There is a great story about Winston Churchill. At a dinner party one night, a drunk Churchill asked an attractive woman whether she would sleep with him for a million pounds. “Maybe,” the woman said coyly. “Would you sleep with me for one pound?” Churchill then asked. “Of course not, what kind of woman do you think I am?” the woman responded indignantly. “Madam, we’ve already established what kind of woman you are,” said Churchill, “now we’re just negotiating the price.”
I am reminded of this story as I watch Governor Rell haggle with Democrat lawmakers over how much money to spend in the latest State Budget.
According to a March 27th story in the Hartford Courant, the state education committee, led by the Democrats, rewrote the Governor's property tax cap/educational funding proposal. Speaking of the original plan, Senate President Pro Tem, Senator Don Williams (D) said, "We started out thinking [the Governor's Plan] was going to improve quality in education... Now it seems to be doing the opposite." In response to criticism, the Governor defiantly told the Democrats "If you don't like my plan, come together and let's work on something that we can all agree on."
Governor Rell's version would have spent $228 million, and included a state mandated 3% cap on annual property tax increases. The Democrat version will spend $198 million, and not include the property tax cap. The Democrat version will, however, require towns that accept the funding to spend a certain amount specifically "on education" based on how much money they already allocate to that purpose. The following chart published in the Hartford Courant illustrates the idea.
I continue to be amazed at how many lawmakers and state school employees maintain that they don't have enough money for education! We are budgeting millions at a state level, while towns in Connecticut are spending $7,500 to $16,000 per student! That's enough to send your child to a private school! At least one Connecticut lawmaker seems to understand though:
"Sen. Thomas Herlihy, a Simsbury Republican who represents Avon and other towns, said the bill provides hundreds of millions of dollars, but that the increased funding is "not necessarily going to increase performance" in the public schools."So if the public schools are not lacking in funding, why do they continue to produce such poor results? Probably because our tax dollars are going to pay for administrators, specialists, and counselors who do little to contribute to the educational process. Perhaps also because public school curriculum has moved away from teaching the 3R's and towards politically correct liberal propaganda that teaches how terribly the European settlers treated the Indians, the horrors of global warming, sex education, dietary education, etc... Another reason may be the continued demands of teachers and school authorities that parents abdicate more and more or their rights, and allow the school system to raise their children.
Instead of shoving more public dollars into a system that does not work, the Governor should be advocating a change to the system. For example, the Governor could propose a state funding mechanism that is based on performance, not existing funding. Or, the Governor could propose a voucher system to give parents greater choice. She could also return to the idea of "home rule," removing all state control and letting local governments determine educational policy. If she is really bold, she could seek to abolish the teacher's unions. All of these actions would change the status quo and introduce greater competition and accountability into the system, which would work to improve it.
As a conservative, I am embarrassed that Governor Rell calls herself a Republican. She has proposed tax increases and expanded government services and power. Her budget is filled with feel good funding irrespective of results. The problem is that Governor Rell has already accepted the liberal premise: that government can solve all social problems if only given enough time and money. The major fight going on at the capital today is not ideological, but financial. We need leadership that will advance conservative principles of a limited government role, with minimal taxation. However, the argument today is not on whether more state money should be thrown at our problems, but on how much. So, we know what kind of woman the Governor is... she's a liberal statist. Now, we're just negotiating the price.