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AFT-NH Testimony In Support of HB 1583 relative to the per pupil cost of the opportunity for an adequate education.

Thank you, Chair Gray  and Members of the Senate Finance Committee. Thank you for reading my testimony.

My name is Debrah Howes. I am president of the American Federation of Teachers – New Hampshire.

I am here to speak on behalf of our 3700 members across the state, as well as the students, families, and communities we serve. Our members include preK through 12 public school educators and support staff, university faculty as well as town employees. I am here today to testify in support of HB 1583 relative to the per pupil cost of the opportunity for an adequate education.

Every Granite State child has a constitutional right to the opportunity for a robust public education through our local neighborhood public schools no matter where they live in the state. Whether families choose to enroll in the local neighborhood public schools for their children’s education, or choose private school, homeschooling, or a charter school, it is the child’s constitutional right to have that opportunity for a robust public education and the state’s constitutional duty to fund it. In fact, our Granite State students have a right to more than just a barebones public education, as a series of court cases have clarified over the past  three decades. They have a right to a public education that prepares them for college, entering the workforce, joining an apprenticeship program or the service and to become productive citizens of their communities and our state, or wherever their goals and dreams take them after high school.

AFT-NH supports HB 1583. While it does not get us all the way to filling the $537 million in shortfall to local school districts the current state funding system produces, much of which is picked up by local property taxpayers because Granite Staters do believe in investing in the future leaders of our communities and our state, it is a start towards improving the current situation. Currently we have students who are all Granite State citizens, who all have the same constitutional right to a public education, but who have access to very different public educational opportunities depending on the district where they live. We also have property taxpayers, some of them in the same cooperative school district so paying for the same exact schools, but who are paying hugely different rates of property taxes for those same schools.

Increasing per pupil adequacy as outlined in HB 1583 is a helpful interim step. This increased funding will help some local neighborhood public schools hire more teachers to keep class sizes low, provide reading and math intervention in the younger grades, hire and retain paraeducators for flexible learning support, and increasing experiential leaning programs in middle and high schools to engage and excite students about what they are learning. Adding to the relief grant and fiscal disparity grant will help those districts that have low property tax bases or have concentrations of students with needs that require additional support such as coming from a disadvantaged economic background.

Each Granite State student has the same constitutional right to an opportunity for a robust public education regardless of where they live in New Hampshire. That public education has to be equally as robust in Berlin as it is in Bedford, just as robust in Franklin as it is in Windham. This bill represents a step in the right direction, small though it may be, toward having the Granite State meet the constitutional promise it has made to all of its children, families, and local property taxpayers. It is only the first step in a longer process, but it needs to be taken and the time is now. Children’s education cannot wait!         

For these reasons, we urge you to pass HB 1583.


Debrah Howes

President, AFT-New Hampshire


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