Mayor Craig: ‘For our state to continue to grow, how the state allocates funding for our public schools must change’

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Mayor Craig, right, testifying in front of the Senate Finance Committee during their state budget public hearing in Manchester. Courtesy Photo

Below is the full text of Mayor Joyce Craig’s testimony before the NH Senate Finance Committee during a hearing held at City Hall in Manchester on May 8.

Good Evening Chairman D’Allesandro and members of the committee. For the record, my name is Joyce Craig, and I’m the mayor of Manchester.

First, I want to say that it’s an honor to welcome you to Manchester and thank you for making state government and the budget process more accessible to everyone by holding this hearing. As Mayor, I’ve made getting out into the community to listen to our residents a priority and I’m so thankful that you’ve have come to Manchester tonight to hear the concerns of our residents.

Secondly, I want to thank you for the work that you’re doing. As someone who has prepared city budgets that both make strategic investments and protects our local taxpayers, I can appreciate the difficult balance of priorities that you have and I appreciate all that you do.

Manchester is a dynamic, vibrant city that serves as the economic engine of our state. Our community has boundless potential. But, living up to this potential requires us to address our challenges head-on.

And while I have previously advocated for additional state support to combat New Hampshire’s substance misuse epidemic, to address our mental health crisis, to increase the availability of affordable housing and homelessness supports, there is one area I would like focus on tonight.

As elected officials, we have no higher priority than providing our children with a quality public education that prepares them for a successful future. And whether you’re a student, a teacher, a parent, a business leader, or a resident-we all have a vested interest in our public education system.

However, there is a growing disconnect between our state’s economic prosperity and the economic state of our public schools. For our state to continue to grow, how the state allocates funding for our public schools must change.

Over the last 10 years, cuts in state aid have cost Manchester more than $50 million dollars. This has forced our community, and many others, to pick up the costs on the backs of local taxpayers or to cut back on much-needed services.

To put this into perspective, updated math curriculum (including books, materials, and professional development) for K-8 students across the Manchester School District costs approximately $1.2 million. Updated English Language Arts and Science curriculum costs around $1 million each. These are items Manchester students are going without due to lack of funding provided by the state.

The House-passed version of the budget makes significant progress, and I want to thank the House for prioritizing public education in their budget. By reversing the drop in stabilization funding, providing municipalities with full adequacy grants for kindergarteners, and making adjustments to the adequacy formula, the House-passed version of the budget would send an additional $19.9 million to Manchester over the next two fiscal years. I urge this committee to make a similar commitment to our public schools and our local property taxpayers as you continue your work.

We cannot expect continued economic prosperity for our state if we do not acknowledge and address the challenges facing our educational system.

Our teachers, administrators, and school staff are asked to do a lot of work, with limited resources.

Every dollar our district continues to lose in state funding impacts our ability to address urgent needs, such as buying textbooks, increasing special education services and agreeing with our teachers on a fair and sustainable contract.

Restoring education funding at the state level will provide much-needed financial relief to Manchester taxpayers, and I ask our legislature to pass a budget that helps provide our children with a quality, public education.

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