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A new plan


07/25/18



 In 1992 I brought forward an education funding concept to address the Claremont education funding lawsuit. My concept became New Hampshire law in 1999.

As a then new member of the State Board of Education, I was a defendant in the biggest lawsuit in state history. By saying that the plaintiffs were right, I received support from the education community and lots of criticism, especially from the state. Years later, the New Hampshire Supreme Court proved me to be right. 
But not only did I say that the state was wrong; I proposed a new solution, a state property tax.
In early 1999 the state Supreme Court deemed that New Hampshire’s education funding system was unconstitutional and, as a result, New Hampshire needed to fund its education mandates known as the Minimum Standards for Public School Approval with some form of a uniform statewide tax. The court gave the legislature a deadline of April 30, 1999, to come up with a solution or have New Hampshire’s education funding system declared unconstitutional and therefore illegal. This statement by our court forced our legislature to come up with a solution or face chaos.
Faced with no easy choices, the legislature came to the same conclusion that my colleagues, Gordon Allen and Lee Wilmot, and I came to, which won us a Josiah Bartlett Better Government Award in 1995. So, in April 1999, kicking and screaming, the legislature came up with a state property tax to fund the state’s education mandates to satisfy the court.  
But the kicking and screaming was far from over and the legislature ultimately Mickey Moused the formula to the point that time was virtually guaranteed to make the situation once again intolerable. That’s where we are today and many communities, including Manchester, are getting short-changed and forced into the kinds of local property tax and school funding pressures that caused the Claremont lawsuit in the early ’90s.
Governors from both parties have called for a constitutional amendment to address the education funding issue. This has failed every time they’ve tried. (Please note that anyone calling for a constitutional amendment is, in essence, conceding that they have no plan. A constitutional amendment is virtually impossible to pass.) We need a new education funding plan, one that’s constitutional.
If you’re interested, I know this subject, and I have a new plan.
Fred Bramante is past chairman and member of the New Hampshire Board of Education. He speaks and consults on education redesign to regional, state and national organizations. Email him at fredbramante@gmail.com.
 





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