Thursday, March 01, 2012

No Room for Education in the Clown Car

The O’Brien leadership team of the NH House of Representatives continues to insist that job creation is their top priority this year. Nothing on the docket of proposed bills backs up their claims. They’re intent on wrestling control of women’s bodies away from them, divorcing gay couples, making NH a right to work state, removing local control from towns and school boards, taking over for the judicial branch, and eliminating public education. It seems that these legislators believe that corporate America is dying to relocate to states without an educated work force, and a 19th century infrastructure.

This has a great deal to do with the influence of Free Staters, teabaggers, and John Birchers in our legislature. These people are opposed to all things public, and their influence in the Republican Party is pushing the party even further to the right. They hate public education, public libraries, and public property. Their idea of education is a child being homeschooled by an obedient, pregnant, stay at home mom, who isn’t taking jobs away from the men who are entitled to them, or using birth control.

These are the same people who rewrote Ronald Reagan’s history, turning him from an unindicted co-conspirator into a saint. They’ve also rewritten the Bible, the Constitution, and are now hard at work on rewriting US history. They venerate the founding fathers – but they love the founding fathers of their imagination. They stick their fingers in their ears, shouting “la-la-la” when the founder’s support for public education is mentioned. Jefferson and Adams were both big proponents of public education. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be,” opined Jefferson.

There have been at least 50 anti-education bills filed by NH legislators over the last biennium. Last year’s HB340 stipulated that you’d get a tax credit if you kept out of school. The Defending NH Public Education website is packed full of information about all of these bills, including where they are in the committee and hearing process. They’ve analyzed the votes by all 400 legislators and come up with a report card on education voting. In Carroll County, Representatives Fleck and Knox earn a grad of B. This is the highest score for a Carroll County representative. Representatives Umberger, Scala, and Schmidt all earned C’s. Reps Babson, McConkey, and Merrow all earn D’s. Gene Chandler, Betsey Patton, and Jeb Bradley all receive an F grade for their votes on education. One would think there couldn’t be anything lower than an F – but one would be wrong. Representatives Pettengill, McCarthy, and Tregenza all scored an F minus. Tregenza, by the way, is a substitute teacher in the Madison public school system.

Governor Lynch has endorsed CACR12, an amendment to the NH constitution that would take the courts out of education altogether, and put the legislature in charge. The current legislature is the best possible argument against this amendment.

This same legislature has tried to opt out of No Child Left Behind, a mandate that brings some $70 million a year to the state. The loss of that funding would create a budget hole that would be filled by….your property taxes. There was a lot of noise generated about this in NH’s mostly right wing media, which caused the O’Brien junta to lay this bill on the table. It will undoubtedly be back. All of their worst ideas come back, again and again.

NH ranks 50th in the nation for state support of public education. It’s always a treat to realize that Mississippi is more concerned about education than New Hampshire is. We also rank 50th in the nation for state support of our university system. The current legislature is doing its level best to eliminate all state funding for our university system.

The legislature passed HB 542, and mustered up enough votes to override Governor Lynch’s veto. This new law allows parents to demand an alternative curriculum for anything they find objectionable. In a class of 30 students, that could be a whole lot of alternative. What will happen when the class is tested, if different students have different information on particular subjects? How will this affect these kids later on, when they’re interested in going to college? Professionals with degrees in education will undoubtedly be forced to teach anti-evolution and Holocaust denial alternatives. It seems the libertarian crowd (an estimated 150 legislators) has hit on the idea of lawsuits as a means for defunding state government.

HB 219 would take all authority from the NH Dept. of Education and give it to the state legislature. Again: the current legislature is its own best argument against this. Something they won’t tell you: the NH Dept. of Education sets higher standards than the federal government. Instead of high standards, this legislature filed HB 39, a bill to actually lower education standards.

HB 1607/SB 372 are essentially the same thing: a voucher program. In other words, it takes money from the public schools and diverts it to private, religious, and home schooling. There is no provision in the current draft for academic accountability. The NH Constitution is also quite clear that no public monies will be used to fund religious education.

Both HB 1607 and SB 372 are right out of ALEC, which is the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a group of some 300 corporations that drafts model legislation, and relies on the 2,000 legislative members to push the legislation in their states. Theirs is a far right agenda, funded largely by conservative donors like the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and the Sciafe family. ALEC was formed in 1973, and has largely operated in secret, up till now. This voucher bill isn’t a NH bill at all. These are bills presented by puppets in all 50 states, doing the bidding of their corporate overlords.

Who are the NH puppets? The sponsors of HB 1607 are Representatives Bettencourt, Hill, Smith, McGuire, Speaker O’Brien, Tucker, Bates, Silva, and our own Gene Chandler. Sponsors of SB 372 are Senators Forsythe, Bragdon, Carson, DeBlois, Groen, Lambert, Luther, Sanborn, White, Gallus, and our very own Jeb Bradley.

If you care about education, it’s time to start paying close attention.

For more information on NH anti-education bills:
For more information on ALEC:

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one square mile without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” President John Adams

© sbruce 2012
This was published as an op-ed in the March 2, 2012 edition of the Conway NH Daily Sun newspaper.


Anonymous said...

I have to address brain size. If we all consider the truly horrendous problems facing our nation, environment and world, it boggles, certainly my mind, that individuals can exert so much energy on issues such as women's reproduction. Perhaps it isn't the small scale of brain size that causes these folk this constant mantra, but something deeper. An absolute fear perhaps of real progress, change and a drive toward higher goals and principles. For those without intellect and farsightedness, this is probably the most fearsome prospect of all.

Anonymous said...

Rush Limbaugh is the mouthpiece and representative of the rightwing. His comments this week declaring a young woman (Ms. Fluke) to "be a prostitute" exemplify their hateful and disgraceful thought and speech. If the right don't wish to be associated with Limbaugh, they can do something about it, but the fact that they support him, screams volumes. And our State of NH appears to be going into Limbaugh country which is uneducated, hateful and intolerant. Go NH!