Union Leader Editorial: The Claremont fix: Amended CACR 12 provides it, 6/1/12

posted Jun 1, 2012, 7:18 AM by Bill Duncan

The education funding constitutional amendment revealed by House and Senate leaders on Thursday is an excellent one and the best that can be expected to have any chance of passing the Legislature. There is no good reason why it should not gain the support of House conservatives as well as Democrats who see, as the governor does, that the current system is unjust and unsustainable.

The amendment restores the authority of the people, through their elected representatives, to determine how the state should finance public education. Representatives of public school employee unions immediately attacked the amendment for allowing legislators to defund public schools. It does nothing of the sort.

Here is the amendment’s actual language: “In fulfillment of the provisions with respect to education set forth in Part II, Article 83, the Legislature shall have the responsibility to maintain a system of public elementary and secondary education and to mitigate local disparities in educational opportunity and fiscal capacity. In furtherance thereof, the Legislature shall have the full power and authority to make reasonable standards for elementary and secondary public education and standards of accountability and to determine the amount of, and the methods of raising and distributing, state funding for public education.”

It plainly requires the state to “maintain a system of public elementary and secondary education.” Doesn’t that enshrine Claremont? No.

Claremont required the state to fund every single school district equally. This proposed language restores the pre-Claremont understanding of the state’s responsibility for public education. The state always had a role in providing public education in New Hampshire. It is simply incorrect to assert, as some have, that financing public education was never considered a state responsibility before Claremont. It was. Claremont did not invent that.

What Claremont invented was the requirement that the state had to provide the same amount of money to every school district regardless of need. This amendment undoes that injustice and allows legislators to send poor districts more money than they send to rich ones. Legislators should send it to the people for their consideration this fall.