Background to the Claremont Lawsuit

Published February 1, 1998

The New Hampshire school funding case was filed originally in 1991 by five school districts, five students, and eight taxpayers and parents, known collectively as the Claremont Lawsuit Coalition. The petitioners alleged that New Hampshire’s educational funding system leads to inadequate and inequitable distribution of educational opportunities and inadequate and inequitable funding of public education; that it violates equal protection guarantees; and that it results in unreasonable, disproportionate, and burdensome taxation.

Merrimack Superior Court Judge George L. Manias dismissed the petition in 1992, but on appeal to the state supreme court, the case was sent back to him for trial. In late 1996, Manias upheld the state’s school finance system while accepting that some differences in educational opportunities existed among districts and that “educational funding realities can present more difficult decisions for the petitioner districts than for the comparison districts.” The five school districts again appealed their case to the state supreme court.

Harvard University assistant economics professor Caroline Hoxby provided expert testimony at the trial, providing evidence that the local property tax is one of the best methods of financing public schools. (See “Students, Taxpayers Benefit from Local School Funding,” School Reform News, September 1997.)