Nate Greenberg, Londonderry School District Superintendent

posted Apr 25, 2012, 12:56 PM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Apr 26, 2012, 11:50 AM ]

Superintendent Nate Greenberg to the House Ways and Means Committee on HB 372


Testimony to:              House Ways and Means Committee

RE:                             Testimony in Opposition to SB 372 (Revised April 24, 2012 in response to Senator Forsythe’s testimony)               

DATE:                        April 26, 2012

FROM:                       Nathan Greenberg

                                  Superintendent of Schools

                                  Londonderry, NH

Good afternoon.  My name is Nathan Greenberg.  I have the privilege and honor of serving as the Superintendent of Schools for the Londonderry School District.  I am here today to testify in opposition to SB 372 and by extension opposition to HB 1607.  I am in opposition to the proposed legislation for a variety of reasons including philosophical and legal.  I will, for purposes of brevity and recognition that others have or will address the aforementioned issues more eloquently than I, focus on downshifting of costs to local taxpayers and accountability.

  • Downshifting/Creating Donor Cities and Towns

As the bill is written, students leaving a school district would in essence take their adequacy money with them.  One student less in a classroom or a grade level would not reduce the fixed costs for a school or a school district.  The loss of the student would not change fixed costs such as staffing, heating, transportation, etc.  Thus, the $4,112* loss in adequacy aid would have to be made up by local taxpayers.  To expand the above concept, if three to five students were to leave the district at each grade level, the district would lose upwards of a quarter of a million dollars with no reduction in fixed costs; creating a downshift to the local taxpayers of that sizeable sum of money.  In essence, the local tax base would be subsidizing private school education.  Specifically in Londonderry, we receive $3,893 ** in State Adequacy Aid.  Thirty percent ($1,306) is local tax dollars, aka, state-wide property tax.  Thus, in essence, the Londonderry taxpayers would be sending $1,306 per student out of the district.  Thus, what has been set up with the mechanics of this bill is something this legislative body fought to eliminate in another arena; the elimination of donor cities and towns.  What has been proposed in this bill is the creation of a financial function creating donor cities and towns all over the State.  The “old donor town” concept was sending public money from one public entity to another with the same educational and financial accountability systems.  This bill would send public money from a public entity to a private entity with no comparable accountability provisions.  Too, keeping in mind that Londonderry receives $2,587 per student from the State (State’s share of adequacy) which is only $87 more than the $2,500 scholarship that would go to a private school; and for that $87 per student, the school district must comply with an arms-length list of accountability requirements (educational and financial), while the total accountability for the private school is a three-question survey, completed by the parent.  This does not balance out as a transparent use of public dollars.

Furthermore, tax revenue from business taxes under this plan would be reduced.  This does not make sense particularly in a time when the State has already reduced its funding of catastrophic aid as well as vocational tuition and transportation aid adding to the financial burden at the local level; let alone the potential impact of pending court action regarding the retirement system and proposed legislation regarding same.

Lastly, it should be noted, there is no prohibition in either tax credit bill prohibiting the utilization of these “scholarships” for out-of-state private or religious schools.  In summary, the equation is simple:  LR (Less Revenue) + FC (Fixed Costs) = DLTP (Downshifting to Local Tax Payers).

  • Accountability (Educational/Financial)

With all due respect to the sponsors, a three (3) question survey to the parents is not an accountability plan for a scholarship that amounts to the equivalent of over 60%* of an individual student’s adequacy aid (using fiscal note figures).  The “plan” lacks any method for judging student progress, school performance or financial accountability.  This “accountability plan” aside from its lack of educational and financial accountability has no assurance that the schools receiving these “tax dollars” will comply with all appropriate federal and state laws and regulations (i.e. non-discrimination, 504, etc.).  This lack of accountability (educational and financial) is intentional as evident by the language of II(a), under purpose which states “Allow maximum freedom to parents and non-public schools to respond to and without governmental control provide for the educational needs of children, this act shall be liberally construed to achieve that purpose.”

Thus, for $87 per student more than a private school would receive, the Londonderry School District for example must meet all State educational and financial accountability requirements, while a private school receiving the $2,500 scholarship has no obligation to meet any of those accountability provisions.

Thus, in conclusion, this bill and its cousin (HB 1607) will downshift costs to local taxpayers, increasing local property taxes; create donor cities and towns; and will not provide any legitimate form of educational or financial accountability; as well as having the potential of sending tax dollars via the State and local taxpayers to out-of-state private and religious schools.

Please consider these arguments against this bill and vote no.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

*Based in fiscal note

**Based on statutorily guaranteed adequacy (stabilization money not included)