Publisher's Note: Education? Back of the bus
By Jody Reese
Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta knows that his prospects for higher office are greatly diminished if he favors a tax increase, so he has — he hopes shrewdly — proposed a budget that effectively cuts education spending by 8.5 percent and increases fire and police spending by less than inflation, but doesn’t increase taxes.
While it’s not a good budget for Manchester taxpayers or their children, it’s an excellent political move.
Sure, when Guinta decides to run for higher office some might accuse him of presiding over failing schools, but he can claim — with some truth — that they were failing before he came to office. All one can really accuse him of doing is making a bad situation worse, and anyway governors don’t preside over schools.
In last week’s Manchester Express, guest columnist Kathy Staub explored some of the reasons Manchester schools continue to fare poorly (found on the Web at www.manchexpress.com). Chief among them is funding. While average spending on schools in New Hampshire breaks down to about $9,007 per pupil, in Manchester it’s $7,864. Staub says only five school districts fund at lower levels. In other words, Manchester spends less than almost every school district in the state.
While it’s true that the Manchester School District lost its Bedford students, those losses are being offset in part by other students entering the system. More than that, even if 50 teachers — those teaching the 1,200 Bedford students exiting Manchester schools — were fired the district would save only $3.2 million or so. That’s still $9 million less than Guinta wants to cut.
Manchester is one of the only communities in the state that spends more on running the city government than on school district. That should be a huge red flag.
When Manchester started to get large amounts of state education aid, a good portion of that money went to the general fund and not to education. What does it say about Manchester that even money sent here from the state for education isn’t used solely for education?
Many will say that a quality education doesn’t take money. Look at the Greatest Generation from World War II; educating them didn’t cost nearly as much. While I actually don’t know if that is true, it is true that the economy of Manchester (and of the country) has changed dramatically. No longer can you get a decent manufacturing job that pays middle-class wages — most manufacturing jobs have gone to other countries. Now those middle-class jobs require college, and sending our kids to colleges requires good schools.
Staub’s guest column hits on another key point that should concern people who don’t have kids in the school system. Poorly performing schools mean people will move elsewhere when they have school-age kids. That in turn will reduce property values.
In the final analysis, does Manchester want good schools and a strong long-term tax base or does it want to be a stepping stone along Guinta’ political career?