Dems say Sununu’s school plan falls flat
NASHUA – “The reality is, the schools in New Hampshire are in crisis,” New Hampshire Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, said Monday afternoon in response to Gov. Chris Sununu’s funding proposal for public education.
Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess plans to hike education spending from $146.9 million in fiscal year 2019 to $150.7 million in FY 2020. The proposed budget shows Donchess will use $81.9 million in fiscal year 2020 to pay full-time school employees, which is an increase from, $76.9 million this year.
Still, state legislators representing the Gate City want more. Rosenwald was joined by Sen. Melanie Levesque and Rep. Laura Damphousse Telerski, both D-Nashua, in front of Mount Pleasant Elementary School. There, they spoke to the importance of public schools, and what this
proposed budget could mean for educational opportunities for children in Nashua. The New Hampshire Democratic Party also hosted other press conferences during the day in Keene and Lebanon.
Rosenwald said Sununu’s budget takes New Hampshire in the wrong direction by flat-funding education. She said one of the greatest challenges Granite Staters face is keeping young people in New Hampshire, and encouraging them to build their lives and families in the state.
“If we aren’t funding public education, that’s just not going to happen,” Rosenwald said. “That’s why Gov. Sununu’s budget is such a problem. We have a responsibility in government to support our schools, but instead, Gov. Sununu proposed a disastrous budget that flat-funded education without any meaningful reform. Flat-funding harms our school district and our property taxpayers while hurting educational opportunities for children.”
Rosenwald said in property poor towns, public schools are not properly funded. This leads to layoffs and school closures. She said the cost of public education is increasingly being shifted to property taxpayers, and that while listening to the governor discuss education, she said one may believe the only problem facing New Hampshire schools is the buildings and infrastructure. However, she said while these are important, teachers are even more important to the education of our state’s young minds. She said because of budget shortages, school’s across New Hampshire are having a difficult time recruiting and keeping talented teachers.
Benjamin Vihstadt is a spokesman Sununu. He accused the Democrats of making “un-vetted partisan talking points.”
“While New Hampshire consistently ranks among the top 10 states in education spending, Gov. Sununu is open to adjusting education funding if the legislature is able to do so in a fiscally responsible way that does not raise taxes,” Vihstadt stated.
“Gov. Sununu’s budget sends $63.7 million back to property poor cities and towns for school building aid – the most in recent history – which will help offset costs at the local level to allow cities and towns to lower local property taxes and prioritize education. Any assertion otherwise is nothing more than un-vetted partisan talking points,” Vihstadt added.
However, Rosenwald said towns are struggling to keep schools open and make payroll, and that flat-funding hurts students and the economy.
Levesque, meanwhile, urged, Sununu to add funding in the areas where it is needed most, and to fund education appropriately. She said there are seniors and other homeowners hurting because of high property taxes, while experiencing a large tax increase due to revaluations. She said these residents need relief.
“Every dollar we put into our public schools is an investment in our children’s future,” Levesque said. “It is the one opportunity for children to thrive regardless of where they live and how much their parents earn. When we take dollars away from public schools, it hurts our children and shifts more burden to our taxpayers, and many of them are barely making it as it is.”
Telerski is a graduate of Nashua public schools, as well as the parent of two current students at Nashua High School South, while her oldest child graduated in 2016. She has been a long-time school volunteer, and for the last three years, has been in the schools as a substitute teacher.
“It’s time that we take responsibility for kicking the bucket down the road, and the governor’s flat-funding of education in his budget is not the way to do it,” Telerski said. “The children in New Hampshire deserve more. It’s time we stop talking about an education that is adequate and start talking about an education that is excellent.”
She is confident the majority of House members will be working in conjunction with the Senate to put a number of options in front of Sununu.