We must keep fighting for our fair share of state education funding

The state must take action to provide adequate, sustainable funding to our school district.

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I’m a proud graduate of Manchester public schools. My husband and two of my children also graduated from Manchester public schools, and my youngest is currently a freshman at Central High School.

As a parent, my desire to make Manchester public schools better is what motivated me to run for public office. And whether you’re a student, a teacher, a parent, a business person, or a resident — we all have a vested interest in our public education system.

However, there is currently a disconnect between our city’s economic prosperity and the economic state of our public schools. For Manchester to continue to prosper, the State of New Hampshire must allocate more funds to our public schools.

Up until 2012, the state shared the cost of our state retirement system obligation by paying 35 percent. Since the legislature repealed this cost-sharing, the state pays 0 percent and Manchester taxpayers cover 100 percent of the cost. As a result, the City of Manchester has lost approximately $52.3 million.

We’ve also seen a reduction in education stabilization funding, resulting in a loss of approximately $2.98 million over three years. If no changes are made to the stabilization formula, Manchester will see another $498,000 drop in funding in Fiscal Year 2020. In addition, it’s been over 10 years since the state put any money toward school building aid. These costs have been picked up by Manchester taxpayers and have forced the school district to cut back on much-needed services.

To put it into perspective, the estimated cost for math curriculum (books, materials and professional development) for K-8 students is approximately $1.2 million. English Language Arts and Science curricula are another $2 million. These are among the most urgent needs in our schools, and Manchester teachers and students are going without due to the lack of funding. All while the state is sitting on a $128.8 million surplus.

Despite our lack of funding, we are being creative to help improve our school district.

In the last year, we received a GEAR UP grant, which will provide nearly 2,000 students at all four middle schools with academic support, career exploration, and college planning to help them prepare and succeed after high school. We developed Velcro University, a program that transformed a classroom at West High School to provide educational opportunities to help our students become college and career ready. And we’re partnering with Manchester Proud to raise funds to develop a community-based strategic plan to ensure the highest quality education for our students.

There has never been a more pivotal time to impact the direction of Manchester’s public schools than right now. We cannot expect continued economic prosperity for our city if we do not acknowledge and address our financial challenges. The state must take action to provide adequate, sustainable funding to our school district. Improving Manchester’s public schools must be a priority.

I’m grateful that many local leaders, including Aldermen and Board of School Committee members, who have spoken out about this issue. I’ve worked with local legislators, testified at the state house and have communicated with the Governor.

I ask all of you to join me in advocating for more state funding for our students. We must continue to fight for our fair share of state funding so every Manchester student receives the high quality education they deserve.

Mayor Joyce Craig was elected in 2017 as the 48th mayor of Manchester, NH.