Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How far teachers unions will go to stop choice.

The following article appeared in the Wall Street Journal
on August 29, 2007; Page A14. This article is a great reminder as to how important saving jobs is to the teachers' unions. The teachers unions are about protecting teacher's jobs. They do not care about our children and improving the public education system as to provide the best possible education for our children.

Voucher Showdown

The Utah legislature passed one of the nation's most far-sighted voucher laws in February, and the state teachers union is calling in the national cavalry to help repeal it in a November 6 referendum.

Last month Kim Campbell, the head of the Utah Education Association, schlepped all the way to Philadelphia to speak at a National Education Association convention, where she asked the board of directors for financial support to oppose school choice. Ms. Campbell promised that her campaign to defeat it "will be ugly, mean and expensive," and she needs the outside cash to overwhelm pro-voucher supporters in the state. Look for other liberal activists to pour cash into what will be the most significant state-wide ballot test for school choice in years.

The Utah union chief made her out-of-state trek, by the way, even as one of her spokesmen back home denounced the "river of money from out-of-state ideologues intent on starting a voucher experiment in Utah." Apparently, out-of-state contributions are only tainted when they're used to support something the teachers union opposes.

In any case, Ms. Campbell's plea didn't fall on deaf ears. Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, a union watchdog, reported recently that the Utah union's $3 million request for its anti-voucher campaign was approved. The union's executive director wouldn't confirm or deny the amount when we inquired, but she did volunteer that "we're reaching out to the national affiliate for support and assistance, and we're hoping it will be significant." You can bet it will be.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Panel examining cost of kindergarten start-ups

The article below our commentary appeared in the Union Leader.

First legislators and educrats want to mandate kindergarten and than they will want to mandate preschool. But are both even necessary and are they effective and cost efficient? Research generally shows the answers to these questions is no.

Essentially what you get is a waste of tax dollars with almost all gains lost by the third grade.

References materials to view.

Research Disputes Benefits of Early Education

A Fresh Start for Head Start.

The United States ranks 23rd in education performance in the world, despite spending more than any other nation. Most nations do not have kids start school until age 7. Imagine the billions of dollars we would save every year if we increased the age of formal education.

Panel examining cost of kindergarten start-ups
State House Bureau Chief

Concord – A special legislative panel on education costs will pay special attention to the costs of starting up kindergarten programs in 11 school districts.

A subcommittee will look closely at how the state should help the handful of districts that don't now offer kindergarten as they join the the 140 districts in the state that do offer it.

The 11-member committee began work yesterday on figuring the cost of the state's new definition of an adequate education. That definition, which lawmakers adopted just a few months ago, makes kindergartens a mandatory program in all school districts for the first time.

The state Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the state has an obligation to define an adequate education, figure out its cost and fund it. The work toward determining the cost has to be finished by Feb. 1, 2008. Then the state will have to figure out how to raise the extra money to pay that cost.

Total spending on public schools in grades K through 12 amounts to about $2.4 billion a year. Estimates are that the adequacy definition will require the state to supply about half that total. Current state funding for adequacy is about $800 million, significantly below the expected new cost.

Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, pointed out that the law requires kindergarten programs to be in place by next September, but local school budgets won't be voted on until next March. That leaves little time for construction of new buildings or renovations of existing space, he said.

Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston, said the subcommittee ought to consider whether private contractors can continue to offer kindergarten programs, at public expense, as a way to make the transition.

"Rather than make it 'one size fits all,' we may be able to work it out on a case-by-case basis," Weyler said.

New Hampshire will have 11 school districts that do not offer public kindergarten after next month, when Fremont and the Timberlane School District in Plaistow launch programs. Timberlane also includes the towns of Atkinson, Sandown and Danville.

Litchfield has approved a program, but has no fixed start-up date, according to the state Department of Education.

Those with no locally approved program are Auburn, Chester, Derry, Hudson, Lyndeborough, Milford, Pelham, Salem, Windham and the Mascenic district, which serves, Greenville, Mason and New Ipswich.

Sen. Iris Estabrook, D-Durham, and Rep. Emma Rous, D-Durham, will co-chair the commission. Plans are to bring in consultants, national legislative experts and the public before the committee begins to write its report.

The panel has to find a method of pinning down the cost of programs set out in the new definition, come up with a kindergarten transition program and a method for identifying school districts that need more aid than the average.

School spending rate increase unsustainable

The following piece appeared in the Concord Monitor.

Until legislation limits education spending increases to the rate of inflation or the CPI we will continue to see unsustainable spending. Schools have a spending problem and not a funding problem. How can we expect schools to teach our students math when they can not even figure out how to balance a budget. Schools should not be allowed to spend above the rate of inflation or deficit spend. Perhaps so many Americans are in debt because they learned how to spend from the best spenders of all educrats.

School spending rate increase unsustainable

Monitor staff
August 19. 2007

For a half century or so, public school spending in New Hampshire increased at the rate of 9 percent per year. Spending fell to about 4 percent during the recession of the 1990s but quickly resumed its historic growth rate. School spending is now increasing by 7.9 percent annually.
Later this month, the committee charged with determining the cost of an adequate education, as defined by the last session of the Legislature, will begin its work. It's not supposed to consider how the revenue to pay those costs will be raised. That's the Legislature's job. Anyone who does think about how to pay for public schools has to think about that seemingly inexorable 8 or 9 percent annual increase.

No revenue source increases by 9 percent per year on a regular basis, not even an income tax. Nor can growth in the state's economy keep pace. That means old taxes will have to be raised, new ones created or spending reduced.

It's not easy to put your finger on exactly why education spending has climbed so relentlessly. Mostly it's because it's a labor-intensive field, which means providing lots of people with health care and pensions whose costs have been rising rapidly.

The nature of education has also changed. Schools have been asked to meet more and more of children's needs. They now spend more than $50 million per year dealing with children's psychological and mental health problems. That makes them the single biggest provider of behavioral health services for youth. Because society has asked schools to do so much more, it takes more people to run them. A generation ago, an educational aide was a rarity. They are now a big part of the budget.

In coming decades, shrinking school populations could slow the increase in spending. Concord has nearly 5 percent fewer elementary school children than it did a half dozen years ago; Keene about one-fifth fewer. But having fewer students won't, on its own, be enough to make a big dent in that 9 percent annual increase.
Finding a way to run schools with fewer people while still providing a quality education would bring down spending. So would transferring services like behavioral health to another sector of government. But doing either may not be wise or politically achievable.

It's been a decade since the second Claremont school funding decision forced reforms in the way schools are funded, but little has been accomplished. Spending in wealthy towns is actually higher, when compared with the median, than it was in 1998 when the first reforms went into effect. The difference in how much property rich towns and poor towns must tax themselves to pay for schools is once again nearly five-to-one.

Changing that ratio, which was one of the goals of the original lawsuit, will require either a new source of revenue or an increase in the number of donor towns that pay more in statewide property taxes than they get back in education aid.

But bad things could happen if the statewide property tax is raised enough to truly fund education adequately. If property tax bills continue to grow faster than most household incomes, which have been flat for nearly a decade, the young won't be able to afford homes or the old to stay in them. The lack of young workers would threaten the state's economy.

Two things could alter this picture. A higher statewide property tax could come with a circuit breaker of some sort and exempt, for example, the first $100,000 in the value of a primary residence. That would pass the bill on to businesses and second home owners.

An income tax, as we said earlier, won't raise enough to keep pace with school spending without being confiscatory. But it would come closer.

The wages used to pay property taxes only increase by 2 or 3 percent per year. But an income tax, since it would capture wage increases plus revenue from interest and dividends and capital gains would grow a bit faster say 5 percent. The state would still be in a hole and digging, but the dirt wouldn't be flying as fast.

In the end, it all comes down to that 9 percent. If it's a constant, like pi or the speed of light, there may be no way to catch up.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Greed, Greed, Greed

The following piece appeared in the Union Leader.

Looks like our only saving grace is changing the make up of the House and Senate. As long as our legislators insist on pandering to educrats instead of doing what is best for New Hampshire's children and taxpayers we are at risk for increased taxes and increased educational spending. Public schools are GOVERNMENT schools and are plagued with corruption, wasteful spending and patronage just like all other forms of government. The only solution is choice.

Losing Londonderry: State caves to the towns

THE STATE last week asked the New Hampshire Supreme Court to dismiss Londonderry's school funding lawsuit, the remnants of Claremont. That might sound like a relief, but it is far from it.

The Londonderry lawsuit towns, successors to the towns that sued the state in 1991 in the Claremont education funding case, say they are satisfied that the state is following through on the court's mandate to define and fund an adequate education. The state says that because it is complying with the last court ruling, the case can be dismissed.

In short, the state has conceded. The dismissal request means the state has agreed that it is constitutionally obligated to define and fund an "adequate education."

And that means that taxpayers are on the hook for a bundle. The total amount? That's yet to be determined. Legislators this summer passed a law obligating the state to pay for a slew of new services, but they attached no price tag. That comes later.

The only saving grace is that Gov. John Lynch remains determined to target state aid to needy districts. If he can push through a constitutional amendment to allow that (the Supreme Court outlawed it in the Londonderry ruling), taxpayers won't be on the hook for quite as much money as they are now.