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Shrinking class size equals increased budget

In this parallel but, fortunately, substantively different case of K-12 class size, "it all depends on the meaning of the verb "have'."

After all, the verb "to have" requires no action. It's not like the verbs "to implement" or "to execute" or even "to follow" or "to respect". All Boards in Tennessee must "have" the statutory/regulatory-requirement for average class sSize policy in duly-adopted form, but don't "have to" actually carry it out. You have to admire the linguistic skill of legislators, caught between rising education costs and rising popular angst on the one side, shrinking class size and stagnant test scores on the other, and buffeted by the education lobby pressing for more education spending, staffing, and pro-ed staffer votes and against any such limitations as those called for in the average class size policy.

The solution came to some typically language-skilful legislator when he/she proposed in committee that all sides could be kept happy and reassured with the equivocally interpretable verb "to have" used in the legislative requirement with respect to the potentially controversial policy.

The domestic equivalent: I have a pressure-cooker, but I never use it. Because I don't enjoy the genetic or learned linguistic skill of a Golden Dome legislator, it wouldn't have occurred to me to use "have" in a way that would satisfy both those who think I should actually use one, and those who don't. But now I know.

Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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