SOMERSWORTH — Educators in Somersworth were fired up about the proposed state budget Wednesday.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu told a crowd at the State of the State address in Dover Wednesday morning that he would veto this budget.
After Sununu’s address, educators and advocates held a press conference in front of Somersworth Middle School to speak out against the veto threat.
The bipartisan budget bill comes before the Democratically controlled House and Senate for an up or down vote Thursday.
Public school employees on the Seacoast are mad because they say the proposed budget provides the biggest state increase to educational funding in more than two decades, money they need for upgrades to buildings, better technology and more programs for students.
At the crux of the problem is the fact that New Hampshire still relies almost exclusively on local property taxes to fund education, more than 20 years after state Supreme Court rulings in Claremont I and II found that method unconstitutional.
“Cities and towns like Somersworth continue to struggle to find funding to offer an education which will enable our students to have the skills necessary to compete in a global marketplace. With each year, we sacrifice other needs of our cities and towns in this state to ensure that same promise and opportunity each one of here was afforded,” Mayor and Somersworth Middle School Principal Dana Hilliard said.
Hilliard called on the governor to sign the budget bill, which he said would finally start the process of adequately funding public schools in the state.
Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH president, represents 17,000 educators across the state.
“Every parent and every educator knows the last thing the Legislature should be doing is decreasing school funding, but that is just what our governor is indicating that he is going to do,” Tuttle said.
Tuttle said there is research which shows a link between per pupil spending and student outcomes.
“New Hampshire has failed to provide full, equitable and truly adequate funding for our public schools for decades,” Tuttle said. “Our state’s funding philosophy and practices have hurt communities across the state, from Claremont to Berlin to even some of the towns represented here today.”
Dover Mayor Karen Weston was one of the speakers at the gathering in Somersworth. Her city sued the state in 2015, claiming it has lost millions of dollars over the years under New Hampshire’s funding formula.
Weston said she spoke to Sununu about his plans to veto the budget on Saturday as he was on his way to Randolph to address the tragic motorcycle crash that killed seven people on Friday evening.
“I said, ‘Governor, if you do not sign this budget, do you realize what this is going to do to our school districts? Every single school district is going to have negative effects. Any funding that we had expected to come — and I can tell you that Dover did incorporate some of this money into their next year’s budget – we will not receive,’” Weston said.
“Ultimately, who is going to suffer? It’s going to be our school programs, our kids, our teachers, our taxpayers,” Weston said.