By 1 pm, when the hearing for Ed Commissioner nominee, Frank Edelblut was set to begin, the room was not only packed with people waiting to testify, but had overflowed into the two rooms adjacent to chambers. By 7 pm, people were still waiting to speak in favor and against the nominee.
During his hearing, he faced tough questions. But he continued to emphasize that as Education Commissioner, he would implement, not set, education policy.
“The Implementation Guy”
Mr. Edelblut hailed the work of New Hampshire’s educators and policymakers, saying that “whatever his political beliefs, his role as commissioner would be to carry out an agenda dictated by others:”
“Much of the groundwork for personalized learning in New Hampshire has already been laid,” Edelblut said. “As commissioner of education, it is my job to work with the state board of education, the Legislature, and the governor to implement these policies. In that respect, I honestly see myself as the ‘implementation guy.’ ”
“This is a non-partisan position. This is about making sure that our kids get the education that they deserve. That will be my 100 percent focus,” Edelblut said.
Defending school choice
Mr. Edelbllut defended his support of school choice, saying that the increased interest in charter schools and homeschooling proves that public school isn’t meeting the needs of students, according to WMUR:
“If public schools were meeting the needs of all students, parents would not have an interest in seeking out these alternatives,” Edelblut said. “I suggest that the only reason a parent chooses to send their child to a public charter school or a private school or even a homeschool is because they believe that option will better meet the needs of their child.”
“Parents are voting with their feet for public charter schools, for homeschools and for private schools,” he said. “I have no intention of dismantling public education. I have every intention of helping the system move forward and offer parents, employers and educators a product our young people deserve.”
He said that competition between public and private schools “is not a zero sum game with success of a public charter school a loss for a standard public school.”
Mr. Edelblut’s Background
Councilor Andru Volinsky, and others at the hearing, were concerned that Mr. Edelblut didn’t have the training necessary for the position. Mr. Edleblut has an undergraduate degree in business administration and a master’s degree in theology studies. Councilor
Volinsky pointed out that every education commissioner over the past 40 years was an educator and had a degree in education.
Mr. Edelblut defended his background, saying that his degrees and license as a certified public accountant were “advanced education achievements:”
“The experience in the statute doesn’t say ‘experience in the public school system.’ It says experience,” Edelblut argued. “Experience comes in various forms.”
“I have the experience and demonstrated track record of helping an organization achieve its goals and objectives,” he said. “The experience I bring is particularly germane right now. There may have been other times in history when experience directly associated with education might be more important, but now the priority is to help students get the workplace experience they need now. So bringing my commercial experience into the department to bridge that gap will help the organization achieve those goals.”
Science & Creationism
Councilor Volinksy also questioned Mr. Edelblut’s religious beliefs and his involvement on the board of the Patrick Henry College foundation, whose mission is to “prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American Founding.” To the question of teaching creationism in the classroom, Mr. Edelblut replied:
“I will not have jurisdiction or responsibility for the development of curricula. That, I believe, belongs in the domain of the science teachers and the local school boards, and I will tell you that history will tell us that when politicians and politics gets involved in defining scientific orthodoxy, that had not turned out well historically.”
Mr. Edelblut said that one of his goals is to get kids more excited about science and math, and giving teachers the ability to help them:
He said that while he is a proponent of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, “we have got to do a better job of how we talk about it. Too often we tend to frame the STEM conversation in a very utilitarian way, meaning, ‘It will help you get a job.’”
“Jobs are great,” he said. “We all want to see students get great jobs. But if you are 15, 16 or 17 years old 17 years old, you’re not going to be excited about science or math because it’s going to help you get a job. You are going to be excited about science or math because it unlocks the wonders of the world.”
“We need to provide teachers the flexibility and the autonomy that they need to succeed in this goal,” he said.
Mr. Edelblut has served as a State Rep and ran for Governor in the last session. His political ambitions have raised concerns:
Edelblut told the council making sure kids get the education they deserve would be his complete focus. But he didn’t rule out returning to elective politics prior to serving out a full term and declined to say he’d avoid of political activity, like attending republican party events or endorsing candidates while commissioner.
“I can’t say that.”
Volinsky then asked “do you agree not to run for office in 2020, understanding that you would ordinarily start that political work in 2019, halfway through your term.”
Edelblut never directly answered the question.
The Executive Council was scheduled to vote on Mr. Edulblut’s nomination today, but that vote was delayed for 2 weeks. Councilor Volinsky objected to the vote after learning that Governor Sununu had not consulted with the State Board of Education, a requirement under New Hampshire state statute. Three out of the five Councilors have said that they will vote in favor of Mr. Edelblut’s nomination.
Read the full coverage here:
- NHPR: Edelblut Pitches Himself As ‘The Implementation Guy,’ Faces Questions At Confirmation
- NH1 News: Education commissioner confirmation hearing turns contentious
- Concord Monitor: Edelblut grilled during education hearing
- Union Leader: State education nominee Edelblut: ‘I have no intention of dismantling public education’