[Excerpt] “Our children embody the enduring wonder of life. They hold our hopes for the future. We want them to be happy, to succeed in whatever they do both in work and in play. We want them to contribute to our country and the world in constructive ways.
But for these hopes to be realized our children must be educated-they must possess the requisite skills and knowledge to function well in this ever changing world. Yet, are we, as a society, meeting our responsibility to educate our children? What do we expect of our public schools? How important are these schools to us? Is a public education fit for the times guaranteed as a constitutional matter?
These questions loomed large in the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decisions in Claremont I and Claremont II, issued respectively in 1993 and 1997. Constituting New Hampshire's core education rulings, they are among the Court's most controversial exercises of constitutional jurisprudence.
This article concludes that the New Hampshire Supreme Court correctly determined in Claremont I that Article 83 established enforceable positive constitutional rights for the provision and funding of an adequate public education. The Court acted properly in recognizing that the judiciary had an important role to play to assure these important constitutional rights. Claremont I properly upheld the State's constitutional obligation to accord the State's public school children with access to an education that would at all times enable them to be good citizens productive in their work. The decision also reflected proper regard for the prerogatives of the elected branches by leaving to them, at least initially, the development of an operational definition of "adequacy" in education, along with the responsibility to fashion "the appropriate means" to provide for it.
The Claremont II decision, however, does not earn like approbation. It fails to stand up strongly as a tax ruling. It does not constitute a good appellate review of the other Superior Court rulings against the petitioners. The Court majority, after issuing its decision, deferred to the elected branches to give them time to fashion a remedy. Its decision, however, was not well received, or easily accepted, by many in the Legislature. Only after much resistance and much delay did the elected branches manage to put in place certain educational "adequacy"/funding reforms.
Whatever their merits or flaws, this article sees these two decisions as having importantly and positively impacted New Hampshire's public education system. The decisions had a good deal to do with ushering in needed reforms, so that the education system now operates with a specific definition for a constitutionally adequate education, regular assessment and accountability tools, and a "costing out" of "adequacy" linked to associated funding. The decisions have thus better positioned the public education system to meet the challenges of the future.”
John M. Lewis & Stephen E. Borofsky, Claremont I and II - Were They Rightly Decided, and Where Have They Left Us?, 14 U.N.H. L. REV. 1 (2016), available at http://scholars.unh.edu/unh_lr/vol14/iss1/3