DNHPE 5/8/12 Update: Coming down to the finish line on vouchers and the education funding amendment

posted May 8, 2012, 5:21 PM by Bill Duncan

First, I'll report that regular folks defending New Hampshire public education had a good win last week.  The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously, 5-0, to recommend Inexpedient to Legislate on HB 1403, the anti-International Baccalaureate bill.  It appears that the bill will be voted on by the full Senate on May 16 and, while it always must be said that anything could happen, the Senate is virtually sure to agree with its Education Committee and kill the bill.  The students of Bedford High and parents, teachers and school board of Bedford and Merrimack Valley deserve big credit for marshaling sentiment against this bill (which never should have got beyond being some House freshman's bad idea).

Stopping the voucher bills

Many of you have volunteered to call and email to try to stop the voucher bills.  If you haven't and want to, please let me know.  It hasn't been the right time for those calls yet because the bill and support for it have been in flux, but the push will start on Thursday morning.  That next week, until Wednesday, May 16, will be intense and inconvenient.  But the pay-off will be big: if we can stop the voucher program and the education funding amendment, we will have been successful in avoiding damage to public education in New Hampshire legislative session - the high water mark for the Tea Party in the New Hampshire Legislature. 

HB 372 was scheduled to be voted on by the House Ways and Means Committee today but is now postponed until after the 10:00AM House session tomorrow.  The details of the most recent (as of this weekend) amendment to the bill are here, but there may be another amendment tomorrow.

The sponsors are amending the bill to gain more House support, but the details are not the real issue on this bill.  There is almost universal editorial opposition.  Here is the Nashua Telegraph today, saying, School tax credits don’t make grade - "...no matter how cleverly you craft the language in the bill, the bottom line is it would take money now going to public schools and divert it to private and religious schools, leaving cities and towns to make up the difference."  More recent opinion ishere.

There's lots of fodder there and in past Updates for letters to the editor and to members of the House.

The education funding amendment  - CACR 12

The new language, being circulated as a compromise by House leadership, represents the final stage of this year's education funding drama.  The Committee of Conference is scheduled to meet at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, 5/15/12 in LOB 210-211.  It may not be clear until then how the Senate will react to the proposed House language.

Here is a summary of the state of the education funding debate today.  But on the substance, this is not a close call.  Like the previous versions, the House language for CACR 12 purports to solve a problem that does not need solving.  Under the guise of targeting education funding to the communities most in need, the new language enhances legislative power at the expense of constitutionally-based local control of our schools.  "The Legislature shall have," it says, "the full power and authority [to set public education standards and funding]...as it may judge for the benefit and welfare of this state," repeated twice, lest we miss the point that it would no longer be about local control and our kids.  

And this is clearly not a Legislature to which we would want to allocation education funding authority.  We already know what it would do.  It has reduced the level of funding it says is required for an adequate education by $140 million and has tried to eliminate federal funding that comes into the state.  Now, the Speaker is running on a promise the cut $400 million from the state budget to fund cuts to the business taxes that fund education.  There is no question where those cuts would be made if the constitutional amendment passed.  State support for public education would go to virtually nothing.

Nonetheless, some editorial support for the amendment continues, regardless of the language.  The Union Leader, in its fourth editorial, and Foster's, in its third, continue to support the amendment, as does the Portsmouth Herald.  The Concord Monitor, saying, "Let's not got back to the bad old days," and the Nashua Telegraph - "why are so many...willing to gamble with a constitutional amendment that in the wrong hands could prove to be a tremendous disadvantage to the future of our children and the state they call home?" - continue to oppose.

Defenders should weigh in.  Let your Legislators and newspaper readers know that we have no need for this or any other education funding amendment.

Let's go for it!