Foster's Editorial: Time to settle ed funding dilemma, 5/5/12

posted May 8, 2012, 12:26 PM by Bill Duncan

Saturday, May 5, 2012

On Thursday, the editorial board here at Foster's Daily Democrat met with the New Hampshire House leadership team — Speaker Bill O'Brien, Deputy House Speaker Pam Tucker and Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt.

During the hour-plus session myriad issues were discussed. But the one which caught our attention and most deserves mention is CACR 12.

CACR is an obtuse reference to what is known as a "Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution." It's designates a proposed constitutional amendment that must be agreed to by both chambers of the Legislature.

Since the N.H. Supreme Court handed down its first Claremont decision in 1993, the Speaker says there have been more than 80 attempts to address the court's mandate. That mandate requires the state to paying all the costs of an adequate education for primary and secondary students — efforts which have all failed.

But now, it would seem there is a unique alliance that is on the cusp of finally putting the issue to rest.

A new version of CACR 12 has been hammered out and is expected to be soon put before a conference committee of the House and Senate. And while nothing in politics is certain, Foster's is optimistic that agreement can be reached between the Republican dominated House and Senate, one which Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, will be able to support.

That said, readers may note there is one missing ingredient so far in our discussion — Democratic participation, outside of Gov. Lynch.

Bettencourt conceded during the editorial board meeting that, as yet, no Democrat in the House has spoken publicly in favor of the effort, although three or four are reportedly working behind the scenes with Republicans.

Foster's Daily Democrat would like to take the opportunity of this editorial to ask these as-yet- unnamed Democrats and their brethren to step forward and lend their names to a responsible solution to the CACR 12 debate.

For the first time in the long saga of Claremont, there is a unique convergence in Concord that is nearly ready to send the issue to voters.

For the first time, both the Senate and House have passed versions of a constitutional amendment (albeit different versions) by the three-fifths needed to send the issue onto voters. In addition, a Democratic governor who was elected to a historic fourth term, has signed onto one of those versions and has urged his own party to support an amendment.

The missing piece of the puzzle now lies with Democratic House Leader Terie Norelli and her leadership team.

If ever there was an opportunity for a bipartisan effort, that time is now. Norelli and other Democrats have an opportunity to help write a version of CACR 12 that will open the door for a responsible funding formula. It is one that allows the Legislature to fund truly needed districts, one that will put to rest the fear that donors towns will return and one that continues to allow local school boards flexibility in developing curricula.

In closing, Foster's Daily Democrat would also call on all gubernatorial candidates to join the effort. Some have and some have not. For those who have not, we urge bipartisanship.