Meeting with State Finance Committee Legislators June 29, 2015
On Monday, June 29, the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association (NKTA) hosted State Legislators to learn more about the state budget and its impact on the local communities. High on the questions NKTA had, was what happens with local property taxes sent to the State. Every cent collected is returned to the towns it came from. Nothing goes into the general fund, Representative Mary Allen stated. Representative Ken Weyler further said that in 1999, the state began returning the money in order to reduce local taxes. That year the towns did reduce the taxes. Then in every subsequent year, the School Boards began to use that money to spend more on the schools instead.
Allen and Weyler discussed the state budget. The House developed a budget together with the State Senate, that was $200 million less than was requested by Governor Maggie Hassan, and it was vetoed. As a result, the State will be operating on a continuation of the prior budget for the next few months.
Weyler pointed out that the prior budget has lower funding for state hospitals and direct care workers than that proposed by the Legislature, so the veto actually hurts the Governor's supporters. He stated that a big bone of contention is the proposed reduction in business taxes. Weyler explained that New Hampshire business taxes are among the highest in the nation, and, to attract businesses to New Hampshire, they need to be reduced. We have well educated workers, no income tax or sales tax, and a beautiful state-features employees want. We have to provide business taxes that will make sound economic sense to the employers so they will come here, he said.
Most businesses in New Hampshire are small, with fewer than 10 employees. But the large businesses employ 95% of the workers. Of the 20 largest business, 7 are hospitals and health care providers. It is the bigger employers that New Hampshire needs to grow at a healthy 4% rate instead of the current 2%, Senator Russell Prescott said. He stated that the Legislative budget provides an 8% increase in educational funding, balanced by the investment in the growth of the economy.
When asked about the sources of revenue in the state, and where it goes, Weyler showed that the revenues come from a broad base, making them predictable and stable. If New Hampshire were to move to an income tax and/or sales tax, the revenues would become more dependent on the economy, he said. In addition, New Hampshire would become less desirable than other states for homeowners, second homeowners and businesses.
Discussion of the state retirement system followed, where state employees still have defined benefit programs unlike the defined contribution programs found in the private sector. NKTA Chairman Jim Baker pointed out that the taxpayers are the employers footing the bill, and not only is the bill huge but there is also unlimited liability for any unfunded balances. Weyler said that the State Retirement Board, appointed by the Governor, are the ones making the rules. He hopes to reintroduce and get passed a bill where any increases to the retirement contributions that the State Retirement Board mandates will be equally funded by the employer and the taxpayers.
NKTA members asked how they can help get these measures passed into law. Weyler suggested writing letters to the Governor and to legislators, as well as publishing articles in papers and in social media. NKTA members will continue to attend School Board and School Budget Committee meetings as well, and publish news about them so that voters and taxpayers have as complete an understanding of what they are funding as possible. NKTA is an organization founded to fight for high quality local schools and government at affordable and sustainable tax rates. More information is available at www.NKTA.vpweb.com. Membership is NKTA is $20/family, and supports the mission of the group.
Annie Collyer, Secretary
for Monday June 29, 2015 Meeting with Finance Committee Legislators
Where: Kingston Community Library
Time: 7 PM - 8:30 PM
1-. Besides a broad based income and/or sales tax, what do you think has the most potential to slow the growth of property taxes?
2- What percentage of the money collected by the state for property taxes goes back to the towns and the schools?
3- Where does the bulk of the rest of it go?
4- What possible areas of state expenses can be scaled back?
5- What incentives to attract business and industry are under consideration in NH?
6- What incentives are you familiar with that other states are using successfully to attract businesses and industry?
7- What other revenue sources is the state contemplating, if any, for school support?
8- Is it true that NH has SPED requirements over and above those of the Federal Government? How can we get those changed/reduced?
9- How might the growth in the state employee retirement system be curtailed?
10- Do you know of any local warrant articles that are successfully slowing the rate of property tax growth?
11- The way the retirement legislation is written the school district (i.e. the taxpayers) have unlimited liability for any unfunded retirement costs…do you see any way to limit or cap this liability.
12- What are the fundamental political realities of addressing these issues?
Newton and Kingston Taxpayers Association
School Informational Meetings
March 30, April 20, May 19 2015
May 19, 2015
Local School Administrators Present to NKTA
The Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association held the third in its series of School Informational meetings on Tuesday, May 19 at 7 PM at the Kingston Community Library. VIP guests were Dr. Brian Blake, Superintendent; Ellen Hume-Howard, curriculum director; Carol Coppola, Business Administrator; John VanderEls, Principal of Memorial School; Deb Bamforth, Principal of Bakie School; Michael Turmelle, Assistant Principal and Curriculum Director of the High School; and Brian Stack, Principal of the High School. Because of a Middle School concert, there was noone present from that school.
Chairperson Jim Baker greeted participants and guests. Dr. Blake initiated the meeting with a 10-minute video on the increasing responsibilities and roles the schools have taken on over the past 150 years. Schools are expected to remove obstacles for student success, narrator Jamie Volmer stated, so that today, they are expected to raise our kids.
Annie Collyer moderated questions prepared in advance for the VIP guests.
1. Collyer inserted a first question addressing the completing five-year strategic plan. Dr. Blake said that a year ago, an intern had studied the plan and found that it was about 75% implemented. The report is available from the District office. A new plan will be formulated soon for the next five years.
2. Collyer asked about budget projections for coming years. Coppola said that the first step in the budget process is to plan for capital improvements and replacement plans. She mentioned that about 70% of the budget is staff salaries and benefits. The budget is projected to increase about 4% on average over the coming five years. The default budgets have resulted in deferral of capital investments in the past several years.
3. Collyer inquired about declining enrollments and expected changes as a result. Blake said that the district has reduced staffing at elementary and middle school in recent years, but that enrollment declines are district-wide and often do not have impact at any one grade-level. He plans to implement a 'move-on' program in coming years, where students will be able to have advanced course work as they are proven proficient at their grade level. He does not foresee any school consolidations or closings, and believes that both communities seem to want to have two schools in each. He does think consolidation and combination with neighboring communities are future possibilities.
4. Collyer asked about Teacher Contracts and the possibility of rewarding teachers based on a rubric evaluation of performance instead of uniform raises. Blake said that would take away from the collaborative model used in the district. He said that teachers are evaluated based on a Rubric, but pay is not tied to the results.
5. Collyer asked how high achieving students are being challenged. VanderEls said that the goal with competency-based education is to move the children continuously forward. At the elementary level, relearning and enrichment are built in to every level. Stack said that advance course work is available at the High School through Advanced Placement courses, Running Start, and collaboration with local colleges as well as VLACS. Only 4 VLACS courses per student currently qualify for graduation credit according to School Board policy.
Turmelle commented that one-third of our HS are graduating with at least one college or career-ready course. He has met with 80 universities outside the state, as well as 30 state colleges and universities, to explain the Articulated progress SRSD uses for progress from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and our grading system. The feedback has been positive.
6. Collyer asked about actual classroom instructional hours. VanderEls and Bamforth both explained that teaching happens not only with direct teacher instruction, but also by use of technology, group work and independent study. The teaching is active.
Hume-Howard pointed out that standardized testing, Smarter Balance, shows that 100% of third graders are reading at Grade 3 level or better. Testing for Grade 4 math took place this Spring, and results will be evaluated to assess progress in math over prior years' results. Studies have shown that competency in these two years are key points for success in later years.
7. Collyer asked about performance standards for administrators. Blake said that the New Hampshire Rubric is used for leadership and culture.
8. Collyer asked about the goal to have Sanborn in the top 10% of the state, and the poor ranking Sanborn now has. Blake pointed out weaknesses in the rankings that are used, including low participation, alphabetical listings, low points given for lack of diversity, and reporting of results not being uniform. He said that 6 years ago, the district had many difficulties including high teacher turnover, poor rankings, and contract failures. Over the past 5 years, with the implementation of many elements in the strategic plan, there have been improvements. As far as putting numbers on an evaluation, the results of the Smarter Balance testing are one indicator. The best way to measure will be more time with the students benefitting from the improvements, Blake said.
9. Collyer asked about PACE, its costs and the results. Howard-Hume said that PACE, Performance Assessment for Competency Education, has been paid for with state grants, at no cost to the District. Bamforth said that PACE transfers knowledge, where children produce product such as projects and speeches, that reflect and use knowledge. Hume-Howard noted that SRSD has been given the ability to use local assessments for grades other than 3 and 4, and that the evaluations are vetted heavily by outside agencies for depth of knowledge tested.
Turmelle said that there is a very high level of complex accountability and that the system is very challenging for students. Formative assessments take place early in the year, and then late in the year as well for reporting and accountability purposes. However, Quality Performance Assessments (QPA) are embedded and take place throughout each unit.
10. Collyer asked about the Special Revenue Fund. Coppola reported that the current balance is $443,000. In prior years, use of the funds has been heavily restricted, but voters have now allowed money from the fund to be used for expanded use for improvement of any facility or grounds. Collyer asked whether it could now be used to address some deferred capital improvements and maintenance, and Coppola said that was a possibility.
The VIP guests agreed to remain 15 minutes longer, and took some additional questions from the floor. Pete Broderick asked what the Administration is planning for cost containment. He stated that 4% budget increases are a real problem, and asked whether assessing fees for co-curricular activities and non-core courses are being considered. Blake challenged the towns to bring in businesses to add to the tax base. Broderick replied that he used to think that would be a good idea, but towns with a high commercial base actually incur higher costs due to needed infrastructure and safety personnel and support staff.
Blake said some cost containment has been pursued with energy efficiency projects in the district.
Michael Merritt stated that the cost per student is far higher than in surrounding communities yet there are no reports showing how every grade level performs. He said that studies show that student performance is tied only to teacher knowledge of their subject and how to deliver it, not to parent educational levels, affluence, class size or number of staff per student.
Robert Geoffroy asked about Obama Care and the severe penalties that will be imposed in 2017 if employees have Cadillac health care plans. Coppola said that the support staff negotiations this past year addressed this and the School Board is taking the Cadillac tax very seriously in the coming contract talks with the teachers' union.
Jim Baker concluded with remarks about the taxes in Newton and Kingston being 33% and 17%, respectively, higher than neighboring communities, and while the goals and achievements of the District Administration are noteworthy, the costs being incurred are not sustainable. While we compete for teachers and quality in education with surrounding communities, our homeowners compete with them for home values and quality of life.
April 20, 2015
Informational Meeting with
State Department of Education
Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association (NKTA) Chairman Jim Baker began the meeting at 7:02 PM with a welcome and introduction of our guest speakers, Virginia Barry, PhD, Commissioner of the State Board of Education, and Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner. He then introduced Annie Collyer as meeting facilitator.
Ginny Barry and Paul Leather described briefly what their jobs entail. Barry stated that her purview is working with legislators and implementation of legislative requirements, oversight of the K-12 minimum standards, and providing enrollment information to the Department of Revenue Administration. Leather supports the Commissioner in her work, and oversees Adult Education, Career Development and Vocational Rehabilitation.
Several questions were submitted to the Board in advance, and they were able to prepare some information for NKTA as a result. Collyer asked the prepared questions as follows:
- Collyer: How do school rankings work? As you can see from the study done by one of our members, Sanborn is ranked 124th in the state. What is holding us back from a higher ranking?
Paul Leather stated that the rankings are on the basis of NECAP testing for English, Language Arts and Math. Sanborn with testing in grades 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 11 falls in the average of all in the state. One other factor, the graduation rate, is a little better than average, with about 0 dropout rate.
Rankings are not a reporting of best to work, Ginny Barry added, but it is really a bell curve, with most schools in the middle range. That means there are 25-75 schools all scoring identically, and the ranks are randomly assigned within that middle place. There is a place to make comparisons with up to 2 other school districts on the State Board website, and the Board is also preparing a comparison for Sanborn Regional School District(SRSD) and NKTA, using the information pulled together by one of the NKTA members, Rich O'Connell, as a jumping off point.
2. Prepared and asked by Tammy Gluck: Sanborn Regional HS has been receiving a lot of national and state attention surrounding competency grading and competency based learning as well as surrounding the Freshman and Sophomore learning communities. However, our school continues to rank very poorly on some national and NH based rankings of High Schools -i.e. US News and World Report, WMUR, and so forth. Why do you think that is the case? Is it due to the fact that the previous NECAP State testing was not measuring the way our curriculum content was delivered and new Smarter Balance and PACE testing will better measure this? When do you anticipate this to change and reflect what we are doing here?
Gluck pointed out that sometimes these private rankings are based on surveys with as few as three responders.
Paul Leather responded that the State is now using Smarter Balance and Pace in SRSD for input to rankings. The State Board agreed to test the new model (PACE) and to make it comparable for rankings to the systems used by other districts. PACE is a 2-year pilot, and is finding the data is predictive for student performance this year and next.
Ginny Barry pointed out that NECAP had trouble getting results to teachers in a timely way, whereas Smarter Balance is computer-adaptive and teacher have results by the 1st week in July, in order to make preparation for students for the next grade level. Computer-adaptive means that there are branching follow-up questions, based on student responses. She prefers to call it assessment, not testing, as it measures a child against his own performance. Studies have shown, she said, that if a child is not a proficient reader by 3rd grade, they rapidly fall behind by up to 50% throughout the balance of their school years.
The PACE program is based on competencies, and Dr. Blake and the district are nationally-recognized as leaders in this new paradigm of education.
She noted that rankings do not show overall development, and leave informational gaps on what is needed, what skills does the student lack. PACE closes that gap in information.
3. Collyer:Special Education is a growing expense. What are the state and federal requirements for Special Education identification and teaching? Is holding students back instead of advancing with a special ed tutor an option? What are the guidelines for SPED teacher or paraprofessional/pupil ratio?
Leather said that the Federal government defines the requirements, and the state echoes them. The process of identification and testing is outlined on the State Dept of Education website under Special Education.
He went on to explain that holding back children versus providing them with a tutor had been shown to be detrimental to education, resulting in higher dropout rates in older children. Success comes from assessing where a student is, give more work and then retest: a competency-based model.
Barry added that Special Education is a multi-system program with teams of professionals and parents involved. To qualify for Special Education, 2 areas of deficiency must be identified. Parents must participate in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Special Education areas are speech, language, math , processing, occupational therapy, physical therapy.
She said the SRSD now has 245 out of 1827 as of 2014 in Special Education, or 13.4% of the student population As far as emotional/social delays, moving the children forward rather than holding them back results in catching up, research shows.
3a. Jack Kosec asked about per pupil costs by school district.
Barry said that they are working on giving us a report that will help voters here better understand the relative costs per district.
4. Collyer: How much of SPED growth is a result of mental health issues? What causes do you see in the increase of mental health issues- such as anger, aggression, and rebellion?
Leather commented that a lot of the growth (table distributed) in some areas of Special Education are in Autism and Developmental Delay (DD), while other areas are falling. A substantial part of that comes from increased acknowledgement of both these areas.
Cheryl Gannon asked whether the count for students is for each area of Special Need, or whether each has only one category assigned.
Leather said that there is one point for each student only, and that can result in the increase in DD, for instance, with multiple other needs grouped under that category. He said this is true throughout the country. He reiterated that overall totals of children in Special Education are declining.
5. Collyer: What experience are you having statewide with SPED, and changes in test scores?
Leather said the Emotional Disturbance as a category is declining, however substance abuse is a major concern throughout the state and at SRSD.
5a. Gannon asked about enrollments.
Leather said that statewide, they are predicting a steady decrease year by year. Enrollments are dependent on the birth rate and emigration and immigration from NH, especially in the southern NH districts. 2 districts had spikes in enrollment this past year- Pelham and Bedford. SRSD had a spike down of almost 5%. The trend is not clear, and may be leveling off, since the rate of decrease seems to be declining..
6. Collyer: Since there is not a state level requirement to identify and address education of the gifted, what ideas are being contemplated? How does VLACS work, and because it is free and open to any and all NH students, what are the local burdens if any in using VLACS for the gifted? Is preparedness and AP credit available from VLACS courses?
Barry said that VLACS is a virtual charter school, free to all students in NH. Some can take a course like Mandarin Chinese or German, not offered in their school. Gifted students can take higher level science, math or foreign language free of charge. Some take creative writing. Or a student who has fallen behind, for instance in Algebra, can take a VLACS to tutor and make up credits.
Leather said that some districts are using dual enrollments with combined 1-2 or even k-3 classes. In addition,, some are using Running Start with local colleges.
Dr. Brian Blake, SRSD School Superintendent, said that SRSD is forming relationships with Southern New Hampshire University and Northern Essex Community College, and some students are taking courses with Timberlane, with visiting professors from NECC.
Barry told a story of one student who went to SUNY and the school said he/she entered with an Associates Degree already earned.
Any student can sign up, and take classes during study halls. The number of courses allowed is locally determined by the school principal or superintendent. VLACS is anywhere/anytime learning.
Blake said that the courses are as rigorous as what we offer at SRSD.
Jim Doggett inquired about limits on VLACS credits.
Barry said that is determined locally, seeking for a good balance between classroom instruction and other enrichment programs.
6.a. Gannon asked about state requirements for classroom instructional hours.
Leather responded that there are a set of rules from the State with minimum requirements for hours of educational services and for instructional hours daily. There is no differentiation between hours spent in core instruction versus other educational activities.
Barry pointed out that with the catastrophic weather this past year, the instructional hours have been made up with hours not days.
She also said that over the past 10 years, more instruction hours have been given to math and language, with science falling short.
Leather revisited assessments, noting that there are currently 2 systems in place: State/Federal since the No Child Left Behind legislation, and Local. The purpose of the PACE pilot is to meld these two systems and get rid of double assessments. He said that SRSD is a national leader in the PACE development.
Barry said that the State has 4 districts who interviewed with them to be involved in the PACE pilot program. The time has been 2 years of development, with the US Dept of Education approving the PACE pilot just this past March.
Baker said that in business, when a company develops a technology, it owns and can lease it. Is there any way for the district to recapture the investment of so many hours and talents in developing the PACE program over the past 5 years?
Barry noted that Blake is currently being asked to speak all over the country.
Blake said that some developments along that line are in process and he will be prepared to speak to that more fully at the May 19 informational meeting hosted by NKTA..
7. Collyer: Regarding accelerating health care costs, what trends do you see from the state level? Do you have specified parameters, or is all locally-negotiated?
Leather said that the negotiations are all local. What they can see from a state level is increased cooperation between school districts for larger numbers and better rates..
8. Collyer: (Retirement) What is your opinion of sharing pension risk with employees? For example a benefit plan which would combine the elements of both a defined benefit and defined contribution plans - a hybrid if you will. Note: The current system is a contributory defined benefit plan that not only sets what employees pay (contribution), but also delivers a pension decades later at a "predetermined" amount.
Collyer noted that this is not an area covered by the Board, but we are looking for insights if any.
Barry said that they had contacted the NH Retirement Board to try to get the information posted online, which the Board did on the 20th. She believes Marty is available to travel to speak with local districts..
9. Collyer: (Retirement) What are your thoughts on restoring the State subsidy of 30% (as we had back in 2009) to help local communities pay for their contributions for teachers, firefighters and police officers?
NH Representative Ken Wyler, present with fellow NH representatives David Welch and Mary Allen, spoke to the retirement program history in the state. Established in 1968, with 35% funding from the state, through the 1980's returns on the investments for the programs were exceeding the 8.5% growth goal. Since 1968 the retirement program has doubled in size. The program began with teachers and state employees contributing 5%. In 2010, the state contribution was reduced to 25%. In 2012-13, with local districts encouraging early retirements and local pay raises impacting the retirement funding needs, the state decided they needed to shift the retirement contributions to the local districts. They increased teacher contributions by 2% to 7%, and also the police/fire retirement contributions Those contributions more than made up for the state amount statewide.
Collyer pointed out that has not been the case at SRSD.
At implementation, the changes were revenue-neutral statewide, Representative Wyler said.
Representative Allen said there is no money for reinstituting this from the state.
Wyler went on to say that in the 90's, everything over the investment goal went to a special fund, which granted cost of living increases to the retirement benefits. During 2000-2010, the retirement fund earned only 5% versus the goal of 8.5%, and became unfunded. The current growth goal has been lowered to 7.75%.
As for defined benefit versus defined contribution, whenever the state has attempted to change the system, they have been sued by the Unions. There is a potential conflict in resolution of any such suit because the prosecutors and judges are all in the retirement system, Wyler said.
Collyer thanked our guests and turned over closing remarks to Baker.
Baker said that the NKTA exists because of the disconnect between budget requests and taxpayer funding, and the gap needs to be closed. NKTA seeks reasonable taxes for superior schools and local government. He thanked our VIP guests Barry and Leather from the State Department of Education for their time and information, NH Representatives Wyler, Allen and Welch for attending, and the community for coming out on a cold and rainy night to hear and participate.
Baker announced the next two meetings of NKTA: a members meeting on the second Thursday of the month- Thursday, May 14 - at the Kingston Library at 7 PM, and the third in the special school informational meeting series on Tuesday, May 19 at 7 PM with local administrators. He invited anyone interested in attending both, and for the informational meeting, to submit questions in advance to help have the best answers prepared by the local administrators.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 PM.
Annie Collyer, Secretary
Minutes March 30, 2015
NKTA Informational Meeting
State Representatives and Senators
Rich O’Connell opened meeting at 7:06pm
Rich O’Connell: This is the second meeting of The Newton-Kingston taxpayers Association. A notebook is being passed around for anyone interested in joining the email list.
The goals of the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers is to better understand how taxpayers money is spent, how tax rates are set, what retirement costs are, how are the schools preforming.
Rich O’Connell introduced Senator Nancy Stiles: She is serving her third term in the Senate having first been elected in 2010 and again in 2012 and 2014. She previously served three terms in New Hampshire's House of Representatives. Currently, the senator chairs the Transportation Committee and is vice-chair to the Education committee. She also serves on the Public & Municipal Affairs Committee. Sen. Stiles represents District 24 which includes the scenic Seacoast communities of Greenland, Hampton Falls, Kensington, New Castle, North Hampton, Newton, Rye, Seabrook, Stratham and South Hampton, as well as her hometown of Hampton. She asks everyone to reach out to her with any questions, if you don’t get a response please call again. She wants to hear from you.
Rich O’Connell introduced Senator Russell Prescott
Russell Prescott: He is serving his fifth term in the New Hampshire Senate and was named Deputy President Pro Tem for the 2015 Legislative Session. Sen. Prescott was first elected in 2000 for two terms, and was re-elected in 2010, 2012 and again in 2014. He represents District 23, which includes Brentwood, Chester, Danville, East Kingston, Epping, Exeter, Fremont, Kingston, and Sandown. For the 2015-2016 legislative session he serves as the chairman for the Commerce and the Rules, Enrolled Bills & Internal Affairs Committees. For nearly 30 years Sen. Prescott has been the co-owner and vice-president of R.E. Prescott Co., a wholesale distributor and manufacturer of water systems. The company, founded in 1954 by his father, employs about 40 people and has operated in the same Exeter building since 1963. There was a job fair in Exeter recently and there was about 300 people applying for over 450 jobs. Things are turning the corner for economics. Happy to answer any question you have.
Rich O’Connell introduced State Rep Dick Gordon.
Dick Gordon: He is on the Environmental committee and the business committee. I am happy to be here today to answer any questions.
Rich O’Connell introduced State Rep Mary Allen
Mary Allen: She has been the Newton State Rep for 12 years. Mary Allen is on the transportation committee and the finance/health and human resources committee. I am happy you want to hear about what we do in Concord. There are no secrets at the state. We are open and willing to hear, come to the state house and watch us in the state house. Please join us.
Rich O’Connell introduced State Representative Ken Weyler
Ken Weyler: He is on the Finance committee division 2, and the fiscal committee. He is looking for ways to reduce school funding. Charter schools only spend $5000-$5800 per pupil. State wide districts are spending $15,000. Why can Charter schools do it for less?
- Rich O’Connell: What state mandates for education are in effect, and what ones are still mandated but now unfunded? (Retirement programs for teachers and support staff? Administrators? Building funding help?)Others in place and/or being contemplated?
Nancy Stiles: The state can’t mandate they have no authority. Mandates come from the federal government. There is a special education mandate. More districts are bringing special education students back into the district and seeing cheaper and better results. Not enough building aid is provided and may not be needed if enrollments are down across the state. There is a mandate for safety of students. Catastrophic aid is given to school districts once they have spent 3 ½ times the cost per student. The district should get 100% percent reimbursement but in reality it is only about 74% right now. She believes the house will fully fund it this year. The federal government also mandates state wide assessments.
Ken Weyler: 180 days of school is a mandate. Credits to graduate are mandated. Hours per day are mandated. The federal government only gives us 6% towards the cost of education.
- Rich O’Connell: Title 15 Chapter 186-C : Special Education Mandate : sets out some very specific requirements to provide such students with an education in the least restrictive environment and meets their unique needs. Since there is not a state level requirement to identify and address education of the gifted, what ideas are being contemplated?
Nancy Stiles: The state created competency based learning in 2005. We must allow bright kids to go faster and challenge their education.
- Rich O’Connell: What are your thoughts on the possibility of restoring the State subsidy of 30% (as we had back in 2009) to help local communities pay for their contributions for teachers, firefighters and police officers? Today it is 100% local municipal and school district responsibility.
Ken Weyler: The retirement system was put into place in 1968 when the population of NH was only 20% of what it is now. Back then it was agreed upon that the employer contribution would be 35%. When the stock market and economy began to fall in 2001 things began to change. What about a defined contribution? It was decided that the state was not able to continue funding the retirement plan. It no longer funds it at all. We can’t change the retirement plans, if we try we will be sued. There is no representation to the taxpayers. Judges will not help us because they are also on the receiving end of these retirement plans.
- Rich O’Connell: What are the state requirements for Special Education identification and teaching? What levels of support are required at the state level? Are there any changes under consideration? How does state funding work for Special Education?
Nancy Stiles: The federal government requires districts to provide testing for any child who is 3 years old and referred with concerns of disabilities. If a disability is found the child will be placed in a preschool or if there is several disabilities placed in a more restrictive environment if needed. It is her goal that all children meet their fullest potential.
Ken Wyler: Explains in more detail about catastrophic aid. Once a district has spent 3 ½ times the per pupil cost on a special education student the state will pay 80% percent. When the student cost reach 10 times the per pupil cost then the state will pay 100%. Some superintendents abuse this catastrophic aid. There are many ways to recoup costs of special education students. Medicaid, grants such as the Katie Becket fund. There is not enough catastrophic aid money in the fund, the goal is 100% funding in 2017. There are currently 8 students at Sanborn under Catastrophic aid.
- Rich O’Connell: How about a mandate for the gifted and to high achieving (top 10-15%) students?
Nancy Stiles: There is no need for a mandate for our best and brightest. This should be done within the District. Challenge them all. Teachers should be able to handle all levels of differentiated learning. Demand it in your own district. There is also VLAX for students that want or need courses that are not offered. VLAX is free to all in the State.
Channa Alverado: Her child was told she can only take 4 VLAX classes during the 4 years of high school. Nancy Stiles: She has seen kids graduate with all VLAX classes.
Ken Wyler: That may be a Sanborn Policy.
Channa Alverado: Her child is not challenged despite proof of testing and SAT scores. How can she get help for her child?
Nancy Stiles: Have you ever looked into Charter schools? There is one right here in Kingston.
Channa Alverado: No she has not looked into it but the Charter school is moving. Her daughter was accepted to a private school but they cannot afford the school and their taxes.
Ken Wyler: We are looking for funds so that the Charter School can stay in the building they are in located in this town. The school districts can pay to send a gifted child out of district if their needs cannot be met.
Nancy Stiles: Asks Channa to contact her for help with grants.
- Rich O’Connell: How does the per Pupil cost get Calculated? Why is there a 2-3 year delay on published information?
Nancy Stiles: In 2011 they changed it to be more current and it should only be a 1 year look back now. The per pupil costs are calculated using the state chart on the website. Adequacy aid is always changing.
Russell Prescott: Spoke about Adequacy aid and how he tries to be fair across the board and it is not always possible to please everyone.
Ken Wyler: The Charter schools always have up to date published information.
Ken Wyler: Issues we have are zoning rules. The planning boards are too slow, they take too much time. There is limited sites and availability for business. There was a concrete plant that wanted to come in and the people always say “NOT IN MY BACK YARD” that needs to change. It’s the same thing with the northern pass. People need to be more accepting. There is a reputation of towns; developers know what towns are easier to deal with.
- Rich O’Connell: Where does the state portion of the education tax go? How is it spent?
Ken Wyler: There are no more donor towns the money goes back to the towns.
Nancy Stiles: Talked about the Adequacy Bill and Stability Grants. Schools cannot grow more than 108%. There are 40 schools that exceed the growth and are not getting the adequacy aid they need. Schools with 28% or more students on free and reduced lunch receive more aid.
- Rich O’Connell: What efforts are going on at the state level to attract and keep commercial enterprises? What can be done at the state level? What can be done at the local level?
Ken Wyler: This is a balance of your planning board creating business friendly zoning ordinances and compromise within the community allowing business to setup shop. Even when the proper zoning ordinances are in place new business is often prevented due to “not in my backyard” arguments. This is truly a local issue.
- Rich O’Connell: Just for clarification regarding the responses on the retirement / pension program question earlier. Is it correct to assume based on your answer the Retirement Board is an autonomous board which is self-regulated and immune from your standard checks and balances?
NOTE: Overall perception from the guests was that “yes” they are a board appointed by the governor and not subject to the same checks and balances as a standard state agency would be.
Ken Wyler: I am watching the Utah system because they were successful in making changes to the retirement system. They moved to an assigned contribution.
Tami Najim Elwell: She doesn’t like to hear Ken Wyler say “we can’t change or fix something”, She does not like to be told NO. We should be able to make changes. Her and her husband can afford the extra $500 a year but most residents can’t and many are struggling.
Ken Wyler: He hears it all the time.
Tami Najim Elwell: It’s not just Newton and Kingston it's other communities in NH. This type of a plan is not sustainable here.
Audience Question: Are there any state pensions that are privatized? Who would manage the funds?
Ken Weyler: The University of NH uses TIA Creft and they are successful nationwide.
Audience: There was some discussion from the audience about a possible education tax credit, school choice.
Nancy Stiles” We are working towards High schools becoming school choice. We are working on it. It takes a long time” There are a few public academies not run by the government. They are more like mini college campuses.
Audience: Let’s talk about our federal tax dollars for a minute. How much money do we get per student from the federal government?
Ken Wyler: 6% is funded by the federal govt.
Jim Doggett: Three years ago the federal government paid $617 per student. To cover titles 1-12. Title 9 states we must provide equal sports for boys and girls.
Audience: States are like mini countries. Why not tell the federal government to keep their money and their mandates. Why not opt out of the money and mandates? The state can do this if we want.
Ken Wyler: We cannot refuse to follow the federal Government they provide 30% of funds across the board it would affect everything, we would be sued for civil rights violations.
Note: Other questions had been asked however we are have submitted these questions in writing for follow-up: (see below)
- What if any controls is the NH legislature enacting or contemplating to limit the costs of future unfunded mandates on school district budgets?
- Is there any legislative body responsible for holding follow-up reviews to evaluate existing mandates as to their effectiveness in accomplishing the desired goals and whether changes need to be made?
Rich O’Connell: Thanked everyone for attending.
The next NKTA public informational meeting will be held on Monday April 20, from 7-8:30 at the SRSD High School cafeteria. The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners have confirmed they will be there to discuss state education with us. This is the second in our series of 3 meetings. The final is planned for our local school administrators and school board to share their views on SRSD education in May. Please submit any questions you would like asked of the State School Board. Our VIP guests will have an opportunity to introduce themselves, and then will field questions prepared in advance, followed by questions from the floor as time permits.Top of FormBottom of Form
Meeting Adjourned at 8:18 PMRespectfully submitted,