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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-28-17: Edeblut Watch, Vouchers, And Shame In The NH House

April 28, 2017  

On the surface, there was not much activity in the State House this past week, as the House did not meet in session, while the Senate met briefly and considered only a small number of bills. One quiet action taken by the Senate was to return back to the Committee on Education the so-called Croydon bill, HB 557. This bill would permit local school boards to use public funds to send students to private, non-sectarian schools, rather than funding a public school or agreeing to send students to a neighboring public school. For example, if a town lacks a public middle school, it can currently arrange to send students to a neighboring public middle school, but by the terms of HB557, the district could now use public funds to send students to private schools instead. Keep in mind, private schools do not wish to come under the regulatory burdens already imposed upon public schools, so there is no certainty that with this proposed legislation, that all students would be eligible or accepted, nor that the private school would meet all the same standards as public schools. In other words, it is another attempt to use public education funds for private benefit. Remember also that it was discovered that Education Commissioner Edelblut had donated to the town’s legal fund to fight the NH Department of Education. Read more about Edelblut donation to Croydon at Edelblut Contribution to Croydon. This was not discovered until after Edelblut was confirmed. The fate of the bill is not certain, as it may return to the Senate for a vote at some point during the month of May. We shall keep a watchful eye upon it.

Edelblut Watch The other major news out of the Senate was the defeat of Commissioner of Education Edelblut’s attempted power grab and consolidation of his control over the Department of Education. Edelblut, who repeatedly claimed in his confirmation hearings that he would be a mere administrator and not a policymaker as Commissioner, has acted in complete reversal of his claims. He vocally advocates vouchers and working with Senator Reagan, sought authority to reorganize the Department of Education and consolidate power in his hands, in terms of budgets and personnel. After a public hearing that occasionally turned rancorous, with Senator Reagan nearly badgering witnesses hostile to his pro-Edelblut stance, the Committee rejected the pro-Edelblut amendment and instead of handing him the keys to the entire department, voted to make small changes and authorize further study of the issue. This is what we in the Legislature term a polite form of legislative death, but the public needs to continue to weigh in and press the Senate to uphold the actions of the Education Committee. Rest assured, Commissioner Edelblut will be back, as he seeks to reshape the education landscape in New Hampshire by undermining public education.

Public Education Victories  The House did not meet in session this week, but on Tuesday, April 25, proponents of public education won two significant victories in the House Education Committee. Not only did the committee vote to support funding full-day kindergarten, but in a show of bipartisanship, nearly all members of the committee supported full-funding, not just funding aimed at targeted or poorer towns as was advocated by Governor Sununu. The bill now goes to the House floor for a vote this coming Thursday, and if it passes, will go to the Finance Committee to handle the funding and inclusion within the State budget. Following this action, the committee then voted overwhelmingly to “retain” SB193, the voucher bill that would decimate funding for public education, raise local property taxes, and funnel public funds to private and religious schools. By taking this action, the committee killed further consideration of vouchers for 2017, but we fully expect some slimmed-down version of SB193 to rear its ugly head in 2018, in an attempt to get some sort of voucher system established and get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent.” As I have noted before, it is always fascinating to observe how those who demand strict accountability and transparency when dealing with social programs aiding the less fortunate suddenly abandon any concerns about accountability or transparency when it comes to using public funds to help wealthier families send their children to private/sectarian schools or who choose to home-school. In those cases, a simple confidence that “parents always know best” is sufficient—no need for anything more!

Education Bills The House meets on May 4th and will consider SB 191-FN, the full-day kindergarten funding bill. The bill was amended by the House Education Committee to include funding for full-day kindergarten. House approval would be the next critical step before proceeding to House Finance. Two other education bills on the consent calendar are SB 45, regarding the state’s expectations concerning the teaching of civics and SB 101-FN, enrollment eligibility for career and technical education programs. SB 101-FN seeks to allow high school students after one year of high school, to enroll in these programs and establishes a statewide dual and concurrent enrollment system and allow 11th and 12th grade students to enroll in and complete post-secondary college credit in STEM courses.

Shameful   Finally, this week has seen another embarrassing moment for the NH House, with the outing of State Representative Robert Fisher as creator and contributor to a misogynistic and vile discussion site supposedly defending men’s rights. You can read the complete investigative report at the Daily Beast. A Republican state representative from Belknap, District 9 (Laconia and Belmont), Fisher’s contributions to public discourse apparently include claims that rape is not entirely bad, since the rapist may enjoy the act, women are intellectual inferiors to men, and the value of women essentially expires after age 30. Despite calls for his resignation from Gov. Sununu, Speaker Jasper, House Minority Leader Shurtleff, among others, as of today Fisher refuses to do so. So this is how one advocates for family values? Shame!

Your continued hard work on all of these important issues is critical to our successes. Thank you for your efforts.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Dept of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut Holds Non-Town Hall, Town Hall

Concord, NH – NH Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut participated in an event this yesterday afternoon at New England College in Henniker. A moderator read written questions from the audience, though audience members were not allowed to follow-up, ask for clarification, or encourage Commissioner Edelblut to fully answer questions.

“We thank the sponsors and hosts of this event, but we look forward to Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut hosting a real town hall where he engages directly with members of the public and honestly answers the questions posed to him,” said Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins. “Commissioner Edelblut refused to answer questions regarding his stance on full day kindergarten, he continued to lobby for SB 193 school vouchers, he spoke about the importance of safe schools but declined to state whether he still believes in guns in public schools, and he tried to present himself as a supporter of LGBTQ students when in fact he spoke out against the Obama administration guidelines on creating safe, positive learning environments for transgender students.”

“Commissioner Edelblut continues to put his personal ideology over the interests of Granite State students and should be held accountable for his words and actions,” Rice-Hawkins added.

During the event Commissioner Edelblut showed his lack of knowledge on several topics, including forgetting the name and mission of a DOE program he tried to name drop as well as completely boggling a question concerning alternative youth discipline measures in school settings. Granite State Progress will release a complete fact check and video next week. Members of Granite State Progress, Rights and Democracy, and other groups stood outside the event for an hour before it began to greet Commissioner Edelblut and send a strong message we are watching.

More pictures are available at @ProgressNH on Twitter.

Participants inside the event were polite and listened for Commissioner Edelblut’s answers, but vocally held him accountable to answer when he (frequently) attempted to evade direct questions.

Just two months into his position as Education Commissioner, Edelblut has already made waves for trying to re-open the Next Generation Science Standards that were just approved last year; he initially refused to come clean about making a donation to a school privatization lawsuit against the Department he now leads; he forwarded an internal job posting to one of his Free State Project friends and then sent that individual’s resume to the HR director (that individual is also on the Board of an off-shoot group organizing for New Hampshire to secede from the rest of the country); he is using his position to lobby for SB 193, school vouchers/privatization; and he tried to usurp the State Board of Education’s rule-making responsibilities by injecting himself between the State Board and JLCAR – all without informing the State Board.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: A Triple Crown Victory for Public Education

 

Bow, NH – April 25, 2017

As we all know, public education is under assault here in New Hampshire. Yesterday, though, we won three important victories, and it is time to take a moment to celebrate and to reflect. Days like today don’t come about too often, especially when opponents of public education control seemingly control every branch of NH government. But, through the hard work of thousands of people testifying in Concord, protesting outside the State House, writing letters and emails and calling their senators and representative, you won some important victories. So congratulations, rest up for a day, and get ready for the battles yet to come!

Edelblut Power Grab Halted! The Senate Education Committee defeated the amendment put forth by Sen Reagan, and supported by Commissioner Edelblut, which would have totally reorganized the Department of Education and consolidated much power in the hands of the commissioner. Sen. David Watters put forth an amendment which will have the reorganization and commissioner’s power referred to a study committee. Quick response by AFT-NH members and supporters of public education helped defeat this grab for power which could have had significant consequences for public education in NH.

Please take a moment, send an email or make a phone call and thank the three members of the Senate committee who listened to their constituents and defeated this power grab.

Senator Jay Kahn (D-Keene), 603-271-8631 or Jay.Kahn@leg.state.nh.us

Senator Ruth Ward (R-Stoddard), 603-271-6733 or ruth.ward@leg.state.nh.us

Senator David Watters (D-Dover), 603-271-8631 or david.watters@leg.state.nh.us

SB 193 Retained in Committee     The House Education Committee voted 15-4 today to retain SB 193 , the school voucher bill. This bill would have drained public tax dollars from public schools and diverted to education savings accounts for students in private and religious schools along with home-schooled children. By retaining this bill in committee, no action will be taken this year. There was overwhelming opposition to this bill. We will remain vigilant on any efforts to divert tax dollars from public education. There is no question that direct citizen outreach to state representatives made the difference!

Please be sure to write to the House Education committee and thank them for the defeat of this bill. You can contact the entire committee at the following address: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Full-Day Kindergarten Funding   SB 191, the kindergarten funding bill, came before the House Education Committee today and the Committee voted to recommend funding for full day kindergarten. This amended bill would go beyond the targeted funding proposed by
Governor Sununu. The bill will now go to the full House and will be subject to the scrutiny of House Finance since $5 million was added to the original $9 million in funding. If passed, this would be a great advancement for our schools and NH’s five-year olds. We’ll keep you apprised of the need for action as this bill proceeds.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Yesterday Was Big Day In Concord For The Future Of Education In NH

Senate Stops Edelblut’s Power Grab, House Kills Voucher Bill And Funds Full Day Kindergarten

Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Edelblut requested broad new authority to make unilateral decisions impacting the future of education in New Hampshire 

Concord, NH – The NH State Senate Education Committee voted 3-2 yesterday to reject an amendment requested by Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. The amendment to otherwise non-controversial bill HB 356 would have given the new Commissioner broad authority to make unilateral decisions impacting education in the Granite State.

Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins applauded the Senate’s actions:

“We applaud the Senate Education committee for rejecting the attempted power grab by Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. Much of the public opposition to Frank Edelblut’s nomination and confirmation highlighted concerns over how he would operate within the Department of Education, and actions like this confirm Governor Sununu and the Executive Council should have listened to their constituents. This amendment was not the routine organizational realignment Commissioner Edelblut tried to characterize it as but a naked power grab for political purposes. Since taking office Edelblut has consistently used his Commissioner status to act in a unilateral manner to try to implement the strongly held beliefs he downplayed during the confirmation process.”

Just two months into his position as Education Commissioner, Edelblut has already made waves for trying to re-open the Next Generation Science Standards that were just approved last year; he initially refused to come clean about making a donation to a school privatization lawsuit against the Department he now leads; he forwarded an internal job posting to one of his Free State Project friends and then sent that individual’s resume to the HR director (that individual is also on the Board of an off-shoot group organizing for New Hampshire to secede from the rest of the country); he is using his position to lobby for SB 193, school vouchers/privatization; and he tried to usurp the State Board of Education’s rule-making responsibilities by injecting himself between the State Board and JLCAR – all without informing the State Board.

The NH Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said the Senate made the right move:

“After promising to be ‘an implementation guy’ who wouldn’t create policy, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut went back on his word in an attempted agency power grab. Edelblut would have taken this massive increase in power to radically transform the education system in his distorted image and seriously damaged education for children in the Granite State.

Edelblut is anti-transgender rights, supports conversion therapy, and opposes full-day kindergarten on the basis of a crackpot theory that it would increase misdiagnoses of ADHD.  Most recently, Edelblut broadcast his views that climate change is mentioned too often in science classes, openly disagreeing with the state Board of Education, in an interview with NHPR. The Senate Education Committee’s vote rightly prevents Edelblut from implementing these destructive policies.”

On the other side of the Capitol, the House was making some big decisions as well.

Yesterday, the House Education Committee voted to retain SB 193, a bill that sought to establish taxpayer-funded vouchers for religious schools, private schools, and home school parents. The bill was defeated amidst backlash from concerned Superintendents, School Boards, teachers, and parents throughout New Hampshire.

Governor Sununu and former Governor Jeb Bush both penned op-eds in favor of exactly the type of legislation House Republicans retained today, supporting public money for private schools and home schoolers. The bill also appears to violate the New Hampshire Constitution. The Committee’s vote to retain SB 193 effectively kills its prospects for another year.

“No matter how quietly Governor Sununu tries to back away from this bill, the defeat of SB 193 is a big blow to his education agenda. Sununu’s own party effectively killed legislation that he campaigned on, and that he and former Governor Jeb Bush penned op-eds in favor of. Governor Sununu and his unqualified Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut are trying to reshape the education system in their image and Edelblut, a homeschool parent, would have been eligible to receive taxpayer dollars had this bill passed,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley.

“New Hampshire parents are breathing a sigh of relief with SB 193’s bipartisan retention. This ill-conceived bill would have cost taxpayers an additional $25 million dollars to remove students from our public schools. SB 193 would have violated the New Hampshire Constitution in the name of benefits for private and religious schools with no mandate to comply with education standards, decreased funding towards public schools, and limited options for families in rural towns,” added Buckley.

Lastly, The House Education Committee also moved forward on SB191 a bill to fund full day kindergarten for all New Hampshire children.

Governor Sununu who campaigned on Full Day Kindergarten surprised many when his budget only funded the program for a select few areas in the state.

SB191 would set aside $14 million to fund full day kindergarten for all students in New Hampshire.

Governor Sununu is said to be in support of SB191, but did not advocate for the to provide all children in NH access to full day kindergarten. The bill will move to the full house soon.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-21-17: Protecting Public Schools From Edelblut’s Power Grab

In terms of public activity, this was a relatively quiet week at the State House, but be assured, wheels are turning. The House met in session yesterday for only two hours, passing a number of smaller or less important bills, while work continues on the big pieces of legislation. Probably the most noteworthy moment was the brief set of comments offered by Representative Kat Rogers in commemoration of the Columbine school shooting. Her remarks were brief, pointed, and applauded by many, but not all (you can imagine what ideological element of the House refused to honor her efforts). In similar fashion, the Senate also met and rendered decisions on a number of pieces of legislation, each important to certain constituencies but none of major, state-wide importance. The big issues and the controversial legislation is yet to come forth; likewise, work continues on the Senate’s budget proposal.

Protect Public Schools   The Senate will convene next week (April 27) while the House will not convene again until May 4, 2017. In the meantime, committee work continues. The House Education Committee held a working session on SB 193, the voucher bill, this week, and it was a rather contentious occasion. Much of the energy focused upon a potential amendment/rewrite of the bill being put together by supporters of vouchers and those who wish to starve the public schools of funding. Thus far, it does not appear they have solved either of two major problems—the fact that NH’s Constitution bars use of public monies to support religious schools, and the reality that vouchers will siphon money from public schools and thereby lead to higher local property taxes. The Attorney General’s office again warned of constitutional problems with SB193, and there was continuing discussion regarding the financial impact of this legislation. What hampered the committee, however, was the lack of any actual language or text of an amendment, meaning that member were debating and arguing over ideas lacking any specificity or detail. Voucher proponents have yet to reveal their grand plans to rescue SB193 and it now appears that time is running out. The committee will vote on SB193 and any amendments on April 25, recommending the House either pass or kill the bill. Don’t be surprised, however, if the committee decides to instead “retain” the bill, allowing it to be re-introduced in 2018 and providing time to work on the myriad problems bedeviling this bad piece of legislation.

Actions Needed   Let us be sure to maintain contact with members of the NH House Education Committee and ask them to defeat SB 193 in any form. You can contact the entire committee at the following address: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Also, please also take just a moment to tell your state representatives to vote NO to SB 193.  

More Edelblut  One strong advocate for SB193 is Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. To no one’s surprise, the man who claimed in his confirmation hearing that he would be a mere administrator and not a policy-maker is now out waving the voucher flag and slamming public schools. At the same time, he continues to push for legislation granting him broad powers over budgets and personnel in the Department of Education, so as to remake it into a State agency leading the fight for vouchers and privatization of education. Having no experience or interaction with public schools in his entire adult life, Edelblut unsurprisingly advocates what he knows best, homeschooling and private schools. What is fascinating is that while voucher advocates demand accountability and transparency for all those supposed cheaters using food stamps, they are ready to give millions to private and religious schools and home-schoolers, with nary a peep about accounting for how the money is spent or providing any transparency in the expenditure of public funds. The inconsistencies abound.

NH Department of Education   The Senate Education Committee heard the amendment from Sen. Reagan which is a power grab by Education Commissioner Edelblut to completely revamp the Department of Education. The Committee will meet next week on Tuesday, April 25th on HB 356 to consider this non-germane and rushed amendment. Senator David Watters has submitted a revision that would properly slow down this last minute amendment and have the matter studied thoroughly. And we learned this week that Governor Sununu will not reappoint State Board of Education Chair, Tom Raffio and instead has nominated conservative consultant, Drew Cline, who worked for the Union Leader for 14 years. Edelblut is working hard to consolidate power so he can move forward with his extreme agenda. We must keep a watchful eye on the actions at the Board of Education.

Voting Rights   Finally, there are two other legislative issues of note. SB 3, the voter suppression bill, has yet to come out of the House Election Law Committee, but action will soon be forthcoming. Don’t be surprised if the committee recommends passage to the full House, where we will assuredly hear more tales of ghostlike busloads of Massachusetts citizens crossing into New Hampshire, buying cigarettes and liquor, and then going to cast illegal ballots on election day.

NHRS- Double-Dipping   Lastly, the Senate is still considering the fate of HB 561, a bill to limit ‘double-dipping’ into the NH Retirement System by providing enforcement penalties for those who exceed hourly work limitations and establishing greater accountability by having towns and cities pay into the system when reclassifying positions as part-time or interim. The bill easily passed through the House but is facing opposition in the Senate, despite being supported by an odd coalition of organized labor and conservative legislators. Politics does indeed lead to strange bedfellows at times, and the wheels continue to turn!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT NH Legislative Bulletin 4-17-17: School Vouchers, Voter Suppression, and Edelblut’s Power Grab

In the aftermath of the House’s stunning failure to pass a budget (due to Republican intra-party feuding), the Senate becomes the focal point of attention, as it works to develop a budget proposal. Using Governor Sununu’s budget proposal as a starting point, the Senate will craft a budget and attach it as an amendment to a House bill. That amended bill will then be sent back to the House, which will of course reject the bill, forcing a committee of conference to hammer out the final details of the State’s 2017-18 biennial budget. So, much remains to be done, but much of it will occur behind the scenes, in negotiations between the Senate, the Governor, and the House. Stay tuned-this will not be finished until June 2017.

Voter Suppression Meanwhile, the legislative wheels continue to turn, though many House committees are now finishing up their work for the year, having held hearings on Senate bills and sent them on to the House floor for a vote. Two bills still awaiting final committee action are SB 3 (to restrict and limit voting rights in NH) and SB 193 (the voucher bill). The House Election Law committee held its hearing on SB 3 this past week, but has yet to vote on a recommendation for the House. In essence, this is a voter suppression bill, aimed at limiting voting by groups such as college students on the specious grounds of voter fraud in prior elections. You know, the mythical busloads of people coming over the border from Massachusetts to vote in NH. I live in a border town where my town moderator has labeled these tales as pure fiction. Nor is he alone—other town moderators and even the NH Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, have denied the occurrence of identifiable voter fraud. But in an age of “fake news,” we now are on the verge of making policy based not on proven facts, but on rumor, innuendo, and outright falsehoods.

SB 193-School Vouchers The other bill which bears close observation is SB 193, the education voucher bill. After being slammed in front of the House Education Committee by a parade of witnesses, including the head of the Finance Committee and a representative from the Attorney General’s office, the sponsors of the bill have retreated and are working feverishly to draw up an amendment to modify or even replace the entire bill. We will likely see the text of this amendment this coming Wednesday, when the House Education Committee holds a full committee work session on the bill. It is expected that sponsors will seek to limit the financial impact of the bill by capping the number of students who can be withdrawn from public schools and thereby obtain vouchers (formally known as education savings accounts funded by monies provided by the State and withdrawn from supporting public schools). Whatever the formula, the goal is to get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the edge of the tent,” meaning to start the program and then expand upon it in years to come. Many of the same Republican members of the House who voted to torpedo the House budget proposal are now working assiduously to try to render SB 193 palatable, although in any form it will reduce public funding of public schools and thereby raise local property taxes. This bill must be halted! Here is the AFT-NH HANDOUT VS. SB 193 Please take action to contact your representative and tell them NO to SB 193.

Edelblut Power Grab One final note. You make recall that in January we opposed the confirmation of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education, based on his complete lack of experience in public education. At his confirmation hearing, Edelblut repeatedly claimed he would be an administrator, not a policy-maker, merely carrying out the wishes of the legislature and the State Board of Education. Well, we now see his true colors emerging, for at Edelblut’s urging, an AMENDMENT has been offered in the Senate which would give Edelblut power to completely redraw the Department of Education, move personnel around as he wishes, and move monies between budgets and budget lines as he sees fit. This is a non-germane amendment offered to HB 356. In other words, a huge power boost for the “administrator” and a means by which he can easily shape educational policy and practice. Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who grilled Edelblut during his confirmation hearing, characterizes this as “an unprecedented, naked power grab by the commissioner.” Edelblut, known as a champion of home-schooling, charter schools, vouchers, and even creationism, is clearly seeking to expand his power and do so in a way (via legislative amendment) where there will likely be no public hearing or public input. We will be following this unfolding drama very closely.

Now is the time to remain focused as this is the time when we may see breaking news as all of the behind the scenes work is underway. Please be sure to like us on Facebook at AFT New Hampshire or follow us on Twitter @AFTNewHampshire to receive the latest news.

Please remember your actions do matter. One more letter and phone call could just make the difference. Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President


ACTIONS NEEDED

Your Action Needed Now   So, if you have not already done so, please join us in opposing SB193 by completing the two following actions:

  1. The House Education Committee has scheduled the committee vote for Tuesday, April 25th at 9:30am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. As noted above, it appears an amendment will be offered at a work session of the committee this Wednesday. No version of education savings accounts or vouchers should see the light of day here in NH. We still have plenty of time to reach out to committee members before they vote.

Please mail the full House Education Committee directly: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.

For more resources on this issue to assist you with writing a quick note, please visit our web site at: http://nh.aft.org/2017-nh-state-house-news#.

AND 

  1. Regardless of what happens in the Committee, SB 193 will be voted on by the full House after the committee vote. So let’s get ahead of this and contact your State Representative(s) by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!

Defeat SB 193       

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.”

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