Education funding compromise reached, Portsmouth Herald, 6/1/12

posted Jun 1, 2012, 1:40 PM by Bill Duncan

Constitutional amendment touted by Sen. Stiles while educators have doubts
By Joey Cresta
June 01, 2012 2:00 AM

CONCORD — New Hampshire legislative leaders and Gov. John Lynch agreed Thursday to the language of a constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature authority over public school funding, but they still must win over a three-fifths majority of both the House and Senate.

If education funding constitutional amendment CACR12 passes both chambers of the Legislature, it faces one final hurdle before becoming law. Voters must approve it by a two-thirds margin in November. That is why, said state Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, legislators will have to be clear about the amendment's value.

"It's good language, it's clear language and it's understandable language," said Stiles, a member of the committee of conference that examined CACR12 and a longtime advocate for a constitutional amendment. "It puts the responsibility on the state to make sure that there is public education for our children."

The agreed-upon language states that the Legislature has the responsibility to maintain a public education system and to mitigate local disparities in educational opportunity and fiscal capacity. The amendment gives the Legislature "full power and authority to make reasonable standards for elementary and secondary public education," as well as standards of accountability. If passed, the Legislature would determine the amount of, and the methods for raising and distributing, state funding for public education.

Advocates of the amendment have argued it is the best defense against the threat of "donor towns," municipalities that were forced to give property taxes raised in excess of the amount deemed necessary for an "adequate" education to fund education in other communities across the state. Portsmouth, Hampton, New Castle and Rye were among the communities that banded together to fight the donor town scenario.