by Leo Plante, Dublin School Choice Committee
Dear Selectmen Gabel, Snitko and Raymond,
We have met monthly for the past six months to explore the possibility of providing Dublin parents the opportunity to send their children to the best performing independent and public schools in our region regardless of family income while concurrently providing relief for over burdened Dublin taxpayers. Our resources included Frank Edelblut, NH Commissioner of Education; NH Senator Ruth Ward, Member of the Senate Education Committee; NH Representative Vincent Migliore, former Chair of the Newfound Area School District and Dr. Jody Underwood, Chair of the School Board Governance Association of NH, Chair of the Croydon, NH School Board and Education Fellow at the Granite Institute. We also invited the Superintendent and Chairman of the Contoocook Valley School District (ConVal) to meet with us but they both declined.
So what have we learned? We learned that ConVal has severe shortcomings which critically impact Dublin residents : discriminatory pricing ($23,000 per Dublin student vs. a district and NH state average of $15,000 ); inefficiency (a teacher to support staff ratio of almost one to one): underperformance (55% and 30% of ConVal 11th graders are not proficient in math and reading respectively) and lack of transparency (ConVal failed to provide us with aggregate data on the cost and academic achievement results of Dublin students despite multiple requests).
We learned that an average annual $15,000 tuition voucher would be sufficient to allow Dublin parents to send their children to the best performing independent and public schools in our area, while reducing Dublin school taxes by approximately one third or $1.2 million per year.
We learned that Dublin has little control or oversight over ConVal expenditures. This became evident in the Spring of 2019 when ConVal initiated a lawsuit against the NH Education Department without the approval of district voters seeking to triple state aid to NH public school districts. If successful, the effect of the ConVal lawsuit could sharply increase state school taxes especially at “donor” towns like Dublin. It is interesting to note that all parties to the ConVal litigation including plaintiffs and defendants, their attorneys and the judge are paid from NH taxpayer funds.
We learned that down the road from Dublin in Amherst, NH lies the sixth-best performing public high school in NH according to US News and World Report. Souhegan High School has by far the best student academic proficiency results in our region.
We learned that the Dublin Consolidated School (DCS) is operating at approximately one-third of its capacity. Given Dublin’s declining population and low birth rate, it is unlikely that DCS in its current form will ever achieve an enrollment that is economically sustainable. Operating DCS as an independent or public charter school might allow DCS to survive by drawing students from neighboring towns.
We learned that NH towns that offer school choice attract more young families.
We urge you to appoint a formal Dublin School Committee to continue our work. More than thirty NH towns offer some form of school choice to their residents. The children, parents, and taxpayers of Dublin deserve no less.
Respectfully Submitted on Behalf of the Dublin School Choice Committee.