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NH Voters Prefer Targeted Education Aid

April 1, 2003

New Hampshire voters overwhelmingly prefer targeting school funding only to communities that cannot afford to provide adequate education, according to an independent survey conducted by the prestigious Becker Institute and released Tuesday by the Coalition Communities that developed the only fully targeted aid plan under consideration by the Legislature this year.

The survey, conducted by telephone in mid-March, found that targeted aid was preferred by a nearly 2-1 margin (60% to 34%) and support for targeted aid has significantly increased to a 26-point margin since March 2001, the last time the independent polling firm surveyed registered voters on the question.

Surprisingly, the Becker survey also revealed that two-thirds of those favoring targeted aid were firm in their support even if it means their own communities would see a decrease in education funding.

"The intensity of voters' support for either of the two funding plans tested in this survey can be seen from the further finding that irrespective of which plan voters prefer, two-thirds would still support their preferred plan even if it meant that their local schools would receive less state financial aid than they now receive," said John Becker, president of the survey firm.

The voters, also by a 2-1 margin, support locking in their preferred method of education funding through an amendment to the State Constitution

"Thus, amending the Constitution is not the issue in the school funding debate. Overwhelmingly, voters would do so. The key question is which funding plan will be approved by the Legislature and, at this point, the clear majority of voters prefer targeted funding," Becker said.

The Coalition Communities, a group of 34 municipalities committed to finding a fair education funding formula, recently assembled a team of nationally recognized funding experts to develop an alternative to the current system. The result is HB717, sponsored by Rep. Edmond Gionet of Lincoln.

HB717 would gradually phase in a targeted aid funding formula based on a town's education needs and ability to finance them, set predictable controls on State costs, and return control of property tax dollars to the local communities. Currently, the State controls $1 of every $3 in property tax dollars raised in each town.

A companion constitutional amendment, CACR13, is before the House Education Committee. The Coalition believes HB717 can stand alone, but drafted the constitutional amendment to preclude future legal challenges and to guarantee the State will provide equal education opportunity to all NH schoolchildren.

The Becker Institute survey also asked the 400 voters to rate the quality of their local public education, and 31% rated it "very good" - up nine points from 2001 - and another 34% rated it "good." The breakdown was similar whether the voters had children in public school or did not.

The survey results have a variance of plus or minus two to five percentage points.


 1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth, NH, 03801, Tel: (603) 610-7281Fax: (603) 427-1575 Email: Coalition@ch.cityofportsmouth.com