We want a high-quality education
Fourteen years ago, starting with the Claremont II lawsuit, New Hampshire began a process in funding local education that can best be described as a cycle of chaos. The result has been an untenable reality that has pitted communities against each other and taxpayers against the judiciary.It’s high time we brought stability, predictability and a long-term solution to the taxpayers and the cities and towns of the state. It’s also time that the Legislature started putting its focus on making sure that our students are getting a high-quality education, not an adequate one.That’s why House leaders have moved forward with a constitutional amendment that restores local control of our schools by taking our courts out of the education discussion. This will ensure that education decisions will be made between parents, teachers, school boards and students – where it always should have remained.Amending our founding document is not something that we take lightly. It’s an admission that other remedies have failed and that the state Supreme Court and the legislature simply haven’t been able to iron out our viewpoints. However, we believe that setting budgeting priorities is a legislative principle, and must remain so. This is something that we cannot and must not turn over to the judiciary, and we must take this serious step to protect this important New Hampshire value.Instead of refighting the same old battles, we need to bring a resolution to this issue that stops the endless runs to the courtroom and allows the Legislature to bring a measure to predictability to the cities and towns of New Hampshire, so that they can make their future plans on a more than one-year-at-a-time basis.This amendment affirms that people’s elected representatives, not the court system, will have responsibility for determining school funding decisions and setting targeted aid. As a practical matter, this amendment, if adopted, will eliminate the statewide property taxes and make sure that donor towns are a bad memory, never to return.Furthermore, because of court rulings, the Legislature has spent the past decade trying to determine what an “adequate” education means. We don’t know too many parents who believe their child deserves just an adequate education. They want their lawmakers to focus on finding ways to deliver an outstanding education that will prepare them for the challenges that await them in today’s fast-paced world. That’s what our amendment will allow the state and communities to do.It is important to understand that this is not an effort to merely do away with state education aid.This bill is designed to go hand-in-hand with the school-funding formula designed by Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, which provides consistency and reliability to the education-funding debate while also offering a greater ability to target aid to those communities that truly need assistance in the future.Working together, this amendment and funding plan will offer communities, taxpayers, parents and students the best chance for opportunity, stability and excellence. This will give us a chance to end the chaos that has dominated each budget and put away the political football that has been a distraction and created hostility where there should be cooperation.Rep. William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, is speaker of the House. Rep. D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, is majority leader. Rep. Lynne Ober, R-Hudson, is chair of the Special Committee on Education Funding Reform and vice chair of the House Finance Committee.