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New Hampshire School Funding Case Back in Court

On September 5, 2001, the plaintiffs in the New Hampshire education finance case, Claremont v. Governor, returned to the state Supreme Court, claiming that the state's new funding system remains unconstitutional. The five property-poor communities, known as the Claremont Coalition, asked the court to rule that the state has not sufficiently complied with the requirements set forth by the court in the 1997 Claremont decision.

The 1997 decision ruled that New Hampshire's reliance on local property taxes to fund public schools was unconstitutional. The court ruled that under that system, lower wealth districts were forced to levy disproportionately higher local property tax rates than those in higher wealth districts to pay for public schools. In response to the decision, the state legislature in 1998 adopted a statewide education property tax, which was implemented in 1999. The Claremont Coalition's attorneys will argue that the new system continues to levy disproportionately high property taxes on poorer communities, in violation of the state constitution. The Coalition contends that the system fails to ensure equitable educational opportunities for children and to ensure fair treatment for taxpayers.

The funding formula is based on the average per pupil expenditures in a small number of New Hampshire school districts in which 40 to 60 percent of students scored at a basic level or better on state assessment tests. According to the Coalition, the new state funding system was determined arbitrarily and bears no relation to the actual cost of a constitutionally adequate education.

Prepared September 5, 2001