Public Enemy Number One: EDUCATION?
The educational system is the most powerful determinant of who controls whom.
George Orwell put it well:
“The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.”
This may be the best explanation for the Progressives' centralization of educational authority in pursuit of its goal to Socialize America.
“Public Enemy Number One: EDUCATION?”
New Hampshire, a Case Study in Judicial Activism
This election season in New Hampshire, one issue was trained under the media spotlights more intensely than a wild-eyed escapee from a State Prison. One subject was so heavy with importance that it could crack the foundations of the Granite State. One problem could change our motto from “live free or die” to “live off someone else or die.”
That issue was and still is education funding. Now that the election is over, the debate rages on. But most news coverage casts more heat than light. It lacks the key element necessary for the well-informed citizen to make his choice on election day, it lacks an understanding of how New Hampshire got into an education funding crisis, and how this crisis will effect people for years to come.
As the Gubernatorial candidates worked to attract attention and approval for their various education funding plans, it was essential to learn precisely what was at stake; and what was at stake was nothing less than control over our own local schools. Given the outcome of the race -- the re-election of Democrat Jeanne Shaheen to a third consecutive term -- it appears few Granite Staters have paid the issue much heed. And it appears that New Hampshire's unique position in New England as the only state among its neighbors without an income or sales tax is in great jeopardy.
At first glance, the problem may seem very complex and hard to follow. But it can be rendered down to some very important and easily retained facts and principles. The facts revolve around one word:
In December of 1993, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a ruling that sent political shockwaves through the Granite State. The issue was the Claremont education lawsuit, a suit brought by the school districts of Claremont, Allenstown, Franklin, Lisbon, and Pittsfield, in which it was claimed that the state was not meeting a Constitutional duty to provide equal education to all students.
The crux of the complaint was twofold. First, the Claremont attorneys claimed that there was a right to a taxpayer funded education codified into the State Constitution. Second, they claimed that since this right existed, it was the State's obligation to insure that all the students received an “adequate” education. According to the plaintiffs, towns with high populations of school-age children relative to taxable property (or property values) were at a disadvantage compared to towns with low populations of children and higher property values. In order to achieve the same level of “adequate” education funding, the taxes “property poor” towns had to impose were much higher per $1000 of assessed value than those of “property rich” towns.
The Supreme Court agreed.
There were two major problems with the decision.
The New Hampshire Constitution is broken into two parts: Section One, the “rights” section, and Section Two, the “form of government” section. Section One delineates all the rights which the State government was being created to protect. Section Two is the “rules of operation” under which the three branches of government will work.
Nowhere in Section One is education delineated as a right. And this makes profound sense, since rights are held to be “negative/preventative” rights, preventing us from coercing our neighbors, not forcing them to do something on our behalf.
According to John Locke, the first man to fully articulate the concept of “Natural Rights”, we form governments to protect our lives, liberty and property from direct harm by others. We have a right to be free from coercion. We do not have positive rights, the rights to demand certain actions and things from others. Once one accepts the view that he has a right to something, he opens a Pandora's Box, allowing any individual or group to demand whatever they claim they have a right to take.
The philosophy of Natural Rights embraces the idea that we have a right to pursue an education for ourselves or our loved-ones, as long as we don't coerce the provision of that education, or the funding for it, from another. At that point we infringe upon another's rights to his life, liberty, and property.
But the black-robed Philosopher Kings in the NH Supreme Court came to the twisted utilitarian conclusion that because education is necessary it is therefore a right. Avoiding Section One, since it would not support the conclusion they wanted to reach, they turned to the “function” section, specifically, Section Two, Article Eighty-three, which reads, in part:
“...(I)t shall be the duty of the legislators and magistrates, in all future
periods of this government, to cherish the interest of literature and the
sciences, and all seminaries and public schools...”
The justices read that very clear clause and determined that the state had a duty to provide education to the children in each town. They concentrated on the phrase “cherish... literature and the sciences, and all seminaries and public schools”, determining that this was a mandatory, rather than hortatory, requirement of the state to fund public education. Unfortunately, they overlooked a great deal in the phrase, and in the nature of the state at the time the Constitution was written.
The phrase does not only say “cherish”, it says “cherish the interest of literature and the sciences and all seminaries and public schools.” How to best serve “the interest” of these constructs is obviously debatable. The justices apparently believe that further inculcating children in the patently misguided, intellectually corrupt, and economically inefficient public schools -- the very schools that have contributed to a massive, obvious and frightening lowering of education standards, and general dumbing down of children for the past thirty years -- would best serve the “interest of literature, and the sciences, etc...”
But others have a quite different idea. We believe that taxpayer funded education is, at best, a system of coercive taxation and redistribution imposing majority morality upon all. We know that our State Constitution was based upon the original concept of Natural Rights as articulated by John Locke. We believe that it is not a fundamental precept of Natural Law that we have the right to force our neighbor to pay for our child's education. We believe that Natural Rights are negative rights, not positive rights, that they stop us from doing things to one another, such as taking one another's property, or injuring each other. We believe that the responsibility to educate a child rests with the parents of that child, that the parents can make the most informed decision about the well being of their child. Finally, we know that stealing this power and placing it in the hands of the government immediately removes a certain degree of responsibility, and decreases the chances that those who care most for the child will be making the decisions for that child.
But beyond these differing philosophies regarding education, there was another problem in the court's ruling. Since the court decided that the word “cherish” in the clause meant that the state would support via taxpayer funds, their ruling also implies that the state must support science and literature through taxpayer funds. Perhaps we can look forward to the day when a scientist or writer approaches the state to fund his “Constitutionally” favored avocation.
Worst of all, this weak “pragmatic” view of rights ran contrary to the real “rights” spelled out in Section One.
Being firmly grounded in Lockean Natural Rights theory, Sec. One nowhere delineates education as a right. But it does say something that the Court completely disregarded. Section One, Article Six states:
“... (T)he several parishes, bodies, corporate, or religious societies
shall at all times have the right of electing their own teachers,
and of contracting with them for their support or maintenance,
This clause, utilizing the archaic English of “parish” for “town,” explicitly states that it is up to the local governments to hire teachers and enter into contracts with them. But by trying to establish a state obligation to fund education, the Court created a contradiction. It is not possible for the state to have the power over education funds while reserving to the localities the power of deciding whom they want to hire, and for how much. The two simply cannot coexist.
Couple these fundamental problems with the fact that not only did New Hampshire not have public schools at the time the state constitution was written, but its citizens had explicitly avoided creating public schools despite British commands to do so, and one might wonder where Chief Justice David Brock and his partners got their bizarre ideas.
We may wonder all we want, but the fact remains that they made their decision.
“Spheres of Control”
The second major problem with the “Claremont One” decision of 1993 was that it contravenes the system of “small spheres of control” built into our State and Federal governments.
The Founders of the New Hampshire and Federal Constitutions knew well that the closer people were to a problem, the better they could handle that problem with accurate knowledge. They understood that by keeping areas of control small, they would better insure people the chance of changing laws they did not like, and better insure, for those who still could not find satisfaction, the option of leaving to find a new, more acceptable area in which to live. It was understood that localities would differ -- in their geographies, in their industries, in their citizenry and their moral and religious beliefs. By creating a system of self-controlled States on the Federal level, and self-controlled towns on the state level, the thinkers of the Founding Period were building a set of systems that would allow us to experiment, to live with those of compatible philosophies, to have the option of leaving a locality that did not resonate with our own views.
Local control of schools is one of the best examples of this concept of “small spheres of control”. By allowing us to control our own education budgets, the State Constitution set into motion a process wherein those who were dissatisfied could try to change things simply by working with their neighbors. If they still could not find redress, they could move to a different area, where they might be joined by people of like minds.
The contemporary example of this process could be found a few years ago in the town of Merrimack. When a controversy arose among taxpayers over the degree of sexual content in the school curriculum, the more conservative parents in the town became outraged, claiming that their tax money was being used for purposes they found immoral. When the next school board election came along, these conservative people banded together and won the majority of seats on the board. They then went about changing the sexual content in the curriculum. But they also changed other aspects of the curriculum, such as the English reading list, which made the more liberal taxpayers in town upset. The liberal citizens began claiming that their tax money was being used for purposes they found repressive and immoral. But neither of these groups recognized that it was the system of taxpayer-funded education which created this dilemma, and that the real “moral” crisis was the fact that a minority, of either stripe, had to give up its tax money for purposes it found reprehensible.
Small spheres of control allow those disaffected taxpayers the moral choice to leave, provide the closest approximation to market competition. As long as there are other small areas of control, people have a chance of finding an area more compatible to their views. What happens when the area of control is large? Then, mistakes affect many more people, and, worst of all, there is nowhere else to go.
But centralized, state control of local schools is exactly what the New Hampshire Supreme Court justices had in mind when they came to rule on “Claremont One”. For them, the ends justified the means. Even if the New Hampshire Constitution did not allow for state control of education, such a fact was irrelevant to the justices.
With “Claremont One”, they were able to introduce the spurious idea that education was a “right”, the philosophical premises of which do not exist. Such judicial activism is bad enough, but with their decision in “Claremont Two”, in December of 1997, they were able to implement their plan to eliminate local control of education.
“Claremont Two” represented the second phase of the education suit process. Having decreed that the New Hampshire Constitution insured a “right” to a taxpayer funded education, the only task remaining for the court was to invent a way to claim that the state was not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide that education to the citizens. The justices did this by employing a series of calculated mischaracterizations of various state laws and applying them to certain sections of the constitution.
First, the Supreme Court observed that the state mandated many requirements on school districts, including a minimum property tax of $3.50 per $1000 of assessed value that each district had to institute and collect itself.
Once the justices had stated their claim that the $3.50 per $1000 was a state tax, they then made the incredible jump that any additional taxes imposed by local districts for their budgets were somehow part of the state tax. From there, they referred to Section Two, Article Five, which states, in part, that the legislature can:
“...impose and levy proportional and reasonable assessments, rates, and taxes, upon all inhabitants of, and residents within, the said state...”
Since each district has different budgetary requirements, and each town has different property values, each town will vary in how far above the $3.50 minimum they set their tax rate. The justices used these differences to their advantage, lumping the variations into the supposed state mandate, calling them all “state taxes” and then claiming that the property taxes of these districts did not abide by the above constitutional requirement of proportionality. In other words, the fact that the residents of each district have the ability to determine what they want for their schools, and set their tax rates accordingly, is unconstitutional.
Now comes the debate. If future lawsuits over “funding disparity” are to be avoided under the current Supreme Court interpretation, no town can tax its citizens more than any other. For then, under the “proportional and reasonable assessments” clause quoted above, the taxation mechanism would be unconstitutional, opening the door for more lawsuits.
In other words, there can be no way to produce “proportional and reasonable assessments” of property taxes unless all districts are taxed at the same rate.
And the only way to do that is to apply a state-wide, broad-based tax.
Thus, we see the justices goal of forcing the state to adopt a broad-based, Concord-controlled tax coming to fruition.
A few state legislators stood against this manipulation. People such as state Reps. David Corbin and Paul Mirski stressed that the legislature did not have to abide by the court's ruling, since the ruling obviously ran against the original intent of the founders of the state constitution, and since the court had no power to make law. They suggested that the court was wrongheaded and politically motivated, and that the justices should be removed for breaking their oath to uphold the constitution itself. But these legislators were overwhelmed by a House of Representatives and Senate filled with politicians who cared little for the actual constitution they swore to uphold, and more for the political end-game: state control of education.
In order to facilitate their desire to eliminate local control of education and place the power in their own hands in Concord, certain Representatives, Senators, and Governor Jeanne Shaheen utilized political obfuscation and semantic argumentation once the debate over how to respond to the ruling began. Democrats and liberal Republicans eager to institute a state-wide property tax were able to claim that, in order to fulfill the ambiguous court mandate of a “constitutionally adequate” education to New Hampshire children, all they had to do was refine the state-wide $3.50 per $1000 property tax that was already on the books. This is how Jeanne Shaheen changed her original “no broad-based tax” pledge offered during her campaign of 1996, to a “no new broad-based tax” pledge. In fact, the mandate of $3.50 was not collected by the state. It was mandated by the state onto the towns. It was a debatabed point as to whether or not this was actually a state tax, or a state mandate for local taxes. It was not administered by the state, and did not appear on the state budgets. Shaheen decided to play the semantics game, saying that she would stick to her pledge to veto any new broad-base tax. But that was not the pledge she took as a candidate. The word “new” was added. She was obviously leaving herself room to apply the $3.50 mandate as a broad-base tax, which would then be increased and controlled by the state.
Since her husband was an attorney with the law firm that represented Claremont in the suit, could she have been aware from the start of the argument about the state mandate, and did she plan to use it to institute a broad-base, state managed tax? It's a question worth pondering, and, perhaps, asking Jeanne Shaheen herself.
The Financial Impact
The final outcome of the legislative maneuvering that ensued after the “Claremont Two” ruling was a state-wide, broad based tax of $6.60 per $1000 of assessed value, a tax that collected $24,000,000 to contribute to the overall state education budget of $824,657,000. This money was seized by the state and redistributed from the supposedly “rich” towns to supposedly “poor” towns, thus achieving the purported goal of “tax fairness”.
For example, while the town of Amherst, with one of the highest per-capita income levels in the state, received $4,061,916 in state re-allocated education funding via the taxation of other towns and the redistribution of their wealth, the city of Portsmouth was forced to “donate” $557,296 to their wealthy “neighbors” living ninety miles away. It's difficult to understand how politicians can call something a “donation”, when the money is being “donated” only upon threat of force by the state. Coercion would be a more appropriate term.
The “Fairest Tax”
One of the crowning ironies of the creation of these “donor” towns is that many of the citizens in these towns oppose their status as property tax “donors”, but support the application of the redistribution of wealth on an individual level, be it an income tax or a capital gains tax (or, in many cases, both).
Many people who were upset over the redistribution of wealth from town to town applauded Governor Shaheen's subsequent 1999 statement in favor of a capital gains tax to fund government education. They explained that they believed this was really the fairest tax, since it taxed the richest residents of the state. Both practically and philosophically they are quite wrong.
The practical considerations are academic when analyzed along side the philosophical considerations, but let's take a moment to see just how “fair”, or wise, such a policy is. We're supposed to be concerned with “fairness”… Then one must explain to a retired couple living on a fixed income, but with a large nest egg stored away in investments, that taxing them to do what Governor Shaheen believes is “fair” is the ethical thing to do. Tell men and women who work incredibly long hours in order to save and invest that they are part of the “Wealthy Class” and should thus pay more than others. Tell start-up companies that they'll be punished for utilizing their after tax profits in any form of investment, or that their investors will be taxed on their stock returns. Then try to convince them that this will not have a negative effect on investment and their bottom line.
Beyond the practical implications, there are the matters of principle and philosophy. Somehow, many politicians such as Jeanne Shaheen and her ally, Democrat House Minority Leader Peter Burling, believe that taxing the “rich” is “fair”.
This twisted concept appears as the basis for almost every form of tax redistribution. It can be a capital gains tax, an income tax, or a property tax that takes from “property rich” towns and gives to “property poor” towns because the property rich towns can “afford to pay” (and because redistributing that wealth is what is “fair”), but the sentiment is the same: It is only fair to tax those with more, because they will not miss it as much as those who are poor.
The problem with this is that it flies in the face of the economic principle of “Subjective Marginal Utility”. Roughly stated, the principle holds that while it seems possible to assume that “rich” people would value X percent of their incomes less than “poor” people would value X, when an attempt is made to actually put this into practice, the assumption must be applied to individuals. An attempt to graph the “value” each individual applies to his or her wealth is impossible by anyone save that individual. Thus, as a matter of mathematics, taxation based on “ability to pay” is impossible to justify. “Ability to pay” is unique to every individual, and cannot be determined by outside observers.
For example, we have seen the argument of those in supposedly “property rich” towns that there are many who live in them who aren't wealthy at all, and would have to move if their taxes increased. Yet many politicians in these towns, such as Portsmouth, have no trouble assuming that “rich” individuals don't have circumstances unique to their lives that would be just as troubling. If the argument can be made that we just don't understand the economic circumstances of certain towns, how can it be justified to overlook the fact that all towns are comprised of individuals, and that each individual lives within his own circumstances, be they property-based, income based, or expense-based? And aren't those circumstances even more varied than those of different towns?
If a man who earns $70,000 a year has plans to start a business that will potentially employ thousands of low income employees, is he somehow a better target for taxation than a single mother living on $20,000 a year? What about a retiree living off the triply taxed “income” from stock investments? Do we somehow judge one's motivations to be less worthy than those of another, based on our own valuation of what “rich” is? It's someone else's money, after all, how are we to know how much he values his efforts? It is only in the realm of politics that we find the conceit of people to decide for others how they should value their own sweat and toil. But that conceit doesn't matter to those who support an income tax, or a capital gains tax, or a redistributive property tax. As long as they can stop the recognition of the individual, and portray people as “rich”, they can sucker voters into thinking it's okay to tax. They can paint those who would argue against such immoral taxation as “selfish”, when, in fact, it is they who are selfishly assuming they know better what to do with someone else's money.
Some proponents of socialism try to make their ideas more palatable by backing what they call a “flat” income tax. Under such proposals, each worker in the state would pay the same percentage of his income to be used for redistribution. Somehow, this is supposed to make the act of majority-sanctioned theft more acceptable. Former gubernatorial candidate Mark Fernald pushed just such a plan, saying that since we all enjoy the fruits of government education equally, we should all pay the same percentage of our income to support it.
Since the standards and output of the government schools have steadily decreased over the past three decades, and since privately educated children consistently outperform their government-schooled counterparts, the idea that Mr. Fernald's favored education system is benefiting society is highly in doubt. But in addition, even if one were to accept his dream-like notion, one has to apply some logical analysis to his idea that a flat tax is somehow fair. If, Fernald argues, we all share equally in the fruits of government schools (you know those fruits: illiteracy, teen pregnancy, indoctrination, etc.), then we are told we should all pay the same percentage of our income. But why should a person getting the same fruits from the system pay a penny more than someone else? Why should a person earning $50,000 per year, and who pays 4% on that to support the government schools, be forced to pay anything more than a person earning $20,000 a year and paying 4%?
If we all get the same size ice cream cone from the lovely government, why should the rich man have to pay more than the poor man, regardless of percentage of income? The focus is on equality of output, equal enjoyment of the fruits of government. That is the premise upon which the flat tax for education argument is made, in order to try to convince us it is “fair”. Clearly, it is not. Taxes are inherently unfair, and making excuses to get the money of the “wealthy” is beneath contempt.
Of course, the “rich” are supposed to buy into the idea that taking their money and giving it to whomever the majority deems is more worthy is somehow ethical. Indeed, it is portrayed as the highest virtue in a society. It means we are all part of the same group, that we aren't greedy, we aren't just out for ourselves.
But being against redistribution of wealth doesn't have to be based on an attitude of self preservation or greed. It is more often based on the principle that I do not have the right to force my neighbor to pay for what I believe is right. I do not have the conceit to believe I can decide better than my neighbor how he should spend his money. I do not have the moral prerogative to supersede his rights to his own property in order to do what I believe is more moral and “good for society”.
And this was a concept the Founders understood. When they wrote Section One, Article Six, of the New Hampshire Constitution, they realized that the closest they could come to allowing individuals to decide how their money was to be spent was to create a system of local control. It was anathema to the writers of our state constitution to place the control over education in the hands of the politicians in Concord.
But those politicians are now in control, and they have been wallowing in the mire of political offal over the past year, trying to tell voters that they have created a system by which “tax fairness” will be achieved, and through which we will be able to equitably fund education in every town throughout New Hampshire. They say the problem has been fixed.
Not at all.
While the new system of stealing from some towns to give to others has supposedly achieved “tax fairness”, it hasn't achieved any semblance of a long-term fix for education funding.
As of June, 30, 2001, the estimated education funding deficit in the state will be $46.7 Million, and the overall state deficit will be $3.9 Million.
This means that the state-wide property tax will have to be raised from the current $6.60 per $1000 to approximately $10.00 per $1000 next year. And the amount will only increase unless something is done. The only other option is to raid the New Hampshire “Rainy Day Fund”, in order to hide the deficit.
Now that the overall decision-making is going to be done in Concord, just how powerful a voice does the citizen of a single town, in a single county, have? And, if one isn't satisfied with what's happening in Concord, and can do nothing about it, where is he going to go? Economists estimate that the rate of growth in state education spending will be at lest 7% per year. Does the average taxpayer think he'll have any influence on that rate? How often would he like to drive to Concord and testify in the House in favor of his position? Does he think he'll enjoy hearing the testimony of all the dozens of others, from various areas of the state, with myriad opinions as to what should be done? And does he think he'll enjoy the sight of dozens of lobbyists who have much more sway than he?
The entire face of local education spending in New Hampshire is changing, due to the “Claremont” decisions, and thanks to the slavish devotion Concord's political class has for centralized authority. It is a change our forefathers would have unquestionably deplored, and there are plenty of reasons for this.
As mentioned earlier, the Founding Fathers of New Hampshire knew well to keep local decisions on the local level. They understood in its most rudimentary form the concept of “Subjective Marginal Utility”, and they had a keen grasp of the idea that the most efficient, most ethical political decisions were made by those people living in their own towns, with their own neighbors, knowing the precise problems they and their neighbors faced.
Under the new system of education in New Hampshire, decisions will be made in Concord, and effected not by the wants and needs of individual parents, but by lobbyists representing teachers' unions, representing contractors, representing dozens of such groups who have vested interests in directing the plunder from the increasing state education tax burden towards themselves. It is much easier for a lobbying group to effect legislation in one centralized body than in hundreds of small town meetings.
Budgets will grow without constraint from parents; taxation will increase, and education will become even more bureaucratic than it is now.
How can one know these things? Fundamental principles of economics teach such truths, and the experience of others states that have had similar education court rulings bears it out.
In 1977, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled (Horton v. Meskill I) that the use of local property taxes to fund education was unconstitutional. In response, the state instituted in 1979 a “guaranteed tax base” system, whereby no district over the 98th percentile of comparable wealth in the state would receive financial aid, while those beneath the 98th percentile would receive it. In other words, 98% of all school districts received aid under the new plan. A number of variations in the plan were instituted between 1979 and 1985, variations intended to make the payout scheme more “equitable” and less prone to gouging by poorer towns looking to increase expenditures dramatically, while keeping their local taxes low. The goal was to achieve a level of spending “equality” from town to town, and more and more regulations were required as the system's inherent flaws became utilized by those receiving funds.
But these fixes did nothing to make the tax situation “fair”, and merely contributed to the bureaucratic nature of the new state education system. As a result, in 1990, the state enacted a new plan, a “foundation aid plan” that was little more than pure redistribution of wealth on the level we see now occurring here in New Hampshire.
What has been the result of the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling and the subsequent scramble by politicians to make education spending more “equal' throughout the state? Not only are the poor districts spending more, but almost all districts are spending more. And it's not just being spent on education. The vast majority of towns in Connecticut have increased spending in other areas (parks, special projects, etc.) upon recognition of the extra money being sent to them via the state tax system. There has been a spending “shift” by citizens in most towns, who know that they can re-allocate tax money from education to other facets of the town budget.
But let us assume this is acceptable, the prerogative of the citizens to carry out. Town spending in non-education areas has increased even while education spending has increased, thanks to the redistribution of wealth via the state. The most important question to ask about this entire situation is this: What has been the actual effect on education performance?
The effect has been disastrous.
For the school year 1989-1990, total overall education spending in Connecticut equaled $3.8 Billion, or $7,463 per pupil. By 1997-1998, total education spending was $5.0 Billion, or $8,580 per pupil. Over that period, aggregate education spending in Connecticut increased 31.5%. And what kind of measurable result did the state see for all its efforts to fund education “equitably”?
For the period 1989-1990, the mean verbal SAT score was 512. The mean math score was 498. By 1998, the SAT scores had declined to 490 verbal, and 479 math. (This measure takes into account the “re-centering” of the SAT scores in 1995, which added roughly twenty points to the verbal score and thirty points to the math score at the median levels on the exam. The “re-centered”/inflated scores would have been 510 for verbal, and 509 for math. The new, inflation-adjusted numbers of 490 and 479 math do not, and cannot, take into account the qualitative changes made in the exam, which also contributed to grade inflation. These changes included the addition of an extra half-hour to take each test, and the allowance of calculators on the math section. If one were to take into account these changes, one would have to assume an even sharper decline in verbal and math scores between 1989 and 1998.)
So, while Connecticut's education spending increased 31.5%, student performance decreased roughly 4.25 % in verbal SAT scores, and 3.8% in math.
Since the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling was intended to achieve education spending “fairness”, or the attainment of an adequate education for all students, how does it sit with the Connecticut politicians that the only result has been the attainment of less adequate test scores for the entire state? If, as in New Hampshire, the state has an obligation to educate the children, how can the system of tax redistribution which has led to this drop in scores be characterized as fulfilling that obligation?
The answer, obviously, is that it can't. And we in New Hampshire should be bright enough to recognize that our attempt to travel down the same road as Connecticut will inevitably bring us to the same dead end. A system of state-wide property tax confiscation and redistribution will do nothing to increase the accountability of local schools. On the contrary, it will make them even harder to control. It will do nothing to “raise standards”, on the contrary, it will move the decision-making process to Concord, and concentrate it in a pressure-cooker of special interests. It will do nothing to recognize the myriad differences between localities. Instead, it will create a uniform, mandatory system of regulations imposed by the politicians on high, sitting in Concord. The only individuals who will benefit from a state-wide property tax for education are those in the stifling education unions, for they will be able to manipulate and coerce the people of New Hampshire for their own ends.
Playing with semantics, and juggling with various kinds of “fair taxes” will make no difference. A sales tax and income tax will not make the system of centralized government education any better. Not only will these taxes bring about the same problems of addressability that the state property tax has begun to create, economist Thomas R. Dye has estimated that an income tax will increase state spending by a total of $27.2 Billion between the years 2000-2010. It will damage state personal income to the tune of $8.3 Billion per year, and on a per-capita basis, state personal income would be $11,762 lower annually by 2020.
A state sales tax would be just as pernicious. Not only would state spending increase, but the rate of growth for aggregate sales would diminish. Such a tax would remove the comparative advantage New Hampshire businessmen have over our neighbors throughout New England.
The only answer to our current dilemma is to return to the original meaning of our state constitution, to the intent of Section One, Article Six, to the real message written by our Founding Fathers: if you are going to accept a government paradigm, local control is best. It is the closest approximation we can have to individual responsibility and market competition. We should leave individual towns and the taxpayers therein to decide how they want their money spent, and, if they do not like that spending, they should have the ability to leave, and try another town. Under our current regime, foist upon us by a reckless and fickle Supreme Court and weak legislators, we are undercutting the ethics of personal responsibility, the responsiveness of government, and, most important, the future of the children living in each town in New Hampshire.
If the issue of education is to be trained under the NH media spotlights in the future, let's hope that attention centers on the substance of the issues. Let's hope it concentrates on the fundamentals of the education lawsuits, the literal wording of the Constitution, and the real malfeasance of those in power over the past few years. Only then will the residents of New Hampshire be given the opportunity to clearly study the problem, and produce their answers in a forthright and honest manner.