RSFN-Extras: New Hampshire Funding Lawsuit Dismissed

Last Updated: November 06, 2008

This article appeared in the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.

RSFN-Extras is a special online feature for readers of RPM that includes additional details on school funding stories and links to information from other sources. Links are current at the time of posting, but may expire over time, and may require free registration for access.

The state Supreme Court has said that New Hampshire is doing enough to meet its constitutional obligations and dismissed the 17-year-old Londonderry school funding case. The adequacy case had proven successful in forcing systemic change for the rural districts and other plaintiffs who claimed that the Legislature was failing its educational duties because it had not defined an adequate education, determined the cost, funded it, or ensured its delivery to New Hampshire students.

These four mandates were first defined in an earlier funding decision, Claremont v. Governor (2002). The Londonderry plaintiffs brought the current action in 2005, continuing some of the claims of Claremont.

In 2007, the state developed a definition of a constitutionally adequate education, completed a costing out process and, in 2008, enacted a new funding plan, which takes effect in 2009-2010 school year.

The majority in a divided Court stated that this new plan made original inadequacy claims moot. The final step in the process — developing accountability for districts under the plan — is underway, and a joint legislative study committee is due to report on that issue November 15th.

Plaintiff attorneys and leadership expressed disappointment at the case dismissal but remain cautiously optimistic that the Legislature will fund the new plan and follow through in subsequent years.

The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be brought again later, but the process would begin in the lower state superior courts. The minority dissenters on the Court stated that there were still material issues in the new funding formula under dispute and noted that a special master may be needed to monitor compliance in the future.

Read more:

Local coverage of the decision:

New Hampshire Communities for Adequate Funding of Education, a coalition of rural and suburban districts who opposed the old funding system maintains court documents, case coverage, and a blog:

Read more from the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.