Beat Dads, Meet Deadbeat Legislators
(The Keene Sentinel, September 3, 1998)
Not long ago, a national politician said that the people in New Hampshire
are "rich dead-beats." He was referring to the fact that we
are the seventh richest state, but are on the bottom of the list in
aid to education and donations to charity. Of course, we in New Hampshire
feel this criticism is unfair as well as unkind, but the current debate
about how we finance our schools doesn't help our defense much.
In fact, dead-beat parents who want to avoid responsibility for the
children they sired now can gain arguments from New Hampshire legislators
who are opposing the Supreme Court decision that the state must provide
education aid to cities and towns.
Some legislators are pushing a constitutional amendment that would legitimize
the states practice of foisting the cost of education on to local
school districts, at the cost of troubling inconsistencies in the quality
and burden of education funding.
Their rallying cry is "local control." They say that any money
given to the cities and towns would interfere with the local control
of education. With money will come state government grabs for power.
The local communities will be little more than puppets of the large
and power-hungry state government. However, the amendment would allow
the state to remain in control of all the content schools offer.
Deadbeat parents must welcome this bit of logic. After all, the wife
(in most cases) is the one who makes the vast majority of decisions
with the kids, so she should also have the responsibility for feeding,
clothing, sheltering and educating them. If he gave her a lot of money,
then he would have more say and that would be wrong. With an amendment
like this for dead-beats, they could then control the way the family
lives and make decisions for them even though they wouldnt have
to pay the bills.
Recently, a prominent legislator said that complying with the courts
decision would spend money the state just doesnt have. "Its
not too much money. Its just that we dont have it,"
Well, dead-beat dads can appreciate this line of reasoning. They are
forever crying about how they dont have the money, even when they
buy new cars and houses, date new women, and even re-marry and have
If the state government had fully funded its obligation to local communities
under its own Augenblick Plan, there would have been no lawsuit and
no ruling by the Supreme Court. But it was all too easy for legislatures
to avoid dealing with the shortage of revenue by simply saying, "Well
fund the Augenblick Plan at 30 per cent, because that is all the money
we have." What deadbeat parent wouldnt love to have that
Yet another response from dead-beat parents is to accuse the judge and
court system of being biased in favor of the family. They often claim
that the court oversteps its bounds by giving the spouse and kids too
This refrain can be heard as well by legislators who oppose the Supreme
Court decision. They say that "unelected, unqualified judges"
have over-reacted. But the Supreme Court is comprised solidly of good
Republican judges, duly appointed by Republican governors and passed
by Republican dominated legislatures. How could they all have become
so liberal, so activist, and so wrong so suddenly?
As the various plans to avoid dealing with the court order are hatched,
the legislatures lack of credibility on this issue resurfaces
time and again. Legislators sound amazingly like those dead-beat parents
who once again promise to do what is right, despite having a trail of
broken promises in their past.
Now, at long last, they say they will pay their fair share and help
the schools. But before they do, they want us to pass a constitutional
amendment that says they never have to and that prohibits the courts
ever again to rule against them.
How believable is that?