The latest court decision regarding education funding in New Hampshire presents either a great opportunity or a further slide in New Hampshire’s advantage over other states. If the governor and legislature, and people, allow the proposed remedy to be millions of dollars in more spending, it will signal the end of New Hampshire frugality and will achieve the liberals’ goal of a broadbased state income tax.
This has been the big spenders’ goal for decades and it isn’t just to spend wildly on schools. It is to remake New Hampshire into a big-government carbon copy of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and all the other bureaucratic tax-burdened states.
The spenders’ focus is not on quality of education and how best to achieve that quality in so-called “property-poor” vs. “property-rich” communities. Their concern is not with best educational outcomes but only with income input.
That was starkly summed up in our Sunday News review of a superior court ruling: A child’s educational opportunity should not be determined by his or her ZIP code.
Taken to its logical conclusion, that “opportunity” should be nationwide. New Hampshire schools should spend no less, and no more, than those in rural Alabama or upscale Seattle. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be fair!
Some of those behind the New Hampshire lawsuits insist that it’s fine for individual districts (think Bedford, Amherst, Hanover) to spend much more than what is needed for an “adequate education.” But if the goal is for every student to have the same educational “opportunity,” then it follows that the spending for government-overseen schools must be the same statewide.
But spending beyond a certain base level is not and never has been the key to giving students that best “opportunity.” Low-cost charter schools and even some inner-city public schools can and do achieve outstanding results with far less spending. Competition, fed by voucher programs and parental choice, can make a huge difference in school quality and outcomes.
The reason we don’t have one nationally-mandated education bill is because the 50 states are supposed to be independent and sovereign units, doing things in their own way. For 200 years, the New Hampshire constitution was seen as allowing individual districts to have a say in education matters, and it was largely successful.
New Hampshire has a chance now to create a new and improved model but not if it lets lawyers, teacher unions, and liberals focus the discussion on dollars rather than on common sense.