Publisher's Note: School funding is still an issue
Hello, New Hampshire. Can you please take off the sunglasses? The cameras have all gone. The door ringers have all gone. The pollsters have all gone. The candidates have all gone. Itís just us now.
Sure it was fun being the star. Who doesnít want to be counted, interviewed and praised? But now itís time to get back to reality and that means doing what we can to avoid some of the bigger issues facing this state.
The biggest issue we like to avoid is school funding. We avoid it to such an extent itís still an issue 15 years after the New Hampshire Supreme Court threw out the old system of having towns take on the entire cost of a childís education. We still donít know what an adequate education is. Now we have a patchwork funding system that frequently changes.
Gov. John Lynch has earned the political capital to fix the system. Heís popular with both parties and seems quite reasonable.
Basic public education has formed the bedrock of what makes this state and country great. A good public system means kids from any background can earn a good living, go on to be president or choose to do nothing with their lives. If we assume that the court was right and that our kids, regardless of what town they are from, deserve a decent education, then it follows we need a fair way to fund it. To argue, as some have, that money doesnít mean quality is silly and anti-capitalistic. Why wouldnít teachers and school administrators respond to market forces? That said, money alone is not a solution, nor is it the only motivator of people. Good management of school systems is integral.
Itís likely that savings can be achieved through school administrative unit (SAU) consolidation. As it is now, we have a hodgepodge of these administrative units, creating higher administrative costs. A state-guided administrative system could reduce the number of these SAUs. Something as simple as negotiating for better prices on bus survives could save millions statewide.
Schools need to know they have a steady and fair flow of funds to teach our kids. That surely means a state funding system that is based on its own taxation and a steady one at that. Whether or not itís based on property values is not as important as a steady funding source, though there may be an issue of fairness for lower-income homeowners.
The other big issue that we should resolve this year is the reconstruction of Interstate 93. This is an essential corridor through the state and at four lanes from Manchester to the Massachusetts border itís too small for this stateís growth. It should come as no surprise that its widening will increase development ó that isnít a bad thing. Mitigation efforts with park-and-rides, increased bus service and better cluster land management would all help.
Now that rock star status is on to the next primary state, we should tackle these issues so 2008 is indeed a great year for New Hampshire residents.