Bradley: Reform school funding Senator pushes constitutional amendment, Portsmouth Herald, 3/2/12

posted Mar 1, 2012, 3:09 AM by Bill Duncan

By Joey Cresta
March 01, 2012 2:00 AM

PORTSMOUTH — State Sen. Jeb Bradley on Wednesday touted the importance of passing a constitutional amendment that would replace the current "irrational" method of doling out education funding.

Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, met with the Herald's editorial board to discuss Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution 12, an education funding amendment up for debate in the New Hampshire Legislature. The amendment would allow the state to stop sending the same base education funding of $3,450 for every school child, including to communities that can afford to educate their own students.

The House and Senate have gone back and forth on the wording of the amendment. The House version gives the Legislature "authority and full discretion" to define reasonable standards for elementary and secondary public education, to establish reasonable standards of accountability, and to mitigate local disparities in educational opportunities and fiscal capacity.

Bradley said the Senate has amended CACR 12 to give the Legislature "full power and authority and the responsibility" to do all of those things. "That is the key ingredient, if you will, that I think Gov. (John) Lynch insisted on to win his support," Bradley said.

The Senate has been working closely with Lynch on the language of the amendment. The House has already defeated the Senate's and Lynch's proposed language, and now must consider the amendments to the House version proposed by the Senate. Bradley said that should happen sometime in March, though it is up to the discretion of House Speaker William O'Brien.

The key reason for including the word "responsibility" in the amendment is that it provides an avenue for judiciary intervention if a school district believes the Legislature is not fulfilling its duties, Bradley said.

"For myself and I think others in the Senate, we were OK with that because ... it wasn't anything new and different. It was something we've done a long time and I happen to think it's appropriate," he said.

Bradley said he supports the amendment because it would continue to fulfill the state's role in education, return some control to local officials and ratchet back without completely dissolving the court's ability to rule on any legislative outcomes.

Bradley said it will take 239 votes in the House to get the amendment on the ballot. Given the high standard, Bradley said it is imperative to have the support of not only Lynch, but also the candidates to be his successor. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne helped in drafting the amendment and Republican Kevin Smith has made his support clear, Bradley said.

"If the Democratic nominee is opposed to this, it raises a higher bar, even with Gov. Lynch's support. My hope is the Democratic nominee will think this makes sense," he said.

There are skeptics of the amendment, he said, adding it is the job of supporters to show that the amendment would be a marked improvement over the system currently in place. "What you have now is irrational," he said. "Anything is going to be a marked improvement on where we are today."