NH Rep. Kristin Noble Demolishes School Funding Myths

Rep. Kristin Noble

Full Floor Speech by Rep. Noble on the Students First Act; Now HB 1265

Note: This is a longer, written version of the floor speech delivered by Rep. Kristin Noble during debate on the bill.

See if you can make sense of these two facts about New Hampshire’s education system.

First, school spending is going up with no end in sight. Over the past two decades, our cost-per-pupil—the amount we spend in tax dollars divided by the number of children in school—has gone up 77%. And that’s after you adjust for inflation.

Secondly, none of this money is going to teachers—and I mean none of it. When you adjust for inflation, New Hampshire teachers have not gotten a raise in twenty years.

We’ve all heard reports of teachers getting paid less than the starting salary of a cashier at Walmart. And this isn’t just anecdotal.

Listen carefully to these numbers, because the latest facts are even more shocking than the older numbers in the Senate’s legislative findings.

As of this year, our average cost-per-pupil is slightly higher than Massachusetts, with both states spending about $20,000 per pupil. But—somehow—the average New Hampshire teacher is paid almost $20,000 less than the average Massachusetts teacher. All of these numbers are from the state departments of education.

Think carefully about those numbers. My colleagues who will vote against this bill today might be happy to hear me say we can learn something from Massachusetts. But, if Massachusetts tells us anything, it tells us that our teacher pay crisis has nothing to do with our taxes and spending being too low.

If Massachusetts pays teachers $20,000 more with the same amount of per-pupil money, then where is all our money going?

Over the past 20 years, as New Hampshire teacher pay has failed to go up at all, our number of non-teaching staff has gone up 80%. As our teachers sometimes make less than they could at McDonald’s, we have seen the growth of a large class of school administrators across the state—including superintendents, assistant superintendents, and an unreported number of full-time diversity professionals.

As of this year, superintendents in New Hampshire make up to $200,000, or three times the salary of an average New Hampshire teacher. These school administrators are the driving force behind ideological partisanship in our schools, and they have become numerous, wealthy, and a powerful political machine—a fact we can see from the way the so-called “teachers’ union” lobbied against this bill in the Senate.

These administrators are not just profiting from taxpayers: they are profiting on the backs of teachers. One member of our state Board of Education has said that taxpayers are being subjected to “moral coercion.” Granite Staters are presented with the spectacle of impoverished teachers, so they compassionately vote to increase school taxes to raise those low teacher salaries. But, for 20 years, none of these higher school taxes have ever gone to teachers.

Instead, we create more and more high-paid directors of diversity and inclusion while teacher pay is kept artificially low, so that this cynical cycle can begin again.

How has this problem gotten even worse in New Hampshire than in Massachusetts? Because there has been nobody here to stop it. In New Hampshire, we have a volunteer legislature, limited civil society institutions, and decaying local media that no longer inform the people of these kinds of problems. Right under our noses, this industrial complex of school administrators has been able to grow in the darkness. It’s time to bring it into the light.

This bill will require that school districts post line graphs showing three numbers over 10 years: their average cost-per-pupil, their average teacher pay, and their total administrator salaries.

I have seen mock-ups of what these line graphs are going to look like and, in many places, the results are predictable. Teacher pay has remained a flat line, per-pupil spending has gone way up, and administrator pay shoots up like a hockey stick.

The results will speak for themselves, letting taxpayers make an informed decision about whether and how to increase school spending.

One last note here. My guess is that someone is about to stand up here and tell you that creating these charts is going to be some kind of big expense, or that mandating the posting of signs is some sort of unprecedented cruelty.

Let me be clear about this. I have talked to people who have made mock-ups of these charts, and any one of these charts can be made in 10 to 20 minutes using Microsoft Excel, which is not exactly some newfangled technology. Other than the salaries of diversity professionals, which are mostly not reported, all of the numbers are collected by the Department of Education.

Finally, the posting requirement and penalties are taken directly from existing state law. RSA 91-A:2 already requires that notice of public meetings be physically posted in a public place, and 91-A:7 already lets citizens seek an injunction in court if the notice is not posted.

Nothing about this procedure is fundamentally new. What is new is that all taxpayers will be able to see in a clear, accessible format what has really been happening with their tax dollars.

Please vote Ought to Pass and help us put our students and teachers before school administrators. Thank you.

Note from Cornerstone: Sen. Keith Murphy’s HB 1265 will mandate that, before any school budget meeting, school districts physically display large line graphs showing school spending, average teacher pay, and administrator pay. See an example of what Salem School District’s graphs will look like below. 

Contact your state representative now and tell them to support HB 1265, the Students First Act.


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