February 8, 2007

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Manchester Publisher's Note: In praise of compromise
By†Jody Reese

Some folks asked me last week why we chose to interview former Governor Walter Peterson for our cover story. While I donít get to decide who or what we write about, I thought our editor Amy Diaz made a good choice. The story was interesting because it explored the opinions of one of the stateís most senior statesmen and, more importantly, one who believed in compromise.

All too often our political process gets bogged down in ideological differences, personal animosities or political grandstanding. Itís been a decade since the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that solely funding education through town property taxes was unconstitutional, and yet the problem is still not solved. Most funding solutions have only gotten support from primarily one party or the other. Some wealthier donor towns have sued the state over the system. Clearly itís not been a case of consensus.

Whatever the problem, our elected officials should ask if itís fair to all citizens. In the case of the education funding problem, funding education through local property taxes doesnít seem to be very fair. Why should a child going to school in Manchester get an education of lower quality than a child in Bedford or Amherst?

Money does make a difference. We live in a capitalist economy where the best in each field follow the best-paying jobs. Therefore, if Amherst or Bedford pay their teachers more than Manchester, they will get better-quality teachers. Teachers are rational economic actors too and it should be expected that they follow good-paying jobs, better equipment and newer schools. Teachers in poorer towns and cities face more obstacles in teaching, including kids with more emotional problems, more learning disabilities and likely more school violence.

The same goes for parents. In decidingwhere to raise their kids, they consider the quality of local schools. Whether rightly or wrongly, parents ó those who can afford to ó decide all the time to move out of Manchester or to a more desirable school district in the city. One only needs to look at real estate listings for homes in the Smyth Road School district to understand how important a good local school is in selling a home. The result is that wealthier parents move to towns and districts with better schools. Of course every parent should do this. But what about those who canít? Should children be punished because their parents canít afford to move to Amherst or Smyth Road School district?

An education system should be fair.

New Hampshireís system doesnít pass that test.

As Governor Peterson said in our story, we can solve this unfairness if we work together and find a solution that is fair to all and makes sure our kids all get a good education.

Now that Gov. John Lynch has won a second term that should be the top of his agenda.