by Ed Mosca
Governor Lynch’s proposed constitutional amendment is, to quote Gordon Gekko, a dog. What it doesn’t do is bad enough; what it does do is even worse.
The Lynch amendment does nothing to get the courts out of education policy and funding. Unless the Governor is planning on handing out blank checks to the school districts, count on the lawsuits continuing. His amendment allows anyone so inclined to sue the State on the grounds it hasn’t properly defined an adequate education, determined the cost, created appropriate standards of accountability, or all three. Then some unelected judges who know next to nothing about public education will have the final say. Why bother to hold elections anymore? Let’s just ask the Supreme School Board –oops I meant the Supreme Court– to appoint a lawyer to run every school.
What’s even worse is that the Lynch amendment writes the Claremont decisions into the Constitution. So forget about a future Supreme Court made up of judges that respect the difference between adjudicating and legislating overruling Claremont. And forget about a future Legislature that understands the separation of powers standing up to the Supreme Court’s brazen power grab. New Hampshire henceforth will be government of the lawyers, by the lawyers and for the lawyers.
Lynch claims that we need to keep the courts involved because otherwise the State would “walk away from its duty to provide an adequate education to all children.” This is a stunningly vacuous argument. I’m sure there are those who believe that State is this very moment walking away from its duty to protect the environment, care for the elderly, maintain and build roads, pick up the trash, and protect us from criminals and fires, to name just a handful of things that government does. Under Lynch’s reasoning, all these things, everything else that government does, and for that matter anything else that anyone thinks government should be doing, should be fodder for a lawsuit.
If the Lynch amendment passes, kiss local control goodbye. Instead, we will all have to kowtow to the education mandarins in Concord. If a school district doesn’t want to allow Planned Parenthood to teach health class or if it can provide an excellent education for less money than the educrats say adequacy costs? Well, that’s just too bad. The Constitution says that the provincials are going to teach and spend what the royalty in Concord tells them to teach and spend.
Lynch’s amendment also adds the requirement that the State pay for fifty percent of the cost of an adequate education. Why fifty percent? It’s probably a compromise between Lynch’s handlers, who wanted a number low enough to avoid an income tax, and Senate and House Democrats, who wanted just the opposite. But whatever the explanation, it is stupid policy. It is incredibly arrogant to believe that we know exactly what percentage of State spending on education will be appropriate 10 years or even ten months from now. Spending is something that should be set through elections, not written into the Constitution.
If you’re thinking that Lynch’s amendment was written to please the far-left, you are absolutely right. With the Legislature chock full of moon-bats because of the voters’ anti-Iraq war temper tantrum, Lynch had to write an amendment that appealed to Democrats, rather than Republicans. So how is he going to get this stinker past the voters? Think stick, not carrot.
While Lynch won’t say so, his definition of an adequate education costs around $2.5 billion dollars. The pitch to the voters will be that the only alternative to his amendment is to pass an income tax. Then we will only have to raise $1.25 billion in state taxes.
There is a potential tax fly in Lynch’s amendment ointment, however. What if the Democrats decide not to support the Lynch amendment because, if it loses the State would then have to pay for the entire $2.5 billion cost of an adequate education, which means income tax? All the Democrats would need to do is to convince one-third of the voters to oppose the amendment and they would achieve tax nirvana.
Once the Lynch amendment is rejected, someone would sue to force the State to pay for the entire $2.5 billion cost of an adequate education. The Court, of course, would agree and set a deadline for the Legislature and Governor to put a new funding system in place. And, to again quote Mr. Gekko, that’s a dog with different fleas.