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Forget school aid formula; and impeach for shutdown

High on the agenda for the new session of the General Assembly is rewriting the formula for state financial aid to municipal school systems. It will be a big waste of time.

Connecticut has been rewriting its school aid formula almost every year since the state Supreme Court’s decision in the school financing case of Horton v. Meskill in 1977, with little result except greater expense. State payments to school systems with poor populations and weak property-tax bases have been greatly increased but student performance has not improved.

So either the state still has not yet developed the right formula or student performance does not correlate much with school spending.

The state Education Department acknowledges it cannot show that school spending correlates with student performance. Indeed, defending the department in court against the most recent school financing lawsuit two years ago, the attorney general’s office called an economics professor who had studied school spending in Connecticut and testified that there is no correlation.

Of course there must be a very limited correlation, since if there were no schools, it’s unlikely that most children would learn on their own. But after four decades pouring money into struggling schools and accomplishing little, the legislature should either give up on formulizing or look elsewhere for correlations with student performance.

When most children in poor cities lack parents and perform poorly in school, while most children in suburbs have two parents and perform fairly well, there may be decisive correlations quite apart from school spending even if they can’t be discussed in polite company.

 

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Shutdown invites impeachment

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nseemly as the associations between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian operatives are, there is no federal crime called “collusion” and no one can be indicted for it.

Besides, American politicians long have colluded with foreign powers to advance their political objectives.

During the Vietnam War President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, suspended bombing of North Vietnam and colluded with its communist government to start peace negotiations to boost the campaign of his vice president, Hubert Humphrey. Meanwhile Humphrey’s Republican opponent, Richard Nixon, colluded with the South Vietnamese government to stall negotiations, promising that a Republican administration would get South Vietnam better terms.

During his 2012 campaign for re-election President Barack Obama, a Democrat, was caught on tape assuring Russia’s prime minister that he would have “more flexibility” on weapons control if the Russians would just postpone the issue until after November. That was collusion too, but while it was promptly reported, few politicians or news organizations made anything of it.

The people aiming to impeach Trump are overlooking the compelling reason right in front of them: the shutdown of the federal government engineered by the president to bully Congress into appropriating billions to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Border security is important and a wall would help but it is not more important than the work of the rest of the federal government, and by incapacitating so much of the government to extort Congress on one issue, Trump is violating the Constitution.

For Article II, Section 3, prescribes that the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

In two years the Russia stuff has gone nowhere and can go nowhere. But the incapacitation of the government is right now.

 

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.