposed a school funding plan that would fund, by its own terms, only a portion of the costs of adequacy. Sen. King also sought to better target aid. The plan was designed to cost $750,000,000. The cost was thought to be a good political compromise by the Senator. The figure does not relate to any principled assessment of school costs and could be lowered at the whim of the Legislature. The Court reviewed the plan and found it unconstitutional.
The Petitioners were willing to provide the State with time to work on a realistic funding plan, but when the temporary plan was made permanent without improvement, the Petitioners went back to Court. Ultimately, the Petitioners successfully fought off the State’s effort to close the case. In 2002, the Court issued another decision that found the State’s approach to funding education in NH unconstitutional.
The federal “No Child Left Behind Act” champions accountability similar to that required by the NH Supreme Court in its 2002 opinion. In September, the Kansas based research and publishing firm of Morgan Quinto Press ranked the quality of state elementary and secondary schools. Connecticut’s schools ranked first, NH came in at 19th. Over 21 factors were considered including per pupil expenditures, graduation rates, average class size and test scores. Also, this year, the NH Public Policy Institute released a report that NH has a cumulative 25% drop out rate. The worst rate in the state is in Franklin where 50% were found to have dropped out.
Skirmishes with the Supreme Court continued this year with the House passage of a resolution to simply ignore the rulings of the Supreme Court with respect to education. The resolution failed in the NH Senate.
The Claremont suits have helped somewhat. The yellow area represents new funding that did not exist before the suit. The striped area is just a matter of renaming the “local” property tax, a “state” property tax. We still see wide disparities in the ability of local districts to fund schools. Poor districts, like Allenstown, must raise taxes over $6.00/1000 to raise $1000 per child in the district’s schools. Wealthy districts, like Newington can raise $1000 per child by increasing local taxes by $0.79/1000. Some legislators have suggested the use of tax effort caps, but the legislation fails.
Tax rates have flattened, a little, but they still range from less than $5.00/1000 to nearly $25/1000.
The ability of a local district to raise money for schools depends on the value of the property in that district. The wealth of the State as a whole is not a factor. Local values vary significantly.
Opponents to school funding change claim that, if only the money was better targeted to help poor districts, we would do more. The chart here shows that the limited moneys distributed by the State are targeted to help poor districts. There just is not enough money in the system. The Augenblick Foundation Aid formula that was passed in 1986 and never fully funded was targeted to help poorer communities. The failure to keep the promise of full funding doomed this targeted aid program.
Before the Claremont suits, NH was last in the nation in state funding for education at 8%. It remains last in the nation even after the suits. Most states do not count state property taxes as “state funding” because the money is raised and kept locally. Vermont is the only state, besides NH, that tries to take credit for these local monies. Without this manipulation, NH remains dead last in the nation.
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