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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-17-17: School Vouchers And Kindergarten Bills

March 27, 2017

 

After concluding business in a rush back on March 10, the NH House reconvened this past Thursday for a short session. The most notable action of the day concerned HB 647, the so-called voucher bill for children with disabilities. The bill had previously passed the House on policy grounds, but on Thursday, came to the floor with a strong, bi-partisan recommendation of “Inexpedient to Legislate” from the Finance Committee. Nevertheless, in what looks to have been a party-line vote (it was not a roll-call but a division vote, meaning only the totals are recorded, not individual votes) the bill was tabled rather than killed. The motion to table came from Republican leader Dick Hinch, who asked the House to table on grounds that voting to kill the bill would prejudice the fate of SB 193, the broader, full-scale education voucher bill. With a vote of 193-161 (closely resembling party numbers in the House) HB 647 was tabled. The bill itself is essentially dead for 2017 but can be revived in 2018, and may also make an appearance in the 2018-19 budget bill still under construction by the House Finance Committee.

School Voucher Bill   As for SB 193, the broad-based education voucher bill, it has been referred to the House Education Committee but no public hearings have as yet been scheduled. As we have stated before, SB 193 is a very dangerous piece of legislation and could have dire consequences for public education in New Hampshire, reducing funding and ultimately raising property taxes in towns and cities across New Hampshire. A fine piece by Mark Fernald, recently published in the Keene Sentinel and Nashua Telegraph, quite clearly makes the case for SB193 as legislation that will increase property taxes AND harm public education. According to Fernald, the immediate impact of SB 193 will be to drain $25 million in funds from public schools, and the eventual costs will range much higher. Nearly all the benefits of the bill will go to families in upper-income brackets, since the amount per student per voucher is merely a fraction of the cost of sending a student to private or charter schools. In other words, the only “choice” to be offered is for those who can already afford it, while the cost will be borne by the rest of us in higher property taxes to support our public schools. (The full piece by Mark Fernald can be accessed at Vouchers for the Wealthy). This is not a good or sensible approach to public education, and the costs must be made clear when the bill comes before the House Education Committee. In the meantime, we must also remain vigilant that this proposal is not dropped into the upcoming budget bill coming from House Finance Committee (a often-utilized method of hiding unpopular or controversial proposals). 

Action Needed   We are requesting that you reach out to your state representative(s) and ask them to vote no on SB 193. Here’s the link, Protect NH Public Schools, so you can take direct action and have your opinion heard. Please share far and wide! For more resources to help defeat vouchers, please visit our website at Defeat School Vouchers

Kindergarten   Speaking of the House Finance Committee and the upcoming budget bill, the Republican majority on the committee voted this past week to remove funding for full-day kindergarten. This was an initiative proposed by Governor Sununu, but it was made clear that in the eyes of House Republicans the governor knows very little regarding education. House Speaker Shawn Jasper, when questioned about the Finance Committee vote, replied that “The capacity of a 6-year-old to be attentive in a classroom for a full day is pretty much non-existent,” hence his opposition to State-funding towards full-day kindergarten. And so, New Hampshire remains adamant in its stance against full-day kindergarten, unless localities or individual parents & families wish to pay for it (as has been proposed by some in places such as Nashua).

The focus this week in the State House will be on the final construction of the House budget bills, which must be reported by March 30. What must be remembered is that the budget bill for 2018-19 can contain or include all sorts of policy initiatives, so long as they have a fiscal impact. Therefore, proposals such as HB 647, tabled by a House vote, are not yet dead, but may surreptiously re-appear in the House budget bill. So stay tuned.

In Memoriam   On a final sad note, we mourn the untimely passing of Senator Scott McGilvray. Only 51 years of age, Senator McGilvray had just been elected to the NH Senate in November 2016 after serving for many years as president of NEA-NH, and his passing is a major blow to Democrats in the NH Senate and to the labor movement in NH. Upon learning of the tragic news, I released the following statement on behalf of AFT-NH:

“AFT-NH is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of State Senator Scott McGilvray. On behalf of AFT-NH members, we express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of Scott McGilvray, and to our colleagues at NEA-NH.” 

“Scott dedicated his life to advocating for New Hampshire’s children, public education, educators and working families. He was a strong labor leader and his career was marked by public service at its finest culminating with his election to the NH State Senate this past fall.” 

“The passing of Senator McGilvray is a great loss to public education, the labor movement and the entire state of New Hampshire.  He was taken from us far too soon, and leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.” 

I wish you all good health as Spring slowly makes its way to NH, and let’s keep up the good fight!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Senator Hassan Joins Colleagues in Calling on Education Department to Explain Delay of Gainful Employment Rule

Image from Senator Hassan on FLIKR (All Rights Reserved)

Senators Argue Delay Hurts Students and Needlessly Stalls Important Protections for Taxpayers

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of her Senate colleagues in calling on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to explain the Department’s decision to delay the implementation of the Gainful Employment rule, which cracks down on for-profit higher education institutions that fail to prepare students for good-paying jobs that allow them to repay their student debt. Last week, the Department of Education announced it would postpone the deadline for failing schools to submit appeals of their debt-to-earnings rates and delay the use of a new disclosure template to provide students better information about their programs. 

“The Gainful Employment rule is a critical protection for both students and taxpayers,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Secretary DeVos. “It will encourage improvement of career education programs that fail to adequately prepare students for good-paying jobs that allow them to repay their student debt, and cut off federal financial aid to programs that continue to fall short of these reasonable expectations. This will help prevent students from amassing debt that they can’t repay and reduce taxpayer dollars being wasted on underperforming programs. Disappointingly, [the Department] has now moved the March and April deadlines back to July 1, 2017, on the grounds that the delay will allow time to ‘further review’ the regulation… [T]his delay needlessly stalls important protections for students and taxpayers and creates more uncertainty for schools.” 

The letter was also signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

Federal law requires career education and certificate programs at for-profit, not-for-profit, and public institutions to prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” in order to qualify for federal student aid. The Department’s Gainful Employment rule seeks to hold institutions to that statutory responsibility. Final debt-to-earnings data released by the Obama Administration in January revealed that 98 percent of the 800 failing degree programs identified were offered by for-profit colleges. 

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

March 13, 2017
The Honorable Elisabeth DeVos
Secretary
Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos:  

            We write today regarding our serious concerns over the Department of Education’s (ED) announcement delaying implementation of the Gainful Employment (GE) rule. 

            The Gainful Employment rule is a critical protection for both students and taxpayers.  It will encourage improvement of career education programs that fail to adequately prepare students for good paying jobs that allow them to repay their student debt, and cut off federal financial aid to programs that continue to fall short of these reasonable expectations.  This will help prevent students from amassing debt that they can’t repay and reduce taxpayer dollars being wasted on underperforming programs.  

            On January 9, 2017, the Department of Education released final Debt-to-Earnings (D/E) rates for all GE programs at public, non-profit, and for-profit schools.  These rates were generated using earnings data from the Social Security Administration and data on program completers reported by institutions.  GE afforded schools two opportunities to formally challenge ED’s calculations of their data before the January 9 release. 

            The rule, generously, gives schools a third opportunity for appeal after the release of final D/E rates.  Schools can submit alternate earnings data for “failing” or “zone” (near-failing) programs if that data will improve the program’s rate significantly enough to avoid sanctions.  The deadline for colleges to notify ED of their intent to file an alternate earnings appeal was January 23.  Schools then had until March 10 – more than six weeks – to submit their final appeals. 

In addition, schools were required to begin using the new GE Disclosure Template by April 3.  This new and improved template includes a more meaningful completion rate, the typical earnings of graduates, whether a program meets state licensure requirements, and a prominent warning for failing programs that do not have appeals pending.  The GE Disclosure Template will help students be better informed consumers.  

Disappointingly, ED has now moved the March and April deadlines back to July 1, 2017, on the grounds that the delay will allow time to “further review” the regulation.  According to a Department spokesperson, the delay was also due to “a question about whether schools can provide data to a third party.”  It is unclear how this question could not have been solved through follow-up guidance rather than delay.  The Department has already gone through an extensive federal rulemaking process and the Gainful Employment rule has been upheld by federal courts. Therefore, this delay needlessly stalls important protections for students and taxpayers and creates more uncertainty for schools. 

As such, we seek your answers to the following questions: 

  • Why did the Department delay the deadline for schools to file alternate earnings appeals and use the GE Disclosure Template?
  • What is the scope of the Department’s current “review” of the GE regulations and their implementation?
  • Did ED explore alternative options to the delay for resolving any questions about the use of data by third-parties, including issuing guidance?
  • Of the programs for which the Department received notice of an intent to appeal by January 23, 2017, how many alternate earnings appeals have been submitted to the Department as of the date of this letter?
  • What is the timeline for the Department to resolve all of the alternate earnings appeals received by July 1, 2017?
  • Will you commit to swiftly enforce the requirement, which took effect February 8, that institutions provide warnings to current and prospective students for failing programs where no notice of an intent to appeal was received by January 23, 2017?
  • Will you commit to requiring schools to use the new GE Disclosure Template no later than July 1, 2017?
  • Will you commit to no further delays in the Department’s implementation and enforcement of GE? 

Implementation of this rule is an important part of your responsibility as Secretary to protect students and appropriately oversee taxpayer dollars.  In fact, in recent testimony before a House subcommittee, Department of Education Inspector General Kathleen Tighe agreed that “the gainful employment rule is a good rule in terms of protecting kids and protecting taxpayers’ dollars.”  Further delays or other attempts to undermine Gainful Employment implementation are unacceptable.

We look forward to your prompt response to our questions.

Sincerely,

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-10-17: Updates On Labor Bills, Minimum Wage, and School Vouchers

 Once again, the NH House acted like so many of my students do, allowing work to pile up and waiting until the final hour to do the work that needs to be done. This week, the House met for two long days, and because it had not met the prior week, faced a deadline for acting on over 100 proposed pieces of legislation. Given how long some debates can take, never mind the time consumed in roll call votes and all kinds of maneuvering, it made for very long days. Near the end late on Thursday, tempers began to fray and the Republican majority used their power in an increasingly aggressive manner. When it was done, all legislation had been acted upon, and the House will not meet again for two weeks.

Labor Bills. In regards to issues of concern to the labor community and to working people in general, it was not a great week. On the bright side, right to work was finally put to rest for 2017-2018, when the House refused by a strong majority to take up the House version of so-called Right to Work legislation. So ends that saga for 2017-18 and we owe a great debt of thanks to all the representatives, especially our Republican friends, who stood with us under intense pressure and defeated this nefarious legislation, aimed solely at weakening the labor movement and its ability to speak out on behalf of working people across New Hampshire.

Minimum Wage Increase. The defeat of so-called Right to Work was good news. On a more disappointing or sour note, the House rejected a proposed increase to the minimum wage, once again protecting New Hampshire’s status as the only New England state (and one of only 18 states nationally by the end of 2017) to still adhere to the ridiculously low Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. Remember, when the minimum rises (and keep in mind, 70% of those who work for the minimum are above age 20 and not teenagers); the money is almost all spent locally, helping local businesses and boosting our state economy. And even if you and I don’t work for minimum, raising the floor puts upward pressure upon all wage levels, which benefits all working people. So it was disappointing that the increase was once again rejected on a relatively close, largely party-line vote.

Employment Bills. Other proposed labor legislation, including limitations on credit history checks and criminal background checks (all with necessary exemptions for certain occupations and businesses), failed to pass the Republican majority in the House. This same majority, however, made sure to maintain NH’s minimum marriage age for girls at age 13, refusing to raise it to age 18. Combine that with our low minimum wage, and you really have to start wondering just where it is we are living! The House also refused to acknowledge basic civil rights for the transgender population, turning an innocuous protection of basic rights into a ‘bathroom bill’ and in the process, legitimizing discrimination and possible harassment of members of the transgender community. Change is not easy, and the battles are long and hard, but these issues will not go away and should not be forgotten in the future.

Education. In the realm of education legislation, any proposals deemed to put any sort of restraints or accountability upon charter schools were rejected by the House. More dangerously, a bill passed allowing towns without a public school or missing certain grades (for example, have a grade school but no high school) to contract to use public funds to send students to private schools, including sectarian or religious schools. Like the voucher proposal working its way through the Senate, this sort of legislation aims to weaken public schools by eroding the public sector’s financial base. The result of these diversions of public funds is higher local taxes, which further inflames anger at public schools, or declining facilities, which are then pointed to as reasons why there needs to be “more competition,” as if public education is like choosing between fast-food burgers, chicken, or tacos. We are asking members and supporters to reach out personally to their legislators and request they oppose any form of vouchers and specifically Senate Bill 193 and HB 647. For more information on the proposed legislation, please visit our website at STOP SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NH.

NH Retirement System. Lastly, in regards to the NH Retirement System, the House defeated an effort to increase the retirement pension age and passed a bill to halt the raiding of pension fund monies to pay for fiscal analyses of said pension funds! These were good moments, but progress in this area was counterbalanced by passage of a whole series of bad legislation in the area of election law, all of which will have the effect of clamping down on students’ ability to vote as part of a wide assault on voting rights here in NH. So, good with the bad. HB 413FN which would have the state meet its obligation and pay 15% of the retirement costs back to local communities is scheduled before the House Finance Committee for Executive Session on Monday.

In Memoriam. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not pass along a sad note. We learned yesterday of the passing of Brian Costa, the Keene Chief of Police. Chief Costa came up through the ranks and was a good union man, serving in the Keene Police Officers Association, and later as president of the Keene Police Supervisors, both being AFT-NH locals. Even as chief, he never forgot his union roots and worked tirelessly on behalf of the men and women of the Keene Police as well as improving the safety and security of the entire Keene community. We will miss him dearly, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Legislative Bulletin next week due to the hiatus in House activity but will be on alert for breaking news.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Democracy Fails As Executive Councilors Vote To Confirm Edelblut, Against Constituents Overwhelming Objections

Today our elected representatives have failed us and took another step toward the destruction of our democracy.

With a party line vote of 3-2, the NH Executive Council voted to confirm, the completely unqualified Frank Edelblut, as Commissioner of Education against the wishes of their own constituents.

“Republicans on the Executive Council let down Granite State students and young families today by confirming Frank Edelblut, despite overwhelming grassroots opposition, a vote of no confidence by the State Board of Education, and a remarkably unqualified resume for this important position,” said Granite State teacher Matthew Gerding.

“As a school teacher and a young LGBT Granite Stater hoping to raise my family here, I find it incredibly disheartening to see Republican leaders chose to confirm someone who opposes full-day kindergarten, refuses to oppose the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy, and calls education a ‘product’ not a public good.”

“Governor Sununu has taken every opportunity in his short time in office to turn young people away from our state. From nominating Mr. Edelblut, to raising tuitions at our state and community colleges in his budget, Governor Sununu is sending a clear message that he values politics over people,” concluded Gerding.

“Like DeVos, Edelblut has no experience or inter­action with the public education system of New Hampshire. Overseeing a state department of education requires an in-depth knowl­edge of how public schools are governed, how they are man­aged, and the challenges employees in public schools face. Mr. Edelblut possesses no such knowledge or experience. Other than overseeing the management functions of the employees under his direct supervision, the business skills Mr. Edelblut possess are not transferable to ensuring our children’s educational experi­ence is exceptional. Our chil­dren’s futures are too important to rely on someone who cannot hit the ground running on day one,” stated NEA-New Hampshire.

“Educators throughout New Hampshire strive to reach every child in their classroom, develop effective and engaging lesson plans, spend hours correcting papers and encouraging students to keep persevering. Every day for educators the theory and practice of pedagogy becomes real in the lives of the young people entrusted to their care. To have the highest ranking education official in the state bring only system level management and communication skills to the job threatens the future of every public school student in New Hampshire,” continued NEA-NH.

“The fundamental promise of a great public education for all students is under attack here, and across the country,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH Vice-president. “We’re not just arguing over budget questions any longer; we’re in a full-on ideolog­ical battle with people who do not believe that every child deserves the same opportunity to succeed.”

“We are disappointed that a majority of the Executive Council did not listen to voices of thousands of parents and educators across the state or to the concerns expressed by the NH Board of Education about the appointment of Frank Edelblut as our next Commissioner of Education,” stated Doug Ley, President of AFT-NH. “We remain gravely concerned about a Commissioner of Education who, when running for governor, supported further diverting much needed funding and resources from our public schools.   There still has been presented no evidence, after a lengthy public hearing, to suggest Mr. Edelblut either has the experience or qualifications in education to lead NH schools and serve more than 180,000 students, our State’s most precious resource.”

“Our teachers and school district employees pour their hearts into the education of NH’s students, are highly trained and have dedicated a lifetime to serving NH students. They deserve a Commissioner who cares deeply about public education.”

“AFT-NH will remain vigilant in protecting our public schools and our cherished public education system in NH. We will always extend a hand to anyone, including Mr. Edelblut, willing to strengthen and support public schools but we will speak up and act in fierce opposition to any extreme agenda or attack on our schools. We sincerely hope that Mr. Edelblut will retreat from his past positions and start anew by listening to NH parents, educators and stakeholders in our schools,” concluded Ley.

“During the confirmation process, Frank Edelblut demonstrated he lacks both experience with and support for our state’s public schools,” wrote Executive Councilor Chris Pappas just after the vote. “It is clear that Mr. Edelblut is unable to be the type of non-partisan, consensus-building commissioner that our education system deserves. He holds political views on a range of issues that place him outside the mainstream, from his opposition to full-day kindergarten to support for gay conversion therapy. We do not need a commissioner who will interject ideology into the role, and I didn’t receive assurances that he would abandon past positions or steer clear of political activities after he is confirmed.”

It is plainly clear that the confirmation vote for Edelblut was purely partisan politics as usual. Two of the Executive Councilors openly admitted that they would vote to confirm despite overwhelming opposition to Edelblut’s nomination.

“Executive Councilors Joseph Kenney and Russell Prescott told us all about the concerns they heard from parents and educators about Frank Edelblut. Instead of listening to their constituents, they decided to put in earplugs and vote to confirm him in a blindly political move,” said NHDP Chairman Ray Buckley. “It’s shameful that Governor Sununu didn’t consult the Board of Education before he made the pick. Instead, he followed the Trump model by appointing an unqualified businessman rather than looking out for the future of New Hampshire.”

“We are disappointed that Executive Councilors Russ Prescott, Joe Kenney, and David Wheeler decided to rubber stamp Governor Sununu’s blatantly unqualified nominee despite widespread opposition from the State Board of Education and their constituents,” stated Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “Councilors Kenney and Prescott specifically mentioned that their constituents were overwhelming in opposition to Frank Edelblut before going on to say that they would vote for him anyway.

“Community members should be on notice that Prescott and Kenney fully acknowledged that they were voting against their constituents on this nomination,” Rice-Hawkins added.

It is obscene that our elected representatives are completely ignoring the will of the people in a partisan political vote. It takes a lot to get people to engage in politics, especially when it comes to political appointments like this. Yet hundreds if not thousands of Granite Staters took the time to write letters, emails, and call their Executive Councilors asking them to oppose Edelblut’s nomination.

To Councilors Prescott and Kenney, those constituents do not matter.

This is where democracy dies. When our elected leaders only do what is good for their political careers and reject the will of the people we can no longer say we live in a democracy. The people spoke out and overwhelmingly opposed Frank Edelblut’s nomination, yet they confirmed him anyway.

This is a sad day for the future of our public schools and our democracy.


I would like to join Granite State Progress in saying:

“We thank Councilors Andru Volinsky and Chris Pappas for standing with the majority of constituents and experts who voiced concern over Governor Sununu’s unqualified nominee.”

(Featured image of Russ Prescott by Granite State Progress on Twitter)

NH Board Of Education Sends Letter Of No Confidence In Edelblut As Commissioner Of Education

Letter cites gaps in qualifications and overwhelming concern from “a broad and extensive cross-section of the public” that “virtually all have expressed concerns about the appointment”

Concord, NH – The NH State Board of Education released a letter of no confidence in Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner nominee. The letter was sent to the Governor and Executive Council yesterday afternoon after the Governor’s late consultation with the Board; the Executive Council is scheduled to vote on the nomination this morning.

“The State Board of Education has a statutory responsibility to ensure the Department of Education is staffed with qualified individuals and that all children in our state receive an adequate education. We applaud the members for doing their due diligence on the nominee,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director ofGranite State Progress. “We strongly urge the Executive Council to vote down this nomination and urge the Governor to find a candidate better suited to the position.”

“After discussions with the public and among board members, we have to say, Governor, that we share the public’s concern about Mr. Edelblut’s qualifications for the role of New Hampshire Education Commissioner. The high level of concern parents have voiced about this nomination that is so important to them puts the State Board of Education on notice. We owe parents the Board’s full commitment to our statutory responsibility as the board of directors of New Hampshire public education.  We are prepared for that role and will exercise it with full transparency,”  stated Tom Raffio, Chairman of the State Board of Education.

Along with the letter from the Board, Raffio included 57 pages of individual messages, emails, and communications “from concerned citizens, mostly parents in opposition to this nomination.”

Full Letter here and below.

State Board of Education Consultation Letter to Governor Sununu

Video on Governor Sununu’s Consultation with the NH State Board of Education

Concord, NH – Governor Chris Sununu held a consultation with the NH State Board of Education this morning on his nominee for Education Commissioner, Frank Edelblut.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“Governor Sununu was unprepared and delivered a standing, rushed overview of his education commissioner nominee, which is in keeping with how he has handled the entire nomination process to date. Governor Sununu could not answer simple questions regarding Frank Edelblut’s education policy stances, and he blankly rejected that the Education Commissioner, like all Department of Education staff, should be highly trained and qualified. When pressed, the Governor repeatedly retreated to campaign rhetoric, further demonstrating he is not taking the real work of governing seriously. Governor Sununu nominated an unqualified and unfit individual to serve as the state’s top education chief. He should withdraw the nomination and start anew.”

Granite State Progress filmed the State Board of Education meeting this morning. Granite State Progress as well as several community members also spoke in opposition to Frank Edelblut for Education Commissioner during the open comment period of the meeting. 

Science Wednesday: Frank Edelblut on Climate Change Denial and Creationism in the Classroom

In testimony Frank Edelblut said he would rely on the ‘experts’ – but NASA and the majority of climate scientists can’t convince him man-made climate change is real

CONCORD, NH – NH Commissioner of Education nominee Frank Edelblut told members of the Executive Council that he does not need a background in education because he will rely on the experts, but when it comes to creationism in the science classroom or whether humans contribute to climate change Edelblut has chosen not to listen to experts. At the same time, Edelblut asserts the Education Commissioner has no role in science curriculum, standards, or oversight.

Frank Edelblut on Creationism in the Science Classroom 

Edelblut refused to clearly answer a Union Leader 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]

Edelblut similarly refused to clearly answer Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky’s question of the same nature, instead punting the matter above and below the office he seeks and asserting the Education Commissioner will have no role in anything to do with science curriculum or science standards. “You will be the chief educator to whom all of the science teachers in our state will report,” Volinsky said. “Do you subscribe to this such that the science teachers need to worry about whether you will require creationism to be taught alongside evolution?” … “As an individual with a master’s degree in theology, there are other understandings of human origins,” Edelblut said. “And finally, as the commissioner of education, I will not have jurisdiction or responsibility for the development of curricula. That I believe remains in the domain of the science teachers and the local school boards.” … He said it would be a matter for the state board of education and local school boards to decide.” [WMUR, Education chief nominee Edelblut questioned on qualifications, ties to Christian college, 1.31.17]

 

Frank Edelblut, Climate Change Denier

During a WMUR political debate last fall, Edelblut claimed it is unknown whether climate change is man-made, despite wide-spread scientific consensus it is.  

WMUR’s Josh McElveen: Next question we’re all going to talk about touching on climate change. As you all know, we’re all in one of the worst droughts that New Hampshire has seen in decades. Parts of the country are on fire. Others are dealing with historic flooding. So, we’re going to start with you on this one Representative Edelblut. Do you agree with Donald Trump when he says “This is just weather” or even “a hoax”? 

Edelblut: Alright, so we do know that the temperature is warming.  What we don’t know is if that is man-made. We don’t know what the causes of it are, if there’s other causes. And we don’t know that all of the efforts that are being taken have any opportunity to reverse that. So, I would be very cautious to craft policy around what has become, really, in many circles an ideology about climate change. So, I would not support efforts that would limit our opportunities for energy which we need in our state and in our communities or other areas.

McElveen: You’re not sold that it’s real?

Edelblut: I’m not sold.” [WMUR Debate, Frank Edelblut, 9.6.16] 

Fact Check recently published an article detailing how NASA, climate scientists, and other experts all agree that human-caused climate change is very real.

Fact Check: “Scientific evidence supports … that human-caused climate change is real. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that human changes to the planet, especially the emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels, “are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” Human-caused climate change is also considered real according to 97 percent of climate scientists, as we’ve written. “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities,” says NASA. A team of more than 300 experts at the U.S. Global Change research program are among that 97 percent. “The burning of coal, oil, and gas, and clearing of forests have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 40% since the Industrial Revolution, and it has been known for almost two centuries that this carbon dioxide traps heat,” the team explains in the Third National Climate Assessment report. The report adds, “Multiple lines of independent evidence confirm that [these] human activities are the primary cause of the global warming of the past 50 years.” [Fact Check, The Candidates on Climate Change, November 2, 2016] 

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins: 

“Frank Edelblut needs to finally give a straight yes or no answer about whether he believes creationism should be taught as a valid scientific theory. We are also very concerned about whether Mr. Edelblut fully understands the role of the Education Commissioner since he continues to punt on serious questions. Edelblut repeatedly told the Executive Council that he doesn’t need a background or training in education because he will rely on the experts, but apparently NASA and the majority of climate scientists are not expert enough for him when they release facts that interfere with his personally held political ideologies. There is a real conversation taking place in America’s classrooms regarding teaching children fact-based science around man-made climate change, and even Edelblut’s fiercest supporters brought this up– albeit in support of Mr. Edelblut and in opposition to the new science standards.”

Senator Hassan Participates in Floor Debate in Opposition to Betsy DeVos’s Nomination

Senator Highlighted Stories of Granite Staters Concerned with Mrs. DeVos’s Nomination 

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan participated in the floor debate on Betsy DeVos’s nomination, highlighting that Mrs. DeVos is completely unqualified and unprepared to serve as Secretary of Education. 

“All public officials – regardless of their party affiliation – should share a reverence for the importance of public education to our country’s success, both now and into the future. And they must show a commitment to enforcing our laws so that all students have the opportunity to succeed. I agree with my colleagues that Mrs. DeVos has not shown a commitment to, or an understanding of, these principles – and that is why I oppose her nomination,” said Senator Hassan today in comments delivered on the Senate floor.

Senator Hassan stressed Mrs. DeVos’ lack of experience with public education, as well as her support for diverting taxpayer dollars to private schools without accountability requirements, which would undermine efforts to ensure that every child has access to the education they need to be competitive and successful leaders in the 21st century economy.

“Mrs. DeVos demonstrated a complete lack of experience in, knowledge of and support for public education. She was unable to address basic issues that any New Hampshire school board member could discuss fluently,” Senator Hassan said.

Senator Hassan also highlighted the stories of the thousands of constituents who have reached out to her office expressing fear for what Mrs. DeVos’s confirmation would mean for their families, saying, “Mrs. DeVos’s unfamiliarity with IDEA, her comments on students with disabilities was something my office heard about often from Granite State parents who contacted the office with concerns about her nomination.” 

Senator Hassan spoke of a constituent from Concord who said she was feeling “vulnerable” about the future of her stepdaughter, who experiences both physical and cognitive disabilities, as a result of Mrs. DeVos’s nomination.  

“Parents across our nation deserve to know that the rights of their children will be protected – and they are rightfully concerned with Mrs. DeVos’s nomination,” Senator Hassan stated.

DeVos And Edelblut Nearly Identical Ideologs’, Both Nominated To Head Education Departments

Photograph: Getty Images CC

The New Hampshire Executive Council could learn something from our US Senators when it comes to confirming a nominee to head the Department of Education.

Right now the Republicans in Washington D.C are scrambling to try to get their unfit, unqualified Secretary of Education confirmed. Betsy DeVos has no experience as an educator and has spent millions pushing religious charter schools to the Michigan Legislature.

Both of New Hampshire’s Senators have been outspoken in their opposition to Betsy DeVos.

“Throughout her confirmation process, Ms. DeVos has demonstrated a complete lack of experience in, knowledge of and support for public education. Instead, it is clear that she would pursue policies that would undermine public schools, in my home state of New Hampshire and across our nation,” wrote Senator Maggie Hassan in a New York Times Op-Ed.

Last week, after DeVos got roasted during a particularly grueling nomination hearing, Senator Jeanne Shaheen announced that she would oppose the nomination.

“As a parent, a former public school teacher, a governor and a senator, I’ve always cared deeply about providing equal opportunity for our children,” said Shaheen. “I was dismayed by many of Ms. DeVos’s answers during her confirmation hearing. At a very minimum, our next Secretary of Education should be able to commit to enforcing current law that protects and provides opportunities to students with disabilities. Her answer to Senator Hassan’s questioning on this subject was entirely unacceptable.

Throughout her confirmation hearing, she did not express a real commitment to our nation’s public schools which are the best opportunity for kids from all walks of life to get the education they deserve. I cannot in good conscience support her nomination and will also strongly urge my colleagues to oppose her nomination.”

Both of New Hampshire’s U.S. Senators are adamantly opposed to putting an unfit, unqualified person in charge of the Department of Education.   So why is the New Hampshire Executive Council willing to put a completely unfit, unqualified person in charge of the Department of Education in New Hampshire?

The parallels between Former State Rep Frank Edelblut and Betsy DeVos are uncanny.

Edelblut has no experience as an educator and choose to home-school his seven children. He has never served on a local school board or sat on a PTA board. Why would someone, who did not even entrust his own children to the public school system, be the “best qualified” person to run the state’s Department of Education?

Like DeVos, Edelblut has been an outspoken advocate for “school choice” that would allow taxpayer money to be taken from our public schools and given to for-profit religious schools. The school choice voucher law was ruled unconstitutional by the NH State Supreme Court and is currently being repealed by the NH House.

When asked by reporters from the Union Leader, Edelblut dodged the question over whether he would force schools to teach creationism alongside evolution.

“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,” stated Edelblut.

During his confirmation hearing Edelblut once again refused to answer the question over teaching creationism claiming the Commissioner of Education does “not have jurisdiction over that.”

Councilors Pappas and Volinsky took the confirmation hearing of Frank Edelblut as an opportunity to show how unfit and unqualified Edelblut is for Commissioner of Education. The Union Leader decried Volinsky’s “performance” during the confirmation hearing calling it “a high school production of A Few Good Men.” Others applauded him for taking his responsibility as an Executive Councilor seriously and not rubber-stamping the Governor’s nominations.

Just as Betsy DeVos is unfit and unqualified for Secretary of Education, Former State Rep Frank Edelblut is also unfit and unqualified for Commissioner of Education in New Hampshire.

Councilors Pappas and Volinsky have already stated they will oppose Edelblut’s nomination leaving the three Republican Executive Councilors left. Will they do what is best for the 180,000+ children currently in the public school system or will they just ignore the facts and rubber-stamp the Governor’s unfit unqualified nominee.

Contact your Executive Councilor today and tell them to put the children of New Hampshire first and oppose the nomination of Frank Edelblut.

The Union Leader Blasts Andru Volinsky While We Applaud Him For Standing Strong Against Edelblut

This morning, the Union Leader took aim at Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky for his actions during the confirmation hearing of Frank Edelblut for NH Commissioner of Education.

Embarrassing: Andru Volinsky off to a bad start:

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky must have thought he was back in the courtroom, or a high school production of “A Few Good Men.”

The Concord Democrat, best known as the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the Claremont Education Lawsuit, treated the council chambers like his personal stage on Tuesday during the public hearing on Frank Edelblut’s nomination to head the New Hampshire Department of Education.

Volinsky tried to make the case that Edelblut was unqualified for the post because he has never worked inside the education bureaucracy. His grandstanding drew the ire of his fellow councilors, as Volinsky threatened to take more than an hour.

I am sorry, but at what point did being elected to the Executive Council, by the people of New Hampshire, mean that you must rubber stamp all of the Governor’s appointments?

Councilor Volinsky showed everyone that he is not going to roll over while the Governor tries to repay his fellow Republican Gubernatorial contender with a position he is completely unqualified to hold.

Utilizing the skills he acquired as a courtroom lawyer, Volinsky shredded Edelblut for having no experience as an educator and no experience as a school administrator.  Edelblut tried to say that his experience home schooling his seven children has provided him the experience needed to be Commissioner of Education.  The two have no connection at all.  It’s like saying, “I taught myself how to fly and have no license but I am now qualified to run the pilot training program for American Airlines.”

Volinsky showed his true commitment to strengthening New Hampshire’s public schools, something he cares deeply about and has fought for as a litigator for many years.  As the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the landmark Claremont Decision, Volinsky fought to ensure that all schools received adequate funding from the State.

Last year, Volinsky won another case against the state over school funding. The state ruled that the ‘Cap On Adequacy Grants To Public Schools was unconstitutional and awarded Seacoast area schools nearly $12 million dollars as a result of the state’s failure to provide mandated funding. 

We applaud, Councilor Andru Volinsky for doing exactly what the people elected him to do and ensuring that the unfit and unqualified Frank Edelblut does not become Commissioner of Education.

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