Questions Governor Sununu’s Unqualified and Unfit Nominee For NH Education Commissioner Needs to Answer Before Executive Council Vote
By letter of the law, Frank Edelblut is not qualified for Education Commissioner – and even if he were, his views on education and children make him unfit to serve
Concord, NH – The Executive Council vote on Governor Chris Sununu’s nominee for NH Education Commissioner was put on hold today after it was revealed that Governor Sununu had failed to adequately consult with the New Hampshire Board of Education. Other things Governor Sununu failed to do include nominating an individual who meets the state law that the commissioner must be qualified by reason of education and experience, as well as ignoring several substantive questions regarding Edelblut’s past votes and statements.
The Executive Council should do its due diligence and get full, public answers from Frank Edelblut on these questions and others before moving forward:
Does Mr. Edelblut believe New Hampshire should have statewide assessment tests, and if not, what alternative would he propose? In 2016, Edelblut voted to allow parents and guardians to opt their students out of the statewide assessment test. However, on his Live Free or Die candidate questionnaire just a few months ago, the only question Mr. Edelblut skipped was whether he thinks statewide assessment tests should exist or what alternative he would propose. Certainly an individual who voted to allow parents to opt-out of the testing and who is now willing to accept a nomination for Education Commissioner should have a well-defined and articulate position on this policy. (HB 1338, Roll Call #155, 3/23/16, LFDA, Frank Edelblut)
Does Mr. Edelblut believe parents have a responsibility to educate their children? Does he believe the government has a compelling interest to ensure a minimum level of education for children? Mr. Edelblut sponsored an ALEC model Parental Rights Amendment that would remove community protections for children. This bill would have given a parent the final word on their child’s health, education and welfare – even if it meant the child was put at risk or danger. Advocacy groups spoke out against this bill here and in other states because of the potential for it to remove community protections for children and/or to interfere with an adequate and inclusive education, including whether to provide any education at all. (CACR16, Roll Call #134, 3/10/2016 ALEC Model Legislation: Parental Rights Amendment)
What will Mr. Edelblut do to ensure LGBTQ children have safe learning environments? Mr. Edelblut voted against banning unethical gay conversion therapy seeking to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In testimony, Edelblut compared this anti-LGBT counseling (and therefore, being gay or lesbian) to counseling to end a smoking, drinking, or drug habit. He also spoke out against the Obama administration’s Department of Education guidance on transgender students which sought to ensure transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment. If a family with a transgender youth requests support in a school district that will not work with them to provide accommodations, what will Mr. Edelblut do? (HB1661, Roll Call #167, 3/23/2016)
Why did Mr. Edelblut vote against requiring the Department of Education to designate a dyslexia specialist to support school districts with dyslexic students? The bipartisan bill, which became a law despite Edelblut’s vote, required the Commissioner of the Department of Education to designate a reading specialist to provide support and resources to school districts for identifying and assisting students with dyslexia and related disorders and their families. The bill originated from a study committee that was tasked with identifying ways to improve outcomes for dyslexic students. Mr. Edelblut has stated he does not need a background in education because he will rely on experts to help shape department decisions, but in this instance he chose not to listen to the expert advice of a panel specifically convened to help identify ways to improve educational outcomes for children with dyslexia. (HB1644, Roll Call #44, 2/10/2016)
- Furthermore, what does Mr. Edelblut believe is working with services for children with special education needs and what does he think needs to be improved? Can he name specific policies?
- Does Mr. Edelblut believe in mainstreaming children with developmental disabilities? What are his specific policy stances in this regard?
Does Mr. Edelblut believe creationism should be taught as a valid scientific theory, yes or no? Last week, Mr. Edelblut refused to clearly answer a reporter’s question about whether he’d support teaching creationism in science curriculum, stating: “In science, we should study all theories of human origins, all legitimate or substantive theories of human origins … What I would advocate is for good science, and good science should support all theories of human origins, whatever they might be.” (Union Leader, Former opponent Edelblut tapped by Sununu for top education post, 1.18.17)
Does Mr. Edelblut believe we should allow people to carry guns in public schools? Mr. Edelblut voted last spring to require all state-funded facilities to allow firearms on their premises, including hospitals, day care centers, drug treatment centers, and halfway houses. Parents have a right to know his position on firearms in public schools. (HB1314, Roll Call #144, 3/10/2016)
How would Mr. Edelblut respond to various situations if asked to provide guidance or weigh in? For example, this summer in Manchester a school board member spoke out against books with what he called “politically correct themes like slavery, bigotry, etc., etc.” which he considered to be a part of a political agenda. Some of the books in question referenced Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, and Amelia Earhart. The Executive Council should pose hypothetical questions of this nature given Mr. Edelblut’s background in politics instead of education, and based on the fact he wouldn’t commit to stay out of partisan politics if confirmed as Education Commissioner. (Manchester School District SAU #37, Committee on Curriculum and Instruction, School Board Member Richard H. Girard – Page 44 or Video – Hour 1:51, 6/28/16)
Other possible questions: What does he think about the current requirements for para-educator certification? Does he believe New Hampshire should accept federal funding for education? What kind of relationship should exist between the homeschooling community and local school districts, and what is the responsibility of local school districts and the Department of Education in these instances?
Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins: “Its half-way thru the school year, Mr. Edelblut does not have time for on the job training. We need to know how he would handle various situations. At a minimum, the questions put forward at the public hearing should be answered by Mr. Edelblut before the Executive Council moves forward. We must speak up for a strong public education, and for leaders who will create a positive learning environment for all children regardless of their background, identity, or ability. We strongly urge the Executive Council to vote down this nomination and find a candidate better suited to the position.”