Down the road from our house is a stone foundation about 28’ square, almost covered in dead leaves. The town maps say it was School #4. You can’t tell it from these lines of stones on the ground, but the N.H. Constitution shows how much our ancestors really believed that educating the public was essential for democracy.

Out of over 100 articles in that 1784 document, there’s one that stands out, alone in its own section:

[Art.] 83. [Encouragement of Literature, etc.; ... “Knowledge and learning, generally diffused through a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; and spreading the opportunities and advantages of education through the various parts of the country, being highly conducive to promote this end; it shall be the duty of the legislators and magistrates, in all future periods of this government, to cherish the interest of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries and public schools, to encourage private and public institutions, rewards, and immunities for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and economy, honesty and punctuality, sincerity, sobriety, and all social affections, and generous sentiments, among the people: Provided, nevertheless, that no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination.”

Whew. They didn’t mince words. In one sentence they got in about everything except “stand up straight” and “don’t mumble.” Towns voted for school taxes, and they voted for school boards to represent them in directing the schools. They rejected supporting religious schools because faith was private, and outside of the control of the public. They even said that again in the Bill of Rights: “Art. 6: ... But no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination. June 2, 1784”

Now we have HB 607, all 2,500 almost incomprehensible words, one more act of our Legislature to shift control of our school tax dollars and give them to for-profit or sectarian organizations. I used to vote for how much money my town would spend on schools, and I voted on who would direct the use of that money. Not under the Sununu administration.

No taxation without representation!

TIM BUTTERWORTH

Chesterfield