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Students praised for their efforts in fighting state education cuts



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Two Hillside Elementary students, Hannah Melendy and Aubrie Brochu, have written letters to legislators and have created a petition seeking signatures in the fight against state education aid cuts. The two presented a video of themselves reading the letters to officials in Berlin recently. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
December 12, 2018
BERLIN — The City Council praised two Hillside Elementary students recently for their efforts in fighting state education aid cuts.

Hannah Melendy and Aubrie Brochu, fifth-graders at Hillside Elementary school in Berlin, have written letters to legislatures to get stabilization grant funds reinstated. They are also seeking signatures for a petition to overturn the decision to cut state education aid. The made a video of them reading the letter that was presented to the Berlin school board of education recently.

A New Hampshire House bill reducing education stabilization grants passed in 2015 and took effect in 2016 that is set to cut, in all, $5.5 million of education aid to the city of Berlin. The bill allows the state to gradually cut the stabilization grants in districts throughout the state by 4 percent every year for 25 years, ultimately eradicating the grants. Berlin is drawn against losing $220,000 annually in education aid. The state revised its adequacy formula and the stabilization grants set in 2012 were to offset the effects of the changes made. The formula decreases reimbursements for special education and eliminated money for districts that have the lowest tax base per student. The stabilization grants favor communities that are property-poor and have lower incomes.

Attorneys Andru Volinsky and John Tobin and the City of Berlin, as well as other property-poor town in New Hampshire that are affected, are working together in efforts to overturn the decision to cut education funds. The two attorneys contributed in Supreme Court cases in the 1990's which resulted in litigation that made the state responsible for providing an "adequate" education for schools. While Volinsky doesn't want to sue the state while he is in office, Tobin wants to with the help of a legal team.

The students have already collected hundreds of signatures for the petition including from teachers, students and other members of the community. Their plan is to present the petition to legislators early next year.

The students' project is titled "How to Change the World." The students told the council last Monday that their reasoning is that "children of today will be in charge in the future."

Councilor Lucy Remillard reported that none of the legislators have responded yet to the students' letters.

Mayor Paul Grenier praised the students "on their ability to understand the issues facing the schools and taking ownership of those issues."

He said he is "proud of their effort."

The students asked the councilors if they wanted to sign the petition and so they did along with the Mayor and others in attendance.

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