Monday, June 4, 2012 at 04:13PM
With the vote on the education funding amendment (CACR 12) two days away, emails are flying back and forth. Apparently, the Republican Liberty Alliance has come out against the amendment, sending Majority Leader Peter Principle Silva into full panic mode. I agree with the Liberty caucus, and an equally fine argument was made in this email from Bill Duncan, of New Castle, sent apparently all Manchester Representatives. I suggest Mayor Ted Gatsas read it before he makes any further positive comments about this bill. I'll send it along to him and herewith share it withe the world. It has valuable links as well. Steve V
Honorable Manchester Members of the House,
I would like to offer 6 reasons to vote against CACR 12.
Higher local property tax or lower instructional quality.
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.The impact on Manchester would be large and immediate. It is not possible to predict how much Manchester would lose over time, but the cut already in place means that Manchester will lose $13 million in state adequacy aid - down from $56.7 million to $43.8 million - as soon as CACR 12 is passed and the collar is lifted.
Our children would lose their 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. (Here is Andy Volinsky on the issue)
No improvement in targeting.
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. Here is Rep. Gary Richardson, who favors a targeting amendment but says this one does not measure up.
Never-ending political debate over education funding and unpredictable results.
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.
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.
Loss 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.