The public schools enroll 186,000 students: 88% White, 4% Latino, and 3% Asian/Pacific Islander, with 28% living in poverty and 2% learning English. The State spends $14,050 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“Knowledge and learning, generally diffused through a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; and spreading the opportunities and advantages of education through the various parts of the country, being highly conducive to promote this end; it shall be the duty of the legislators and magistrates, in all future periods of this government, to cherish the interest of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries and public schools...” N.H. Const. Pt. 2, art. 83.
In a series of decisions in Claremont School District v. Governor, the New Hampshire courts found that the State was not providing children with an adequate education. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held that education is a fundamental right, and the State has “the duty to ensure that the public schools achieve their object and…provide an education to all its citizens and that it support all public schools.”
The Court wrote that, “The State's constitutional duty…includes broad educational opportunities needed in today's society to prepare citizens for their role as participants and as potential competitors in today's marketplace of ideas.” The Court also held that the burden of funding public schools must be shared by all citizens because all benefit from the maintenance of a democratic government, which depends on the education of the state’s children.
The Court looked to the seven student “capacities” contained in the Kentucky case, Rose v. Council for Better Education, when crafting its decision.
In 2005, in Londonderry School District v. State, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that the State had to do more to comply with the constitution. In 2008, after the Legislature had revised the school funding statutes, defined the elements of an adequate education, and established procedures to determine the costs of this adequate education, the Court concluded that the State had satisfied its constitutional duty.
In 2016, in Dover v. State, the trial court declared the state's statutory cap on school funding unconstitutional and granted a permanent injunction against its use. About 40 communities and school districts benefit from this ruling.