Dover sues New Hampshire over cap on state aid to schools, says it violates constitution

The city of Dover is suing New Hampshire over the state's cap on aid to schools, saying the limit violates a constitutional requirement that it fund an "adequate education" for every child.

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New Hampshire pays school districts on a per-student basis, an arrangement developed in the 1990s after a series of lawsuits over education funding known as the Claremont decisions. The state pays schools $3,450 per student, but a cap put in place several years ago says no district can receive more than 108 percent of the aid it got the year before.

That means rapidly growing districts such as Dover are missing out on money they feel they are owed. Enrollment is declining statewide, but Dover is one of a number of communities, including Windham and Bedford, that are seeing their school enrollments rise.

The lawsuit alleges Dover has missed out on nearly $14 million since 2009, and the city is seeking that money in back payments. The city is also seeking an injunction to stop the state from imposing the cap when it makes payments to districts in September.

Lawmakers have been grappling with education funding for years, and the state budget vetoed by Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan this year would have raised the cap in 2016 to 160 percent of the previous year's funding.

Hassan says education funding is "an ongoing part of budget discussions" and she plans to work with the Department of Justice on a response to the lawsuit.

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Andru Volinsky, the lead attorney against the state in the Claremont cases, is representing Dover.