“Live Free, Die Dumb,” was the national headline about our education bills this year. Now the Legislature wants to finish the job by amending the Constitution to eliminate the state obligation to educate New Hampshire’s children.
We have accomplished a lot over the years in response to the Claremont decisions. We have defined a minimum acceptable curriculum for our schools and made them accountable for it. We have started giving each child a state grant so that her school can teach at least the minimum curriculum. For some towns, that grant is the Statewide Education Property Tax. But where the towns don’t have the capacity themselves, the State sends “adequacy aid.”
back a minute and appreciate that. It’s
a big deal.
The irrational funding formulas we hear about result from politics that would be amplified, not remedied, if we removed the constitutional floor under state aid to education. We hear that “the Court” requires us to give rich communities “huge state grants,” and communities in need “have lost funding.” Don’t believe it. The Court and the Constitution require fairness in educating our children. The rest is up to us.
There is no obstacle
to targeting communities in need. Ah,
you say, but there isn’t enough money for that. That’s true. But
the constitutional amendment is not a remedy for that. Instead, the proposed
amendment prevents the court from requiring the Legislature to come up with the
“We want to educate our kids, we really do, but we can’t afford it. We need a constitutional amendment that eliminates that obligation and makes it enough harder to sue the state that we’re unlikely ever again to worry about the courts requiring the State to help poor communities educate our kids. In the towns that can afford it, there will be good schools. In the others, they’ll do the best they can, and the State may help, but without any real obligation. That is the best we can do.”
Constitution would not put the issue behind us.
It would eliminate the constitutional protections our children have now,
but it would not prevent the return of donor towns or target communities in
need. If state funding for education doesn’t go to zero under this
amendment, which it could, it could swing wildly year to year and no school
system will know how to budget. And the debate will never end.
Education Bills in the New Hampshire Legislature > CACR 12 A Constitutional Amendment on Education Funding >