Red Rover in Dover - Granite Grok

Red Rover in Dover

In Norwegian, apparently, Røver means Pirate.  I won’t hold fast to that definition.  I just learned it on Wikipedia, which is about as reliable as a school board in Dover spending your tax dollars to pay lobbyists to push legislation you may not support.  Which is what I mean by pirate.  The Dover school board, like many similar cabals throughout the Granite State, spends your tax dollars on professional lobbyists to promote the “interests” of the “district” up in Concord over your own, though they will always insist these ideas have parity when they do not.

So follow the bouncing ball.

Schools, like any government agency, seek bigger budgets.  Those budgets are paid for with local and state taxes.  The folks who run the school–boards, committees, administrators, the unions and the teachers, want budgets to exapnd to protect their jobs and benefits.  To that end they are funding or promoting the funding of other professionals, with your tax dollars, to go before those with taxing power, including the state Legislature, to support laws and policies that will give them more of your money, and further secure their monopoly on education.

While state law prohibits a town from using state tax dollars to pay a lobbyist, it does not prohibit the town from segregating local monies for this purpose.  So unless the town has its own charter against such tactics, no one is breaking the law if they are using town taxes in a segregated account for that purpose.

That does not make it any less frustrating or even ethically questionable. And Math Wizards is right to challenge both the practice, the purpose, and the problem of a government school monopoly using your money to keep its stranglehold on that monopoly.  But the first step is to ensure that the city is following existing law.

Are they (Dover School Board and/or Budget Committee) segregating monies used to pay lobbyists; is it transparent and visible to the citizens?

If not, this must first be corrected.  As pointed out by the lawyer in Merrimack when locals here challenged the practice…

“Dean Michener is employed by NHSBA and is a registered lobbyist.  Thus, it would seem to be a foregone conclusion that NHSBA is engaged in lobbying.  …it is also safe to conclude that the membership dues paid to NHSBA would be considered a contribution of funds within the meaning of RSA 15:5 (I)

RSA 15:5  Prohibited Activities.

I. Except as provided in paragraph II, no recipient of a grant or appropriation of state funds may use the state funds to lobby or attempt to influence legislation, participate in political activity, or

II. Any recipient of a grant or appropriation of state funds that wishes to engage in any of the activities prohibited in paragraph I, or contribute funds to any entity engaged in these activities, shall segregate the state funds in such a manner that such funds are physically and financially separate from any non-state funds that may be used for any of these purposes. Mere bookkeeping separation of the state funds from other moneys shall not be sufficient.

Further pursuit in the form of local laws prohibiting any sort of funding of this sort will turn on the interest of Dover’s citizens to see the larger picture.  What is their tolerance level for funding professionals who may be acting against their best interests?

Based on the results reported at Math Wizards, Dover’s schools could stand a bit of competition, but Dover is not ideologically dispositioned to do much of anything that would infringe on union power or the public education monopoly.  It would take a force of nature or a well articulated campaign to push through that wall to foment any sort of meaningful change.

But that is Dover.  The fact of the matter is that many other districts in the state are very likely either violating 15:5 by commingling funds or are in either case paying the NHSBA or some other lobbying entity to promote the interests of the elected body to the detriment of the citizens who fund it.

As I pointed out here:

I would advise each of you to check with your respective districts (Local Superintendent or School Board) to determine if they are dues paying members of the New Hampshire School Board Association.  Then ask how the dues are paid.  If the money is not being segregated into a separate account and simply being paid out of general funds (in which state and local money is commingled), then your district is violating RSA 15:5 and needs to do something different to comply with state law.

Bringing attention to this issue can open the door to the more important question of the ethics of using your money to deprive you of more of your money.  The powers that be will have convincing time-tested arguments to excuse their behavior so you will need to remain calm, be patient, and make your case for the voters.