During the past year, you may have noticed some of your fellow New Hampshirites wearing a button that says "Ed '08." "Ed" is short for education and the button is part of a national campaign to press this year's candidates for president on their plans for improving our schools.
Barack Obama came forth with an "ed" plan. Bill Richardson has an "ed" plan. So does Dennis Kucinich. Madame Hillarious, the would-be second President Clinton, also has an "ed" plan. Yea, brethren, all o' God's children gotta have an "ed" plan.
Sen. Obama unveiled his 35-point plan in Manchester last November. It includes a "Zero to Five" early education program, an expansion of Early Head Start and an education program for expectant mothers. It will enroll 30,000 teachers in residency programs and pay for the tuition of future teachers who agree to work for four years in a high-need field or location. It will provide pay raises for teachers who demonstrate exceptional skills and performance.
Oh, it's going to be a marvelous thing. And, as the Union Leader reported: "[Obama] said the higher pay would have to be designed with the agreement of teachers unions." Sure, why not? Members of Congress design their own pay raises, so why shouldn't teachers do the same? Besides, you can't leave the teacher unions out of a new "ed" plan - parents and taxpayers, sure, but not the teachers unions!
To the extent education programs are funded from the federal treasury, taxing and spending decisions are taken away from local citizens and school boards and settled in Washington, D.C., where it is a well-known fact that money grows on trees in China. No doubt with some of these programs, states or local school boards will have the option of rejecting the federal largesse. But who wants to turn down "free" money that has already been taken from the taxpayers (or borrowed from China) by a higher authority?
Republicans, having given us President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act (thank you, Sen. Gregg) and a more generously funded federal Department of Education, are no less to blame than the Democrats for the unwarranted intrusion of federal authority into the local schools and school districts. The Constitution, whence our government derives its legitimate powers, nowhere mentions nor even hints at a role for the federal government in education. Does that matter? Should it?
Is there any reason why New Hampshire or any other state cannot formulate education policy on its own without the supervision of a federal government eager to take from us with one hand the dollars it gives back, minus the transfer fee, with the other? Do we really need the federal "guidelines" attached to those recycled dollars? While he was in New Hampshire, I asked Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul what he thought the next president might do to improve education in America.
"Get out of the way!" was his clear and sensible reply. NH
Jack Kenny, who says he's been uninspired by the political choices since Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater lost in 1964, is a well-known conservative columnist from Manchester.
This article appears in the February 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine