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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin



The Town of Hanover as a Window on Public-School Funding in the State of New Hampshire: 1789-1919

WALTER A. BACKOFEN



The municipal history of Hanover, New Hampshire, is extraordinarily well documented. Town Meeting accounts of 1761-1818 were published nearly a century ago.[1] Now, in an ongoing effort, a massive inventory of other records accumulated since 1761 is being collated and catalogued for general access.[2] Such resources are indispensable for tracking the growth of social institutions of every kind, including the public-school system the state of New Hampshire once intended for its citizenry. Created in 1789 by the first education-reform act under the State Constitution of 1784, 'An Act for the better regulation of schools within the State and for repealing the laws now in force respecting them,'[3] it may never have been more in the limelight than it is today, owing to recent findings of the New Hampshire Supreme Court in the so-called 'Claremont Case.'[4] How Hanover responded to the law of 1789 is clear from its records. How well that response squares with the Court's historical perspective can be illuminated by a review of those records.

The watershed event for New Hampshire was the passage on 18 June 1789 of the act cited above. One week later the state of Massachusetts adopted its own reform legislation: 'An Act to provide for the Instruction of Youth, and for the Promotion of good Education,' but with nothing repealed.[5] For the first time since 1647 New Hampshire was free of the policy it inherited from the years of Massachusetts governance (1642-1679), as Massachusetts chose not to break that chain. An arguably more enlightened policy was New Hampshire's replacement choice.

At least the children in towns of fewer than fifty families could no longer be denied a public education. A practice agreeable to the enduring law of the Massachusetts Puritans of 1647, it can only be understood in relation to another proviso in that law, that school costs be neither oppressive nor widely variable from town to town--as they surely could have been in towns too small to benefit from economies of size. Under this umbrella, which was not closed in Massachusetts until 1839,[6] some New Hampshire towns were automatically relieved of any obligation to teach their children to read or write.[7] And had New Hampshire not acted when it did, as many as 25% of the school-age children discovered in Grafton County by the Federal Census of 1790[8] would still have had no legal access to an education at public expense.

Central to the change in 1789 was New Hampshire's rejection of 142 years of exclusive local control over school taxes, and the transfer of primary school-tax authority to the state. The school tax became a state tax on a broad spectrum of property for the first time. And as it did, precisely the same formula was chosen for levying in the future school taxes that had been in service since no later than 1693 for paying the bills of the province.[9] In extending the range of this old idea, the General Court defined an annual threshold of monetary support for public education across the state that was to be raised by all towns, collectively. Then, in the spirit of proportionate taxation at equal rates, each town's share of the state's valuation became its share of this sum and the exact amount it would have to spend at home on its own schools. Before this moment, tax-rate parity was not guaranteed, but neither was the rate allowed to range too widely, even at the expense of access to public school. After 1789, tax-rate parity was guaranteed along with public schooling for every educable child, but to no greater extent than the mandate could buy.

The state increased the amount of money in the threshold seventeen times between 1789 and 1905, at intervals of from one to twenty-two years, on a schedule driven largely by efforts to deal with the rapid stratification of taxable wealth within the state and the corresponding stratification of school support that it was causing.[10] The statewide assets base, meanwhile, expanded on its own with far more regularity and, after 1900, at a rapidly increasing rate. As a result, the nominally uniform and totally derivative state-mandated school-tax rate cycled more and more widely until, finally, it required being pulled out of a tailspin and stabilized by a new law in 1919.[11]

Up to that point, however, each town's annual obligatory payment in support of its schools was determined simply and mechanically by multiplying two numbers: one, the total monetary threshold expected to be met by all towns acting together; the other, the town's own proportionate share of the entire valuation of the state. But because keeping track of the second number on an annnual basis would have been a challenge, if not an impossibility, it was usually assigned a value only once every four years and treated as a constant between times while a replacement value was being worked out by the state. Thus the local annual tax rate could actually vary from town to town, but probably never by very much before all towns were reapportioned again and the new list of values that was supposed to restore a common rate was published.[12]

In an annual spring ritual after 1789, a town's selectmen used these two numbers with an updated inventory of their own polls and ratable estates to calculate the school-tax rate for the year ahead. And although they worked without algebraic definitions, having them today may help in rediscovering what seems so generally to have been forgotten about a practice last followed in 1918.[13] To that end, the statewide requirement in thousands of dollars (in thousands of pounds before 1789) becomes the multiplier, M, that applied to all towns. While each town's individualized share of every thousand dollars of the collective tax invites being identified as p, to stand for the label it once bore of 'proportion of public taxes.'[14] In these terms, a town's annual state-mandated school-tax levy would have been

M x p

in which

p = v / V x 1000

with v representing the assessed valuation of the town and V that of the state, both at reapportionment time.

Now, given each parameter's special history, the annual product of the two traced out a different course of mandatory levies for every town as distinctive as a municipal signature. (Worth noting is that there was no legal restraint on voluntary overpayment, although enabling legislation for the purpose did not appear until 1842.)[15] Between 1790, the year of the first required payment, and 1918, the year of the last, Hanover's school-tax signature--its M x p-- was that in Figure 1. Its decisions as a town on the amounts it would actually spend in response to this mandated performance are located on their own track for comparison with M x p in Figure 2.

In 1871, for example, M had just been raised to 350 from 250 to create a new statewide threshold of $350,000 (up from $250,000), and would not be raised again until 1893. Hanover's p, meanwhile, had been $6.69 since 1869 when it was found by using the equation above with a local v of a little less than $940,000.00 and a statewide V of nearly $140,000,000.00; its next scheduled determination, for release in 1873, showed it to have gone down to $5.94. Where this led was to a townwide school-tax levy of 350 x $6.69 = $2341.50 in 1871 and 1872, followed by only 350 x $5.94 = $2079.00 over the four-year period of 1873-1876 when yet another value of p (and M x p) was due. Thus, six different levels of M x p account for the ragged plateau between 1871 and 1892 in Figure 1. In the realm of tax rates, this translated into a nominally uniform $2.40 per $1000.00 of assessed valuation in 1871, but a little less each year thereafter (as a statewide average) down to around $1.70/1000 in 1892; an increase in M at that point (to 400) reversed the course, but only for the one year before the rate started falling again.

Hanover's opening response to the law of 1789 was a proportionately substantial overpayment in 1790. Ten years later its school-tax revenue had brushed against the rising mandate level but rebounded slightly before settling there in 1808, not to be significantly overpaid again until after 1898. During this interval of nearly a century, the year-to-year total of required payments was exceeded in the cumulative amount collected by only 0.3%; even the most minute course changes in M x p tended to be reproduced in the townwide school-tax levy.[16] Before 1808, when overpayment was almost certainly the intent for at least thirteen of the eighteen years, it added up to about 50% of the integrated M x p. After 1898, depending upon how the overpayment is calculated (only that from the town as a whole is shown in Figure 2), it was much more.

Hanover's mandatory school tax, M x P, 1790-1918.

As an independent signal that overspending had ended in 1809, the decision of the March town meeting for the first time took on a formulaic quality, to raise only the school-tax money required by law, i.e., M x p. And with that step, policy for most of the century ahead was defined. In 1810, in fact, the appropriation of school-tax money must have seemed such a formality that it drew no explicit mention in the warrant, in an omission repeated in 1812 and 1813 and frequently in the future, when any acknowledgment of the option of overpayment was met with a vote to 'pass over.'

To the extent that there is a short answer for why Hanover turned to this pro forma mode of school-tax management in 1808, it begins with the rapid ascendancy of the virtually independent school district. From five districts in 1790--all to the west of Moose Mountain--the number had doubled by 1807, on the way to seventeen in 1833, with the last to be added in 1853. In 1805 the state recognized the process with an enabling act that triggered a wave of legislation relative to district organization, alteration, and, in not many years, termination.[17] Massachusetts did not wait to deal with the school districts, but endorsed them at the outset, in its own law of 1789.

Town response to the mandate of M x p.

Hanover's lasting plan of choice for funding its districts was adopted in the first effective year of the New Hampshire law of 1789, when each one's proportionate share of M x p was made identical to its share of the tax list, which soon left the town the role of little more than broker of predetermined funds for district consumption. And by limiting payment to the mandated level beginning in 1808, this plan became unequivocally the most insular of all allowed under the law.[18] Hanover, with lots of company among the state's towns, early decided on a minimum-cost public education with control vested in management units as near family in size as the unfavorable economics of maintaining and staffing a school-house in a tiny district would permit,[19] although in neighboring Enfield on occasion--there is no evidence for Hanover--school taxes were actually rebated to individual heads of household for purposes of what amounted to home schooling.[20] Such cases rather illustrate what the Massachusetts framers of 1647 had decided to avoid altogether by permitting the suspension of public education when the support base got too small (and potentially too expensive).

The upshot was that no fewer than eighteen annual district meetings could be anticipated in Hanover at the movement's peak, with each one's agenda devoted chiefly to spending an automatically programmed sum of money. A typical decision taking explicit notice of that circumstance was made by District No. 6 on 20 October 1815: 'Voted that the schooling for the present winter shall not exceed the money belonging to the District . . .'[21]

School districts after 1853 with valuation of all relative to No. 1 in 1860.

Each district's annual operating budget for all of the years that saw so many of them in coexistence--and for a few years thereafter when the eighteen were replaced by just two--consistently mirrored its comparative standing in taxable wealth. On the map in Figure 3, which was constructed for illustrating this point,[22] District No. 1 in the College corner of town was wealthier than all others combined by 1885 when the Legislature finally found the votes to abolish the multidistrict plan of public-school management.[23] In 1884, on the eve of that pivotal change, Hanover's districts each claimed as a share of the town's tax base--and, therefore, as a share of its annual M x p--the proportions plotted in Figure 4.[24] Around 1850, at the most egalitarian moment in the recorded history of Hanover's school districts, No. 1's share of the town's wealth still came to a little more than 35%.

District valuation, vd, as a proportion of the town's, v, in 1884.

Data and anecdotes abound for translating differences between 50% and 1% of the town's assets into enormous disparities in the quality and amounts of schooling in districts so-positioned relative to one another.[25] As it turned out, for fairly self-evident reasons of geography and resources, the eastern half of the town held the poorer half of all districts, and had only one on the other side for company--No. 9 from literally in the shadow of No. 1.

In the aftermath of 1885, Hanover became divided into just two school districts: District No. 1, which had been independent of the town as a self-managed entity since 1868,[26] and the Town District, now reconstructed out of the original Nos. 2 through 18.[27] One very telling step in this transformation was the Town District's acquisition by purchase of all of the old schoolhouses outside of District No. 1 which the individual districts had built at their own expense, even the six too remote and/or run-down to continue in service under the new, unified and more efficient plan.[28] To that end, the assessed value of this collection of seventeen buildings was raised by taxing the seventeen formerly independent districts at a common rate before compensating each for what its building was then worth. No single number may be more broadly revealing of how unbalanced educational opportunities had become than this raw appraisal, especially when the $10,933.04 that No. 1 had spent a decade earlier on its own new school is included to anchor one end of the comparison. Now, in 1886, the rest of the town's schools were worth, in descending order below that ceiling, the amounts listed in the table.

Schoolhouse Inventory of the Town District in 1886

Original District No. Appraised Value of building, $ Tax Assesment $ Value Tax
(110,933.04*)--
5350274.411.28
17200142.761.40
7175151.321.16
4100189.880.53
210088.471.13
1810056.651.76
13100106.740.94
37567.891.10
117012.875.44
65081.350.61
143325.181.31
183027.741.08
123051.910.58
152525.510.98
101047.460.21
161037.460.27
9557.460.09
* Construction cost in 1877.

To the extent that a district was called on to pay an assessment of more than the appraised value of its building, it might be thought to have lagged in investing in proportion to its assets. In those terms, the most altruistic district was the perennially poorest, most nearly family-centered No. 11 with a building worth over five times its tax obligation; the least was No. 9 with its $5.00 building sited not two miles away from No. 1's and worth less than a tenth of its assessment (and less than 0.05% of the construction cost of No. 1's). Yet when the cut was made, the demographics favored the survival of a school in No. 9 but not one in No. 11.

The stratification process did not stop in 1886, however, and before 1919, No. 1's valuation had approached five times that of the combined Town District while its taxpaying population had probably not yet grown to be twice as large as the latter's. The M x p breakdown continued to follow in step with valuation, as the only tax-generated support, until the momentous year of 1899. By then, the state's total recorded school-tax revenue was more than twice its threshold of M x 1000. But Hanover as a town only now decided to join in with its first significant supplementary payment amounting to $1000.00 and nearly 40% of its M x p.[29] The practice was continued for the next seventeen years, skipping only 1911, and led to the schedule of mounting extra-mandate support summarized in Figure 5 where the town is highlighted as the catalyst of change.

The town's unbroken twelve years of voluntary overpayment, from 1899 through 1910, invite correlation with a period when its own management was in the hands of an unchanging board of selectmen.[30] These individuals, therefore, may well have been the prime movers in this dramatic revamping of Hanover's outlook on public-school support. In absolute amount, the town's overage was soon eclipsed by independent acts of tax-voluntarism from each of the two post-1885 districts. But the town itself took the first step.

School-tax payment by source, after 1898.

The poorer Town District followed the town by one year with a $100.00 supplement to its own pre-set budget. Three years after 1899, No. 1 joined in with a $300.00 supplement to its share of M x p. By 1906, the town, on the one hand, and the districts together, on the other, were taxing themselves equally in this voluntary mode. Then the districts pulled ahead until, in 1916, the two jointly raised about six times as much as the town's $2000.00 excess over M x p, which was its last such act. Interestingly, the vote at the 1916 town meeting that favored the $2000.00 was also recorded, and may say something about why there were no more decisions like it: The victory was a narrow one, with sixty-seven for and fifty-three opposed, out of 573 polls who could have voted on town affairs in this pre-suffrage year. The female vote, to the extent that it played a part, would have been felt only in the district meetings where overpayment was accelerating.[31]

Total school-tax payments after dividing each by M x p to show proportionate excess.

Meanwhile, No. 1 mostly outdid the Town District, adding over three times as much as the latter to its given base in 1914 and 1915. Supplementary taxes from both districts combined also came to overwhelm M x p by 1918, the final year of the mandate's life in this form; in that year, the districts' joint overpayment topped the requirement under the old law by more than fourfold. At those levels, the new baseline from the replacement legislation of 1919--which effectively doubled and stabilized the mandatory state-tax rate for 1918--had no effect on spending in Hanover. Current outlays were already ahead of the new state-imposed mandate. Hanover, by now, had caught up with the state overall.

The ultimate summary of Hanover's response to its 1790-1918 school-tax obligation is made in Figure 6. There, the total school-related tax levy, excluding only the taxes for schoolhouse building in the multidistrict era, has been normalized with respect to M x p. The absence of overpayment therefore plots as 1, and the ratio of 5.2 in 1918 represents a 420% overpayment. The striking feature of this profile is the almost dead-flat 92-year-long stretch of laissez-faire operation, all the while a disparate set of revenue flows, uncoupled from needs, went out to the districts. The near symmetry from end to end also sends a certain message: The mindset of unwavering adherence to the bare bones of 1789 fell away after 1898 about as fast as it was adopted before 1808. For nearly a century, however, the town itself did not question whatever pattern of imbalance filtered down to it from the controlling decision of 1789.

The issue left dangling here is how Hanover's experience relates to the state Supreme Court's decision that New Hampshire has a constitutional obligation to provide an adequate education, adequately funded for all of its children; and that for 'over two hundred years New Hampshire has recognized its duty to provide for the proper education of the children in this State.'[32] The challenge for the court's interpretation of the record, of course, lies in its reconciliation with the historic fact of legally sanctioned disparities in educational opportunities as the price of a uniform state-mandated school-tax rate for every taxpayer after 1789. With that rate cycling widely until 1919 as well, adequacy for those many years and many schoolchildren, obviously, never meant equality. The sense of disconnect between the court's right-feeling decision and the reality of public education in pre-1919 New Hampshire is perhaps easier to understand when it is also understood that the law of 1789 apparently never entered into the court's decision-making process.



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[1] Hanover, N.H., The Records of the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire 1761-1818 (Hanover, N.H.: 1905).

[2] Several interim guides to the Hanover Town Records, prepared by Dan Daily, archivist on the Hanover Town Records Project, are available in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections. Principal sources among the manuscript records were an unbroken set of inventory/invoice ledgers from 1818 forward, a selectmen's account started in 1797, a record of the school fund begun in 1832, and town records of all town meeting warrants and outcomes, which picked up from where the published series of 1761-1818 left off.

[3] 'An Act for the better regulation of schools within this State; and for repealing the laws now in force respecting them,' New Hampshire, Laws, Statutes, etc., Laws of New Hampshire: Including Public and Private Acts and Resolves and the Royal Commissions and Instructions, with Historical and Descriptive Notes, and an Appendix, ed. Albert Stillman Batchellor, 10 vols. (Manchester, N.H.: J. B. Clarke, 1904-1922), vol. 5, First Constitutional Period 1784-1792, 449-450.

[4] Claremont School District & a. v. Governor & a., 138 N.H. 183 (1993-1994).

[5] Massachusetts, Laws, Statutes, etc., The General Laws of Massachusetts, from the Adoption of the Constitution to February, 1822, with the Constitutions of the United States and of this Commonwealth, together with Their Respective Amendments,Prefixed, 2 vols. (Boston: Wells & Lilly and Cummings & Hilliard, 1823-1832), 1:367. See also The Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from November 28, 1780 to February 28, 1807 (Boston: J. T. Buckingham for Thomas & Andrews, 1807).

[6] Until 1789, New Hampshire school law was still virtually that enacted in 1647. See Massachusetts, Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. Printed by order of the legislature, 5 vols., ed. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (Boston: W. White,1853-1854), 2:203. The end of the exclusion principle in Massachusetts is found in 'An Act concerning schools,' Supplements to the Revised Statutes: General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; PassedSubsequently to the Revised Statutes, [1836-1859], 2 vols., ed. Theron Metcalf (Boston: Dutton & Wentworth, 1854-[1859]) 2:116.

[7] Early population data have been conveniently drawn together by George Gary Bush, in his History of Education in New Hampshire, Contributions to American Educational History, vol. 22 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1898).

[8] United States, Census Office, 1st Census, 1790, Return of the whole number of persons within the several districts of the United States, according to 'An Act providing for the enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States;' passed March the First, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-one [i.e. 1790] (Philadelphia: Childs and Swaine, 1791).The estimate proceeded by first discovering the size of the average family in the state of New Hampshire, which proved to be 5.89 members. From that, the average fifty-family town would have held 50 x 5.89 = 294.5 or almost 300 residents, to mark a cutoff below which public education under the law of 1647 might successfully have been avoided. In all such towns, a total of 1714 'free white males under 16' could be located, or about 5% of the 34,851 of that cohort in the whole state. It can be assumed that roughly the same outcome would hold for the inaccessible cohort of white females under the age of sixteen. The breakdown by county was Grafton, 26.0%; Cheshire, 4.2%; Strafford, 3.4%; Hillsborough, 2.9%; and Rockingham, 0.2%. As isolated in this way, the block is obviously too young overall to have contained none but scholars. On the other hand, in a largely equiaged population it would have been about the same size as one holding age levels more appropriate for school attendance, i.e., 4-19 instead of 0-15.

[9] Laws of New Hampshire, vol. 1, Province Period 1679-1702, 563.

[10] Walter A. Backofen, 'New Hampshire's Proportion of Public Taxes: Its Role in Public School Funding: 1789-1919,' Dartmouth College Library Bulletin, n.s., 34:1 (November 1991), 17.

[11] 'An Act in Amendment of the laws Relating to the Public Schools and Establishing a State Board of Education,' New Hampshire, Laws, Statutes, etc., Laws of the State of New Hampshire (1919), 155-166. A discussion of the cyclic nature of the nominally uniform school-tax rate before 1919 can be found in Walter A. Backofen, 'New Hampshire's Curious Stand on Mandatory School-Tax Rates: 1789-1919' (15 March 1998); Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections.

[12] Backofen, 'New Hampshire's Proportion of Public Taxes.'

[13] Professor John King Lord's A History of the Town of Hanover, N. H. (Hanover: Dartmouth Press) was published in 1928, only a decade after the law of 1789 had been abandoned. Yet uncertainty was already in the air. Although Professor Lord, in his chapter on schools, quoted the verbal formula for tax calculation as first printed in 1789, he also noted (p. 218) that 'Something to the same effect had been enacted as early as 1719 and 1721.' In fact, the acts of 1719 and 1721 were little more than reconfirmations of the Massachusetts law of 1647. And that was repealed in 1789 when the power to levy the school tax, which had resided in the town for 142 years, was broadened to put the state in primary control. No recognized historian in the state today gives evidence of understanding the law any better than did Professor Lord.

[14] Backofen, 'New Hampshire's Proportion of Public Taxes.'

[15] New Hampshire, Laws, Statutes, etc., The Revised Statutes of the State of New Hampshire, Passed December 23, 1842. To which are prefixed the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of New Hampshire (Concord: Carroll & Baker, 1843), 148-149.

[16] It seems clear that from 1808 through 1898, the formula of 1789 controlled school-tax policy in Hanover. Yet sometimes the abrupt statutory changes in one parameter or the other were not as quickly reflected in the mandated levy. In particular, in 1837, as p dropped about 9% from $8.13 to $7.40 (under M = 90), the actual levy did not go down until 1840, although it climbed immediately the next year as M was raised from 90 to 100. In 1854, however, the levy appears to have fallen short by 11% as a result of not taking into account the change in M from 135 to 150 in that year. Similarly, from data summarized in the selectmen's journal of 1863-1886, the levy came out slightly too low between 1865 and 1868 by not having recognized the increase in p from $6.10 to $6.36 in 1865. As perhaps more conscious manipulations of the law, there are at least two occasions from the Record of the School Fund (1832-1864) which indicate that a mandated 2% levy on M x p for support of a Teachers Institute was taken from M x p, instead. On balance, however, compliance with the law was remarkably faithful, given its application to an always shifting tax base from which the amount to be raised was itself expected, by law, to apply only 'for the time being, and for a greater or lesser sum.'Only the entries for 1817-1827, inclusive, and 1839 could not be based on either a town-reported value of the school tax or an actual summation of individual payments from the inventoried tax list; if the relevant data exist, they have not yet been found. Represented as they are in Figure 2, as effectively in perfect agreement with M x p, it seems reasonable, however, in light of town meeting decisions, either not to supplement the mandated tax or to ignore the tax as an item for debate before the meeting in those years.

[17] 'An Act empowering School-districts to build and repair School houses and regulating Schools,' Laws of New Hampshire, vol. 7, Second Constitutional Period 1801-1811, 467-469.

[18] In 1833 the state took the position that the Hanover plan, of interdistrict assignment of school-tax revenue in proportion to valuation, had to be followed unless the town chose, as an alternative, to make a division on the basis of the number of scholars. See 'An Act in amendment of an Act for the support and regulation of primary schools, Passed July 6, 1827,' Laws of New Hampshire, vol. 10, Second Constitutional Period 1829-1835, 476. This was resisted by the towns as too limiting; in the Revised Statutes of 1842 the only restriction to appear is that the plan be one approved at the annual town meeting.

[19] At the same time, the public-school experience was rapidly becoming schoolhouse-oriented, to furnish a powerful driving force for this proliferation of districts. As the school became immobilized in a building and operated on something of a fixed schedule, there was no other way of accommodating the limited mobility of scholars as young as four years old. In the process, control moved increasingly into the district itself, which essentially put the neighborhood in charge of public schooling and almost gave the family that role in the example of Hanover's three-family District No. 11.

[20] See Article No. 4, spring meeting, town of Enfield, 1823, on file at the Enfield Public Library. More general background comes from the transcript of the meeting of 1789, also in the Enfield Public Library.

[21] Manuscript records of the annual meetings of a few of Hanover's school districts are available in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections.

[22] Although districts were never required to be mapped in New Hampshire, the exercise is quite straightforward in Hanover in 1860, and reasonably accurate in outcome, thanks to the publication in that year of the Walling-surveyed county maps. For Hanover, combining the 1860 town inventory by school district with the individuals located on the Grafton County map led to the district plan in Figure 3. Unfortunately, the reduction in scale cost so much in contrast and detail on the county map that a later one of atlas size from 1892, in the Town and City Atlas of the State of New Hampshire (Boston: D. H. Hurd & Co., 1892), 216, became the better choice as plotting base for Figure 3. A pie chart in each district compares its tax-list value in 1860, when disparities were almost at their historic low, to that of the always richest District No. 1. Under law, districts were expected to encompass all parts of a town. But without resident taxpayers, the ridgeline along Moose Mountain goes unclaimed here.

[23] 'An act in amendment of chapter 86 of the general laws, relating to schools, and to establish the town system of schools,' Laws of the State of New Hampshire (1885), 252-253. Such massive interdistrict disparities were not unique to Hanover, and since 1870 the case had been strenuously argued across the state--and just as strenuously resisted--for the abolition of the multidistrict system in favor of a single, reunited, townwide district under common management. Although many schoolhouses would necessarily remain, hope for more nearly equalized budgetary support and teaching services fueled the argument. Hanover rejected the idea in 1874 by voting to pass over its consideration at town meeting that year. Yet, it soon acknowledged the underlying problem, in 1882, by voting at the March town meeting to divide a sum of $87.00 (about 4% of M x p) among 'the seven small school districts so that no district's full amount of school money shall be less than fifty dollars.' Then, in 1885, just as the state enacted legislation to end the multidistrict system's life, the proposal was made at town meeting in March 'to raise the sum of one hundred twenty dollars to be so appropriated that every district which receives less than Fifty Dollars school money . . . shall receive at least Fifty Dollars for School purposes, . . . any unappropriated ballance shall be addded to the School Fund and divided equally among the several districts.' In response, the selectmen were told to address the inequality problem by consolidating and rearranging the town's many districts. 'Hanover Town Records,' Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, DH-1.5, box 4.

[24] The town inventoried itself by school district beginning in 1844 with No. 1 representing almost 40% of the tax list and No. 5, around Etna Village, accounting for about 10%. Only those two districts never changed standing, always being first and second, while No. 11 was always last, whatever the total number of districts.

[25] As school-tax revenue in No. 1 grew by 165% between 1860 and 1880, that in No. 15 in the diagonally opposite corner of town fell by 11%; yet the demographic base in each was stable within 10% over that interval. From information in the annual town reports, beginning in 1852, No. 1 in those years was able to offer its scholars 50% or more schooling than its sister districts were able or willing to provide for theirs, under teachers whose monthly wages occasionally exceeded the whole annual tax-based operating budget of some of the lesser districts. The janitor in No. 1, for example, was paid more than most, if not all, teachers in the rest of the town, and No. 1's rental of a piano for a quarter of a year in 1884 could have bought a month of a teacher's time in some of the poorer districts.

[26] In 1868, No. 1's lead over the rest of the town was recognized by its separation as an independent school district with its own superintending school committee, distinct from that overseeing all other districts, under the terms of the Somersworth act, 'AN ACT relating to school district No. 3 in Somersworth,' Laws of the State of New Hampshire (1848), 600-601; Dixi Crosby, as sole member of No. 1's Prudential Committee in the previous fiscal year, can be imagined to have spearheaded that transformation. In 1877, No. 1 pulled farther ahead with the construction of a schoolhouse more valuable than all others in town combined, costing, after the last disbursement, $10,933.04. In 1879, No. 1 could become no more up-to-date as it got its own Board of Education. No other district compared with No. 1 in change and growth. It had already replaced its first schoolhouse by 1839 while much of the time behaving rather rowdily as it went about its business. This facet of No. 1's history is taken up in some detail by Professor Lord's History of the Town of Hanover and is surely supported by the remarkably frequent town-level decisions to withhold No. 1's annual award of an equally shared 'school fund'; this sum grew out of a mixture of taxes (on dogs and railroads), rent/interest money (chiefly from school-owned lands), and state aid (the literary fund), and at $12-20 per year never amounted to more than a few percent of No. 1's annual operating budget, as it occasionally rivaled in size the entire tax-derived budget for dependably poorest District No. 11. But always the interdistrict division of the school fund was made in equal parts, and apparently denying it to No. 1 was a punitive action by the town. A more specifically focused sanction against No. 1 shows up in a warrant article for the meeting of 14 March 1848, 'To see if the town will vote to allow the fines to be expended in School District No. 1 which accrued recently by an outrage upon public and private property in said district.' The vote was in the affirmative, to spend them 'to repair the damages occasioned by said Outrage.' The next year the town voted that No. 1 should now have its share of the school fund. 'Hanover Town Records,' box 3.

[27] For the most part, fiscal data from the two-district era were taken out of the annual town reports.

[28] The only time spending departed significantly from the preprogrammed schedule was in response to schoolhouse construction and repair. This was by law an expense to be borne entirely within the district and therefore not to be entered into lightly by one of limited tax base. The annual meeting records left by perennially poor No. 14 provide one example of an agenda that was repeated with minor variations time and again across the state during the 1805 to 1885 lifespan of the independent district. Here, in No. 14, a major schoolhouse restoration was debated for eight-and-one-half years (from March of 1855 to December of 1863, at a time when No. 14's valuation was about 4% of No. 1's), required numerous committees and twelve separate meetings, and led finally to an outlay of $275.00 or about fifteen times the district's annual tax-generated operating budget. Because the ultimate authority to tax, even for intra-district purposes, remained with the selectmen, the occasional special schoolhouse taxes, so-called, were usually entered in the municipal ledgers. In Hanover between 1860 and 1885, when the record seems most clear, the total amount raised this way in thirteen out of seventeen districts (excluding No. 1) came to $2704.98, for an average of $208.07, or almost the cost of the average frugal one-room schoolhouse in that time frame. Spread out evenly over this interval, it all comes down to about 6% of M x p. The districts reporting no outlay beyond their pre-set budgets were 2, 9, 16, and 18. Schoolhouse construction and repair had been going on from well before 1860, of course, but early records are scarce, apparently being limited today to just the few surviving volumes of annual district-meeting accounts.

[29] See Walter A. Backofen, 'New Hampshire's Public School System: 1789-1919. The Taxpayer Oriented Years' (7 February 1994), 42-58, for an analysis of statewide spending in relation to the statutory mandate. Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections.

[30] The three were Edward P. Storrs, Albert Pinneo, and Don S. Bridgman. Dan Daily suggested the correlation, and Professor Lord's History of the Town of Hanover (p. 19) elaborated on their service.

[31] 'An act relating to the qualifications of voters in school-districts,' Laws of the State of New Hampshire (1878), 176: 'Any person, whether male or female, but in all other respects except sex qualified to vote in town affairs, may vote at any school-district meeting in the district in which such person has resided and had a home one month next preceding such meeting.'

[32] Claremont School District, p. 192. The first of the two rulings, known subsequently as 'Claremont I,' addressed the adequacy issue. For a more detailed discussion of how the state's public-school system evolved under the law of 1789, see Walter A. Backofen, New Hampshire's Education Reform Act of 1789 and the Next One Hundred and Thirty Years (East Plainfield, N.H.: Lord Timothy Dexter Press, 1998).



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