New Hampshire Education Amendment (2012)

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The New Hampshire Education Amendment did not make the November 2012 ballot in New Hampshire as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.[1]

Two versions were proposed: CACR 12 and CACR 14.

The amendment would allow the legislature to set standards for public education such as, targeting education aid to certain communities. For example, lawmakers currently propose funds be targeted to the state's poorest communities.[2][3] Additionally, the measure proposes ending per pupil distribution of state funds and remove the courts from education decisions.[4]

The proposals are sponsored by Rep. David Hess and Sen. Nancy Stiles. Both proposals were placed on hold on June 1, 2011.

A public hearing on the matter was scheduled for November 22, 2011. According to reports, there may be a vote on what has been called "Lynch's education proposal" on November 30, 2011. Some, including House Leader Terie Norelli and Gov. John Lynch argue that the vote is premature. House Speaker William O'Brien scheduled the session to vote on the proposal after Lynch emailed his proposed language to the media in October 2011 without notifying O'Brien or Senate President Peter Bragdon.[5] Norelli has called the vote a media stunt, while O'Brien called the governor's proposal a media stunt. Bragdon has said that he will not bring the Senate back into session until January. Lynch is expected to address the issue in his State of the State address in January 2012.[6]

On November 30, 2011 the House failed to pass the proposal - 114 in support and 264 against. The governor's proposal was substituted for the Senate's proposal (CACR 14). The House proposal (CACR 12) still remains pending. In response to the vote, Gov. Lynch said, "Amending our Constitution is serious work, and I would have expected this amendment to go through the normal hearing process, with an opportunity for careful review and public input. Unfortunately, this was not the case."[7]

Background

In 2007 and 2008 the New Hampshire House of Representatives rejected similar constitutional amendments. Some of the main issues that derailed the proposed amendments included: how much oversight the courts should have, whether every district would be entitled to some money and whether the Legislature could use an amendment to shortchange education funding.[2]

According to state law as of 2011, the state is "responsible for funding the full cost of an adequate education for all students." According to reports, the state's formula that goes into effect July 2011 would require the state pay a base amount of $3,450 per student with additional funds to schools with large numbers of low-income students, students learning English and special education students.[2]

The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the state is required to provide all public school children with an adequate education. Following the 1997 ruling the state began providing a base amount to all communities.[5]

Support

  • Rep. Pamela Tucker said, "This will give the people of New Hampshire the right to vote on how they want to finance education. This is towns and cities getting back local control of their schools."[8]
  • Rep. William O'Brien called the proposed measure a first step in ending court battles. "This amendment affirms that people's elected representatives, not the court system, will have responsibility for determining school funding decisions, setting targeted aid and helping to make sure that we can focus our Legislature's attention on offering our students an outstanding education, not an adequate one," he said.[8]

Opposition

  • Former Rep. Kim Casey calls the proposed measure a "cynical attempt" to sell the illusion of local control. "They think they've discovered a new and improved form of democracy, but there is already a tremendous amount of local control of education in funding and hiring. What they (the Legislature) have done is given themselves the permission to do nothing." According to Casey, the courts became involved after the legislature failed to fulfill its obligations to develop a "rational funding system."[8]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the New Hampshire constitution

In order for the state legislature to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot, both chambers of the state legislature must approve doing so by a vote in each house of at least 60%. Once any such constitutional amendment is on the ballot, the state's voters must approve it by a 2/3 vote for it to pass.

CACR 12:

CACR 14:

Gov. Lynch's amendment:

  • On November 30, 2011 the House failed to pass the proposal - 114 in support and 264 against. The governor's proposal was substituted for the Senate's proposal (CACR 14).[7]

See also

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