Fosters Editorial: It's unreasonable to fight over the word 'reasonable', 3/18/12

posted Mar 18, 2012, 8:02 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated May 8, 2012, 12:29 PM ]

DNHPE Comment: A new wrinkle to the argument emerges here.  Senator Bradley is apparently saying that the House wants to remove the word "reasonable" from the proposed amendment (highlight added), so that state funding could be eliminated altogether.  The assertion is, then, that, conversely, the current form of the amendment requires state aid to education.  It doesn't.  It could go to virtually zero and be defended in court.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

State Sen. Jeb Bradley paid a visit last week to Fosters' Sunday Citizen in order to lobby for CACR 12.

Technically known as a concurrent resolution, CACR 12 is a proposed amendment to the state constitution. It was spawned to address what are known as the N.H. Supreme Court's Claremont decisions.

Now only three paragraphs into this editorial, we are sure some readers are ready to tune out. Please don't. As dry as the topic appears to be, it is an important one.

In a pair of court cases brought by the community of Claremont, the Granite State's highest court ruled the state is responsible for defining and funding the cost of an adequate education for elementary through high school students.

Since those decisions beginning over a decade ago, legislative bodies under both Republican and Democratic control have contorted in nearly every way imaginable to comply with the court's demand.

To be kind, the results have been legislatively obscene. These offerings run the gamut. Created at one time were donor towns, requiring local property taxes be sent to far away so-called poorer communities. Then came the statewide property tax which simply added to the local property tax burden.

During all these shenanigans, the N.H. Senate, House and various governors have struggled to get on the same page and propose a long-term fix that would please the court — and garner the three-fifths votes need in the Legislature and from the public.

Now, for the first time, they are within legislative inches of such a constitutional amendment.

Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, has signed on board with the GOP-dominated Senate to support a version of CACR 12 that would give the state some reasonable flexibility in funding education. Also joining in are party leaders and attorneys from both the left and right, including Chuck Douglas, Eugene Van Loan, Ovide Lamontagne and Martin Gross.

Over in the House, a very similar bill passed earlier muster, bringing many to believe a deal may be soon be struck that would pass the issue along to voters as soon as this fall.

The fly in the ointment, however, appears to be one word — reasonable. The Senate wants the education amendment to allow "reasonable" state funding. Some in the House want no state funding required. On Wednesday, a House vote reaffirmed that objective and called for a conference committee to strike a compromise.

While Foster's can appreciate that some legislators may want to let the state skate free by removing the word reasonable from the Senate's version of CACR 12, that is a debate which has long been over and done with.

Even were CACR 12 to give the Legislature a free pass, voters have made it clear through all the machinations aimed at addressing Claremont I and II, they will not allow that to happen. Just look at the screaming which took place when past state education formulas looked to move money from town or city A to town or city B. You would have thought vampire slayers had driven a spike through someone's heart.

To debate some money versus no money coming from state revenues to help fund local education budgets is to tilt at windmills in Don Quixote fashion.

Given that the chasm which has long divided Republicans and Democrats is at its narrowest point in more than a decade, now is not the time to quibble over one word.

Foster's Sunday Citizen sincerely urges members of the conference committee to roundly accept some responsibility on behalf of the Legislature to fund local education, regardless of the word(s) chosen to reflect that need.

It is not only the reasonable thing to do but the most responsible action the Legislature could take in bringing this legislative nightmare to an end.