WMUR: “New proposal would study possible reorganization of state education department”

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WMUR reports that a proposal by Senate Education Committee member Senator David Watters (D, Dover) “would put on hold bulk of GOP plan to give more authority to Edelblut.”  Here are some highlights:  

The state Senate Education Committee postponed action Tuesday on a Republican proposal to consolidate authority over operations of the New Hampshire Department of Education into the office of the recently appointed commissioner, Frank Edelblut.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. John Reagan, a Deerfield Republican, said changes have been offered to the controversial proposal that he introduced last week. He said the proposals now deserve a public hearing, which he said will be held next Tuesday, April 25.

Sen David Watters, a Dover Democrat, is offering an amendment that would set up a committee to study what Watters called the “large scale issues” that would be included in a reorganization of the education department.

The five-member committee would “study the organizational structure of the Department of Education and the duties and responsibilities of the commissioner.”…

Another Watters amendment would allow Edelblut to more immediately assign functions to the four divisions within the department, but only after he seeks advice from the state Board of Education and consults with the deputy commissioner and division directors.

Watters said Edelblut told him he supports the Watters plan. WMUR is seeking comment from Edelblut.

Reagan said he was disappointed that Democrats have “tried to make a political football out of” the consolidation plan he introduced last week.

“The man is entitled to run his department,” Reagan said of Edelblut.

Reagan told WMUR he will continue to support his own amendment, which would provide Edelblut authority to restructure his department beginning July 1, which is when it would go into effect if passed and signed into law.

Reagan’s plan would consolidate the duties of the divisions of the department into the office of the commissioner and authorize the commissioner to transfer appropriations or transfer or reassign personnel as he considers necessary.

Reagan’s amendment would also repeal the current responsibilities of the department’s deputy commissioner and transfer them directly to the commissioner. The deputy’s role would be to “perform such duties as may be assigned by the commissioner.”

(Read our earlier report on the Reagan plan here.)

Watters said his amendments, taken together, confirm that Edelblut “has the authority to move some programs around, in consultation with division directors and the deputy commissioner and with the advice of the state board of education.”

“That will let him do some reorganization work and then hold off the much larger scale issues until next session,” after the study committee does its work, Watters said.

Edelblut told WMUR on Tuesday evening that he can support either the Reagan amendment or Watters’ amendments.

He said that regarding Watters’ amendment, he already seeks advice from the state board of education and consults with division heads and the deputy commissioner.

“What (Watters) does is give me the ability to fix my department and get myself in compliance with the law and then we will have a study committee to collectively take a look at it,” Edelblut said. “I’m happy to have other voices in this process and structure.”

Watters said that he and Edelblut spent five hours at public schools in Somersworth last week.

“The delight that he exhibited when he went into classrooms and jumped in with kids suggested that he really cares about our children,” Watters said of Edelblut.

“For me, that includes public education, including charter schools,” Watters said. “For him, it means that, plus some school choice ideas, which are new. But it’s not about us politicians, it’s all about the kids.”

Read the whole piece here.