N.H. Governor Uses Veto To Reject Goals 2000 Money
New Hampshire lawmakers' attempt to accept $9 million in Goals 2000 money was quickly thwarted last week when Gov. Stephen Merrill vetoed the bill, reiterating his opposition to the federal school-improvement program.
Legislators made a push for the funding, which would have been spread out over five years, after the long-awaited federal budget accord eliminated some of the more contentious provisions of the Clinton administration program. Congress modified requirements that participating states submit school-improvement plans to the U.S. secretary of education and create "opportunity to learn" standards or strategies. (See Education Week, May 1, 1996.)
A vote to override the veto was considered unlikely last week.
New Hampshire is one of four states officially not participating in the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Enacted in 1994 as the centerpiece of President Clinton's education agenda, the program provides federal grants to states and districts that promise to implement school-reform plans emphasizing challenging academic standards and assessments.
In an April 18 voice vote, the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill requiring the state to accept Goals 2000 money. And on May 5, the House voted 248-90 to concur. Both chambers are led by a heavy majority of Republicans.
But in a statement released last week, the Republican governor said he would veto the bill, calling the changes approved by Congress "positive, but inadequate." Mr. Merrill said the amended legislation would still lead to federal intrusion in local affairs.
Mr. Merrill also said that he was not authorized to join the program, asserting that the legislature's bill would usurp the state board of education's authority over the matter.
"When the state board assures me that the Goals 2000 program can be initiated here without interfering with our ability to allocate educational priorities and spending our resources on those priorities, I will urge the board to apply," the governor said.
'Makes No Sense'
Mr. Merrill downplayed the effect of the federal funding, noting that it was equal to only $1 per state resident per year.
But others said the money would make a substantial difference in a state that picks up only a small share of the overall cost of K-12 schooling. And on top of the already tight state funds, New Hampshire faces a $100 million deficit in its $1.2 billion budget.
"I am absolutely appalled that the governor would deny local schools these funds to improve their schools," added Richard H. Goodman, the executive director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association. "It makes no sense at all."