Foster's Editorial: Belligerent or silly in Concord?, 5/29/12

posted May 29, 2012, 3:06 AM by Bill Duncan
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kathy Sullivan, former state Democratic Party chair, has taken on the GOP-led Legislature over what she calls the "war that has erupted against New Hampshire's public schools."

In a recent commentary, Sullivan points to the debate over CACR 12, a proposed constitutional amendment to give the Legislature more flexibility for funding local education (as opposed to the state Supreme Court's first-dollar, last-dollar ruling in Claremont).

She makes special note of some in the Legislature who want to abolish any obligation, bemoaning the attempt.

Foster's Daily Democrat has also taken aim at those who would have the state back out of any responsibility to fund local education. But unlike Sullivan, whose entreaties we often find alluring, we prefer not make the extreme the rule.

The broader critique of public education is that it just doesn't do the job that needs to be done — for many different reason. Yes, there may be some dinosaurs in the Legislature that want to eliminate the public school system over the long-term, although we couldn't name any.

More prominent, however, are those who want to challenge public schools to do better and to spend tax dollars more wisely. This is not a goal which anyone should oppose — only the means to that end.

For example, it is the editorial position of this newspaper that voucher plans are generally flawed. They seek to send public dollars to parochial and private schools that don't have to play by the same rules as do public schools.

One voucher bill from the current legislative session depends on a state tax credit for businesses. But it fails to make private schools take all comers, as public school's must. There are also inconsistencies in how private schools handle special needs students, when compared to public schools, that are not addressed.

The closest thing to a good compromise in this debate has been the institution of charter schools, although even within our editorial board there is debate over their fairness.

As the dust settles after the current session of the Legislature ends shortly we plan on taking some time to digest all that has been served up by the GOP-dominated Legislature — including whether war was declared on public schools.

Our efforts will be aimed at not painting with a broad brush that labels all its efforts lunacy or belligerent, as Sullivan implies with her "war on public schools" analysis. Rather, we will take some time to see if the good outweighed the silly (of which there was surely plenty).

We suggest voters do the same thing before the Nov. 6 elections.

On the web:

http://tinyurl.com/War-on-public-schools
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