Friday, December 30, 2005

It All Comes Down to Money

Governor Lynch has been making headlines, recently. In a December 20 USA Survey Poll of nationwide gubernatorial approval ratings, Governor Lynch came in fifth place, with a 69 percent approval rating. Jodi Rell of CT was in first place with 77 percent approval, and in last place was Bob Taft of Ohio, with 17 percent approval. California’s Gropenator was in 46th place, with a 34 percent approval rating. Presidential hopeful Mark Warner of Virginia was in 7th place, with a 66 percent approval rating. Mitt Romney of MA (another presidential hopeful) was ranked in 32nd place, with a 49 percent approval. I approach polls with a healthy dose of skepticism, but it was interesting, and even a little surprising to see how popular Governor Lynch is. He’s certainly in good shape to begin his bid for re-election next year. No word yet on the likely GOP candidate. Will the GOP pit their best candidate, Bruce Keogh against the popular Lynch? We’ll find out in 2006.

Lynch has recently proposed a plan to lower the high school drop out rate, by raising the age that children must remain in school from 16 to 18. The compulsory attendance age of 16 was set in 1903. Lynch says that in 1903 teens could leave school and get good paying jobs in factories or on farms, which is no longer the case. Lynch and other supportive legislators point out the need for students to have more education on today’s high tech world. This issue is being examined around the nation, with some educators and politicians claiming that it’s too easy for students to drop out.

We can all applaud the Governor’s concern for the education of our youth, and wanting to decrease NH’s 3.8% drop out rate. It worries me that NH may attempt to solve a problem by focusing on the end result. Can we solve a problem by focusing on the end of it? What about the beginning and the middle? We talk a good game here about the importance of education, but the reality is a little different. NH ranks 49th in the nation in state funding of post-secondary education. UNH is the fourth most expensive state university in the country.

Everything in NH comes down to money. To keep kids in school, will require an honest appraisal of how we do education, and making some changes. This may require money. Some kids aren’t going to comply. Will we be willing to pay for additional truant officers? Are we willing to pay for tutors, counselors, or whatever is needed to help troubled kids through the educational system? Are we willing to fund after school programs to keep kids safe until their parents get home from work? We all know the answer – and it’s a resounding NO. If we were willing, we’d be doing it already. As long as we continue to fund education through the statewide property tax, children and education will continue to be the enemy.

Governor Lynch accepted a draft last week of the NH 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. The report was prepared by the Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness. A one day survey last January identified 3, 278 people as homeless, on that particular day, and 978 of them were children. The average age of a homeless person in the US is nine. The report estimates that 20,000 people are homeless in NH at some point during the year. Once again, we can all applaud the Governor’s willingness to tackle this problem. Homelessness is all too often dismissed as not being a serious issue in NH. Nearly a thousand homeless children are very serious, especially with homelessness on the rise. Those numbers will only increase until we make a serious commitment to doing something about it.

Once again, everything in NH comes down to money. There’s a real shortage of affordable housing in this state. Towns don’t want apartment buildings or rental properties, because if kids move in, the town must pay for their education. Wages haven’t kept pace with housing costs. It’s a nasty circle, and there doesn’t seem to be any way out of it. As long as NH insists on the regressive system of taxation we currently enjoy, there is no real end to any of this. The housing problems are serious enough to make prospective businesses think twice about locating in NH. Where will their work force live? The ownership society is something much touted by the current administration, but with the cost of a home averaging out at somewhere around $300,000 the American Dream is dead in the water for a large segment of the population.

It’s great that Governor Lynch is getting the dialogue going about education and housing in our state. Sadly, conversation is likely to be as far as we go. Our legislature is filled with dinosaurs. For many of them, time stopped in 1950. These are not people who are suited (in many cases) to deal with the issues of today. Again, it all comes down to money. For $100 a year, we’re getting what we pay for. NH isn’t willing to change. Until we are, nothing will.

“The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.” L. Thomas Holdcroft


Jon Easton said...

Incredible as always!

Niobium said...

Hi Susan, great post.

I posted about NH's educational system today. It's over at my new blog. Please come and comment.