Mid afternoon update the vote on Constitutional Amendment is in, Passes in the Senate 15-9, 14(d) 1(r). Now on to the house it needs 60% of all reps.
A Regression Towards Mediocrity
By Nate Greenberg
Superintendent of Schools
Managing Director NHcafe
Today you will be voting on CACR 18. For the reasons identified below and a host of reasons unmentioned in this letter, I urge you to vote no on this issue. An affirmative vote is a step into an abyss – one that is void of proper planning, logic, appropriate constitutional focus and in reality will harm all school districts in the State of new Hampshire and in the long run cripple a major economic engine of our State – public education. The time is now to think of all of the children in the State – each district has special education students, low income students, English as a Second Language students, and students with emotional and physical problems. Each district has excelling students that benefit from Advanced Placement courses, accelerated programs, and programs for the Arts – the list goes on and on. Would it not make sense to ensure that all students receive adequate funding? In those districts requiring additional funding target funding to those communities in addition to all communities receiving adequate funding based on a legitimate definition of adequacy. This constitutional amendment will ensure that this does not happen and those districts with additional needs receive less funding than they are receiving now.
Below I have focused on counter arguments to the stated virtues of the proposed amendment. Please take these into consideration prior to casting your vote on CACR 18.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IS NOT THE ANSWER TO
SCHOOL FUNDING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
On March 22, 2007, Governor Lynch issued a press release espousing the virtues of his proposed Constitutional Amendment (CACR 18). The press release focused on six (6) reasons why this proposed amendment was the “answer” to our school funding crisis. On April 3, 2007, I presented testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to the proposed amendment by specifically addressing the purported six virtues of the proposed amendment. My comments to the Committee and additional thoughts appear in bold type following each of the reasons the Governor used to engender support for this ill-advised and counter productive amendment.
PRESS RELEASE: Lifts Up the Communities That Need the Most Help: The amendment authorizes the state to target education aid to promote an equal opportunity for children to receive an adequate education. This approach allows the state to direct more state aid to communities that need it the most, which is the best educational policy for this state. The Supreme Court’s Londonderry decision has limited the state’s flexibility to most effectively distribute state education aid based on need, and this amendment offers a lasting solution that permits targeted aid.
• The State under the constitution can target aid to poorer communities – it must first meet its obligation to fund an adequate education for all children
• Targeting under this amendment would only ensure 50% funding (on average) of an adequate education – that in reality is less than what school districts are receiving now and could theoretically mean some communities get nothing and many others would receive less and targeted communities might not receive more than they are getting presently
• The Supreme Court’s decision did not limit the State’s flexibility – it affirmed that all children have a right to an adequate education – one that is not based on where they live – it did not eliminate or forbid targeting – it simply said – all should get the funds necessary for an adequate education and the state could fund above that level to identified school districts.
PRESS RELEASE: Requires The General Court To Define An Adequate Education: Under this amendment, the state must identify the specific criteria and substantive educational programs that define an adequate education.
• The General Court is already in the process of defining an adequate education. That has been and continues to be the General Court’s responsibility. This amendment does not aid in the process – it in effect delays resolution as directed by the courts.
PRESS RELEASE: Ensures Regular Determination of Education Costs: This amendment requires the general court to regularly determine the total statewide cost of an adequate education.
• All of the Court rulings have been consistent – define, cost, fund and ensure accountability. This amendment does nothing more than delay the process. The General Court can and should do the above in an expeditious manner as it has been ordered to do in multiple Supreme Court rulings. This amendment delays the process at least one or possibly two fiscal years.
PRESS RELEASE: Guarantees an Ongoing and Significant State Financial Responsibility for Education: This amendment sets a significant floor – requiring the state to provide at least 50 percent of the statewide cost of an adequate education – and ensures future legislatures can never abandon the state’s responsibility for education. It also requires that some state aid be provided to every school district.
Provides for Accountability: This amendment requires the state to maintain standards of accountability for public schools.
• This amendment does not change the fiscal landscape – a floor will become a ceiling. Under this amendment maybe 50% of the cost of an adequate education (25% of real cost) would be distributed statewide most recent numbers would indicate the purported percentage to be distributed would reflect approximately 20% of the true cost of education– net result – a significant number of communities would receive less – poorer communities would receive no more or possibly less in light of the concept of a broad definition of aid as has been reported in the papers, such as including building aid and catastrophic aid.
PRESS RELEASE: Maintains Judicial Review: This amendment allows the state to target state aid, sets a floor for state funding responsibility, and maintains judicial review.
• We have judicial review now. This amendment limits judicial review and does not ensure stability.
• This is an effort to delay action on an issue that has been festering for the last 14-15 years.
• In reality, decreases state responsibility for providing resources to meet ever rising state requirements, minimum standards, technical advisories, administrative rules and federal regulations.
• Provides ½ of a right to an adequate education for children in the poorer communities and less that a ½ of a right to an adequate education for other communities. It will result, in both the long and short term, a regression of services and programs for students and constitutionally abrogates the right all of children to an adequate education.
• It will not stop the continuous battles over which town gets what – it will only accelerate those battles and promote divisiveness.
• It will in effect exacerbate property tax increases across the board – which in turn will result in increased social costs, erosion of the middle class and a negative business climate.
I urge you to vote no on this amendment, which delays a resolution to our education funding issues and provides a guarantee for a diminishing of educational services and opportunities for the students in our state.
The Legislature should and must focus efforts on defining, costing, funding and ensuring accountability of an adequate education in an expeditious manner. This amendment (CACR 18) is inappropriate and counterproductive. It is not a movement towards opportunity for all students – it is a regression towards mediocrity.
Click HERE for the Londonderry NHcafe Website