Publisher's Note: Opportunity for whom?
By Jody Reese
The Business and Industry Association wants the legislature and governor to push through a constitutional amendment to remove the court’s constitutional power to decide how education is paid for.
This isn’t a new position for the BIA. In 2000 it pushed for a similar change. The business group wants most education funding to go through local government, while the courts are directing that the state create a funding baseline so all kids get an “adequate” education.
At the crux of this fight is who is responsible for the public school system. The courts have said that based on the state’s constitution, it’s the state government that is ultimately responsible.
The issue for me is one of consistent quality of education across all communities in the state. Why should one town’s education cost $7,000 a student and another’s cost $13,000? Is this inequality fair?
The whole idea behind public education is that all kids get a good basic education. This basic education provides all kids with opportunities to become business owners, police officers, elected officials or anything else they want to be.
One of the things that makes this country so special is that from the earliest times, we understood the importance of a good public education. It was so important in New Hampshire that this state’s founding fathers made sure it was the state’s responsibility.
Our system of have and have-not towns is bad enough when it comes to development, welfare and all other public costs, but when it comes to our kids we should no longer stand for its inequality.
There’s no good reason why New Hampshire breaks down school funding by town. Why should Seabrook get a windfall because a nuclear power plant is located there and a town a few miles away, such as Kingston, get nothing?
But who said life must be fair? It never is and we should never expect it to be. But the issue of opportunity is different.
We want all our kids to have the opportunity to get good jobs, to compete in the new economy. Can we expect that if one education system is so short on money it can’t hire qualified teachers of college prep courses?
As we are now seeing in Nashua, school teachers follow market forces too. When Nashua refused to raise pay, teachers started leaving for richer towns that could pay more. That’s good for those towns and those teachers, but how does that affect the quality of education in Nashua and thus the opportunity of those Nashua students?
We tell kids all the time that education matters. Someone with a college degree will earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more than one with a high school degree. Education does make a huge difference and without parity between towns we create an education environment where kids don’t get the opportunity to go on to college and earn those extra dollars.
Is that what the BIA is fighting for?.