New Hampshire's Virtual Town Hall
When he gave his final state of the state address to the New Hampshire Legislature on Jan. 31, he staked a claim on educating funding.
This is what he said:
To strengthen opportunity for all our students, we need flexibility to direct more aid to communities and children with the greatest needs.
That is hard to do under the current Supreme Court rulings, which require the state to spend the same base amount for every student in every town. That is why I believe we need a constitutional amendment.
I support a bipartisan amendment that would improve our ability to give every child the opportunity for a quality education. I remain committed to working with any legislator who shares the goal of an amendment that allows us to target state education aid and affirms the state's responsibility to our schools. And I will oppose any amendment that would allow the state to abandon its responsibility for educating our children.
Indeed, he did support a proposed constitutional amendment that would address the education funding dilemma. But it wasn’t bi-partisan enough, apparently.
While it had the support of the Democratic governor, it didn’t have support among the Democratic caucus in the House, where it failed and died.
And now the armchair quarterbacking questions whether Lynch really supported CACR 12, the proposed amendment to the state constitution to address education funding. And, if he did support it, why didn’t he twist a few Democratic arms to get it passed?
According to various reports, Lynch didn’t reach out to House leadership, which opposed the amendment, or to House Democrats.
“What really happened,” said a key State House player said to the Union Leader, “is he got out in front on this and then didn't see anyone following him” and then simply went through the motions.
And while Lynch didn’t -- or wouldn’t -- lobby the Democratic caucus, House Speaker William O’Brien was having troubles of his own with his Republican caucus because 50 Republicans opposed him and voted against CACR 12.
In order for a constitutional amendment to get on the ballot, it needs a super majority of votes in both the House and Senate. CACR 12 got it in the Senate, 17-6, with only Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester among the Democrats to support it. In the House it was 13 votes shy of the three-fifths majority.
O’Brien blamed Lynch for not working hard enough - a fair argument by all accounts.
Lynch blamed a fractious House - also a fair arugment, given that the House has had trouble getting along the entire session.
But fact of the matter is that CACR 12 didn’t have wide support -- from either the left or the right. Democratic groups didn’t like it; conservative groups didn’t like it. It likely would have been a non-starter with voters.
It didn’t seem to address the situation of educating funding head on; it lacked specifics. It seemed to want to take the funding oversight out of the courts (where it sits now as a result of the Claremont decision) and put it in the hands of legislators.
But it was vague on the how. Here is the meat of the amendment:
… the legislature shall have full power and authority and the responsibility to define reasonable standards for elementary and secondary public education, to establish reasonable standards of accountability, and to mitigate local disparities in educational opportunity and fiscal capacity. Further, the legislature shall have full power and authority to determine the amount of, and the method of raising and distributing, state funding for public education.
From this armchair, it gives the power to a legislature that will decide funding based on ideology, based on who controls the legislature during a particular session.
Lynch won’t get his legacy. It’ll be up to the next governor – or maybe even the next governor after that.