Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Inadequate: Education definition fails

The following editorial appeared in the Union Leader.

If you can attend please attend the rally at the State House on June 27th at 9:00 am.

Inadequate: Education definition fails

HOUSE AND SENATE negotiators last week agreed on a definition of "adequate education" that would wreck state finances.

The definition includes full-day kindergarten, meaning that every district now providing half-day or no kindergarten will be required to upgrade, costing the state tens of millions of dollars.

The definition also requires more intensive investments in schools deemed to have special needs. Another big cost for state taxpayers.

The bill is quite vague, leaving exact definitions to the executive branch, and comes with no price tag. The cost is to be determined by a legislative committee. If that sounds familiar, it's basically the arrangement the Supreme Court's Londonderry ruling, which commanded legislators to define "adequate education" with great specificity, struck down.

The court wrote that "under the statutory scheme there is no way a citizen or a school district in this state can determine the distinct substantive content of a constitutionally adequate education. Consequently, its cost cannot be isolated. Such a system is also impervious to meaningful judicial review."

That would seem to apply to this bill as well.

"Any definition of constitutional adequacy crafted by the political branches must be sufficiently clear to permit common understanding and allow for an objective determination of costs," the court wrote.

This bill does not appear to be "sufficiently clear," as the court mandated.

Now, we think the court was completely wrong in its ruling and its orders were preposterous. Legislators could have told the court to buzz off. Or they could have crafted a definition that obligated the state to no more than it currently pays.

Instead, they came up with a broad and vague definition that will saddle the state with an enormous new burden that almost certainly will have to be financed with a broadbased tax -- and that is subject to more lawsuits because it appears to fail to do what the court ordered.

Gov. John Lynch has indicated his approval of this bill. But he should not sign it unless legislators also pass CACR 19, the constitutional amendment that would render the Londonderry ruling moot. With that amendment, this awful definition of educational adequacy could be changed or abolished and the court could say nothing.

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