Commissioner Frank Edelblut sat down for an interview with NHPR to discuss his passion for education and SB 193, the bill that would create a universal voucher program in New Hampshire. Read excerpt here:
Do you consider yourself an advocate for public schools?
I consider myself an advocate for the education of all our students. That’s what I’m an advocate for. And let me tell you how this kind of plays out. As I’m going into the schools, there are two themes that I engage all of the schools and the educators and administration with. The first is when I come into the school, I say tell me about parental voice in your system. And inevitably when I say tell me about parental voice, they begin to talk to me about parental engagement. They say they have this barbecue or we have this event and we draw parents out and we get a lot of people. And I say OK, parental engagement is very good, but parental voice is a little bit different. Parental voice is a circumstance where you actually engage the parents in some of the educational decisions for their students. And by doing that, you get them to put skin in the game; they have a vested interest in both the success of their child, and the educational success of the school to which their child is going. And there are examples of that around the state that are working really well and I just appreciate the work that those folks are doing.
The other thing that I focus on is I say to talk to me about what we’re doing to personalize the educational opportunities for students. That is a philosophy that recognizes students are different, they learn differently, they learn at different paces, they’re coming into the system at different levels. And so how can we meet the student where they are, and help them to grow.
Our conversation turned to a bill making its way through the legislature that would establish what would essentially be a school voucher system for New Hampshire families.
The bill, SB 193, creates what are called Education Freedom Savings Accounts, allowing parents to use public money for private and, in some cases, religious schools.
Edelblut clarified what he describes as misinformation around the debate:
This is not a program in the current bill that is available to individuals who have already made a choice to go to private school. It is only available to public school students and home educated students. The one exception to that is for students who are entering the system for the first time, they also would be eligible.
But in effect it would take public money and it would let families go to private schools with it, including religious and home schoolers as well, so it is in effect a voucher program, is it not?
I’m going to actually use the terms of the bill because it isn’t a voucher. A voucher would function somewhat differently than this, if you want to get down to the technicalities of it because as that bill is crafted right now the funding would go to a scholarship organization which would have an Education Freedom Savings Account that would then allow the parents to take that funding and use it towards the education of their students in a number of different ways. It is not limited to private school and home schools. They may in fact show up at another public school that is more amenable for whatever reason. That could be a school that they choose. So people are going to make educational choices that they believe are best for their children.
Home school students in the state could get these funds. You home schooled your children. Would you have wanted that money?
I’ve never been presented with it, but I can tell you that probably I would not accept that option.
Just because I am, again, this is how important education is to my students, my children. I want to basically have 100 percent control over what that looks like.
Read the full article here.