New Hampshire Cap on State Grants to School Districts is Declared Unconstitutional

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New Hampshire Cap on State Grants to School Districts is Declared Unconstitutional

In August 2015, the Dover School District sued the State of New Hampshire for failing to adequately fund its schools. The suit challenged a state statutory funding cap that limits year to year increases under the current funding formula to 108% of the prior year’s amount. Last week Superior Court Judge Brian T. Tucker upheld the district’s  claims in City of Dover v. StateThe decision may mean an immediate extra $1.4 million for Dover, and a potential boost for nearly 40 other communities with caps on the amount of “adequacy funding” they receive.

The Court held that placing a cap on the amount of increase that a school district may receive in a particular year is unconstitutional because:

Curbing the amount of the grant deprives Dover of the full amount of what the legislature deemed necessary to sufficiently fund the opportunity for an adequate education in Dover…..When this occurs, the school district is left short of funds to pay the cost of an adequate education and either must make do with the amount of state aid allotted or make up the shortfall on its own. Either outcome violates Part II, Article 83, because the state ‘has the exclusive obligation to fund a constitutionally adequate education’ and may not shift any of this constitutional responsibility to local communities….

The Court issued a permanent injunction against any future withholdings, although it denied the district’s claim to recoup funds withheld since 2009.

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