NEA-NH president Megan Tuttle provided the following testimony to the School Funding Commission this afternoon:
Good afternoon, my name is Megan Tuttle President of NEA-NH. Our union represents over 17,000 educators across our state in collective bargaining. In addition to negotiating and representing school staff and faculty we also provide our members high quality professional development and raise money for scholarships and basic needs for our students.
Before I begin, I would like to thank each one of you for your service on this committee and to the legislators who pushed to form this Commission. While our educators and students are all facing the crisis before us right now with triaging how to educate during the pandemic, the long-term crisis of school funding remains a fundamental threat to our children’s education that must be addressed. In fact, the pandemic in my opinion has only underscored the need to come together and find solutions to this decades old puzzle. I also would like to thank the Carsey Institute for including NEA-NH as part of the stakeholder listening sessions it has conducted. It has also been our pleasure to help aid the commission by circulating educator surveys and providing data to the Commission so that it has the information it needs to complete its work successfully.
As you move into the final phases of producing your roadmap forward, I wanted to come here on behalf of NEA-NH, along with my colleagues in public education, to support the School Funding Principles that Mr. McLynch outlined. I would like to focus on 2 aspects of this statement of principles:
First, NEA-NH has always operated under the principle that every child in New Hampshire, regardless of their zip code or background, deserves the right to a high-quality public education. Whether you live in Berlin our Moultonborough, each child has limitless potential and should be given an equal opportunity to achieve that potential using the greatest tool we have at our disposal: our public education system. To that end we urge this committee to be bold. As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, in spite of the tremendous headwinds and chaos that surrounds our communities, this school funding crisis will persist long after the COVID-19 pandemic is over unless we act as a state to fix it. The pandemic has further laid bare the inequities in resources in our system. For example, I have heard numerous stories this past year of students and educators driving to spaces with public wi-fi in order to take part in remote instruction or, in the case of the educator, to conduct the instruction themselves. Basic safety inequities from the ability of a school district to provide adequate cleaning products, air quality systems, shields and other personal protective equipment is impacted by whether you live in a property rich or a property poor community.
Pre-pandemic, these costs and issues with funding from an educator standpoint, held less unique, but equally problematic consequences that must be addressed in a comprehensive manner as outlined in the statement of principles.
We need to account for the cost of a modern education. Whether it is in-person or remote schooling, we must account for the staff truly necessary to provide a robust education. That includes accounting for the costs of salaries for teachers beyond their probationary status. That also includes the costs for the support staff needed to run a school and to support students’ social-emotional well-being. Now more than ever we need to account for the costs of maintaining school buildings that are safe for our students and staff.
When kids enter school, they are not all at the same starting line. Each day, we try our best to bridge that gap. Funding helps.
As educators and parents, we believe teaching and caring for the whole child means a student:
- Enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
- Learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
- Engages in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
- Gains access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
- Is challenged academically and prepares for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.
When we take a comprehensive view on what resources are necessary to educate our kids, it will help to ensure that we stop presenting a false set of choices to the students, educators and taxpayers of our state.
- Students can get a robust set of supports and curriculum regardless of the district they live in.
- Educators can make a salary that enables them to gain experience and grow in the profession whether they teach in an affluent community on the seacoast or a rural town up north.
- Taxpayers can know that providing adequate public education in New Hampshire does not mean making the choice between funding necessary programs and losing your home.
All these needs are statewide and should be accounted for when contemplating the responsibility around funding that the State of New Hampshire must provide. As the court has said, it is the state’s responsibility to fund an adequate education and that must be at the core of the solutions you develop.
So, to reiterate, we are asking you to be comprehensive in your approach and bold in your solutions. The roadmap you lay out will need to stand the test of time regardless of economic and political swings and if the change is not meaningful I fear it will never have a chance of garnering the support it needs to pass.
During these final stages before your report is ready, please continue to look to NEA-NH as one of the resources at your disposal to ensure we can truly provide a high-quality education to every student in New Hampshire.