DNHPE 6/3/12 Update: It's all about stopping the education funding amendment in the House!

posted Jun 3, 2012, 2:27 PM by Bill Duncan

Defenders,

Vouchers, education funding, CACR 13 (banning an income tax) and CACR 6, (requiring a 3/5 majority or both houses of the Legislature to approve new taxes) and many other important issues are coming to a head over the next several days.  But on Thursday, the Governor, the House and the Senate agreed on language for CACR 12, the education funding amendment.  I'll report on that here.

Granite State Progress video'ed the yesterday's press conference.  The star of the show was House Speaker Bill O'Brien, right at the beginning.  I wrap several of his quotes into this opinion piece that ran this weekend in the Portsmouth Herald and Concord Monitor.  Here is the House leadership pitch for the amendment.  You'll notice that it emphasizes the preservation of local control, an appeal to the large freshman class of Libertarian House members.

DisStaso tees up the vote this week here in the UL.  The short of it is that the new CACR 12 language (here) is no better than any previous version.  State aid to education would be a year-to-year decision by the Legislature, essentially without appeal.  The straight-forward result would be higher local property taxes and under-funded public education.  This and many other good reasons to oppose it seem to be taking hold.  The Portsmouth Herald today continued to support the amendment, but with a notable lack of conviction.  Concord Monitor and Nashua Telegraph continue to be firmly against it.  Here is a review of the amendment by lead Claremont attorney, Andy Volinsky.  Here is a very strong piece by Rep. Gary Richardson, who favors an amendment that would actually target aid to communities in need.

This will be a very close vote.  You could have a big impact on the future of your state if you called and emailed your representatives and urged them to oppose the amendment.  You'll have your own good reasons to oppose the amendment, and you don't need to say much, but here's is a crib sheet.

Reasons to vote against CACR 12

New Hampshire children would no longer have a fundamental right to an adequate education.
The New Hampshire Constitution declares that our children have a fundamental right to an adequate education, comparable to the right to vote. Legislative actions are held to a "strict scrutiny" standard by the New Hampshire courts.  That means that, if challenged, the onus is on the State to show that its actions meet the intention of the Constitution to provide an adequate education. If CACR 12 passed, education would no longer be a fundamental right in New Hampshire.  Legislative actions would need only meet a "rational basis" test.  The legislature would have "full power and authority" to exercise its responsibility to maintain a public education system.  The courts would be bound to presume that reasonable effort is constitutional and only overturn a law on inescapable grounds. If a law is rationally related to a legitimate legislative purpose, the courts would be bound to consider it constitutional. Under this standard, a New Hampshire community would virtually never prevail in a challenge to education policy or funding.

It would shift the even more of burden of education funding to the local property tax.
CACR 12 removes any floor under the state contribution to public education.  In 2012, $578 million, 20%, of the $2.9 billion annual budget for New Hampshire public education came from state aid.  This funding is targeted to the communities most in need.  But the Legislature cut that by another $140 million for future bienniums and without the constitutional protections, future legislatures are likely to cut more.  All of that would have to be replaced with increased local property taxes or reduced instructional program.

CACR 12 does not promote more effective targeting of aid to communities in need than we can do now.
The obstacles to targeting are political, not constitutional.  The State can effectively allocate state adequacy aid to communities most in need now.  CACR 12 would allow the Legislature to allocate any desired level of funding on a strictly political basis with no regard to need, balance or fairness.  If targeting were actually the concern, the Legislature could propose an amendment that would establish those requirements.

The amendment ensures a never-ending political debate over education funding and introduces unpredictability into local property tax rates.
With no constitutional guarantees or established formulas in place, the decision on how much to fund education and how to allocate it across the state would be made anew each biennium.  Communities that rely on the aid would need to mount a lobby effort each budget session to protect or expand their allocations and would need to remain vigilant at all times for rule changes that might put them at a disadvantage. 

There is no protection against "donor towns"
The amendment contains no prohibition against donor towns.  For instance, a Legislature desiring to lower business taxes could raise all state wide education funding from the State Wide Education Property Tax and redistribute it state wide according to a politically determined assessment of need.  The reason there are no donor towns now is the political power of the Coalition Communities.  The same would be the case after CACR 12.  Political power will continue to be the only protection New Hampshire's wealthier communities would have against contributing to the education of children in poorer communities - through the property tax, gas tax or any other mechanism.

The amendment allocates "full power and authority" to the Legislature at the expense of both local control and judicial branch checks and balances
CACR 12 is one of several amendments seeking to eviscerate the role of the Judiciary in the conduct of the State's business.  The Courts are our only means of redress citizens and communities have.  In addition, local school districts have far greater control over their schools than in most any other state.  This amendment would eliminate that local control.

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