Three opinions on Education Commissioner

Here are three recent letters about Commissioner Edelblut.  The first two appeared in the April 22 edition of the Seacoast Media papers and the third in the April 23 edition of the Union Leader.

Governor Sununu supports full day kindergarten but Commissioner Edelblut does not

Retired elementary school teacher Mary Ann Driscoll writes in the Portsmouth Herald,

The NH House Education Committee held a hearing on April 19 regarding SB 191, funding for full-day kindergarten, and the governor came to testify in support. Our new education commissioner was conspicuously absent…..

I was teaching in Deerfield and in Portsmouth when we moved to full-day kindergarten. It was clear right away that the full-day programs provided much richer learning experiences. Teachers who were skeptical at first became believers. More children left kindergarten reading and had stronger foundation skills in math. Primary curriculums were enhanced for these new learners. Students with full-day kindergarten experience were able to participate fully in the school community. They sang in assemblies. They had upper grade buddies. School communities were enriched by their presence….

So I wondered why the speaker of the house feels justified in sticking his finger in his governor’s eye, saying that funding for full-day kindergarten is unjustified because, “The capacity of a 6-year-old to be attentive in a classroom for a full day is pretty much non-existent.” (Concord Monitor, March 21)

Then I read a quote from our new education commissioner…

The Eagle Tribune reported that when Mr. Edelblut met with Windham school officials he said, “I’m still looking for good research in support of (education for 5 and 6 year olds). I just want to make sure there are longitudinal benefits and we want to make sure we don’t run into any consequence of exacerbating the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses.”

Mr. Edelblut is referring to a study reported on the InfoWars website saying that mixing 5 and 6 year olds in kindergarten may lead to an over diagnosis of ADHD. Keeping 5 year olds out of kindergarten because they might be diagnosed with ADHD doesn’t even make sense. Perhaps Mr. Edelblut’s lack of experience in public education is the issue here. ADHD is diagnosed by a physician, not by a kindergarten teacher.

Actually, the educational research is clear. Our teachers’ experience is clear. Why is the governor’s education commissioner, from whom we should expect reliable information, willfully misconstruing research to undercut the governor’s push to expand full-day kindergarten in an affordable way?

Give Commissioner Edelblut a chance

In the same edition of the paper, Ann Marie Banfield of Cornerstone Action writes,

In reply to your editorial, I’m wondering where you were during the last commissioner’s tenure. It appears that your article expects us to now pay attention to what Commissioner Edelblut will do as commissioner, but many parents want to know why this was not a priority during former Commissioner Barry’s term.

Under Commissioner Virginia Barry, the New Hampshire Department of Education facilitated the federal education reforms put forth by the Obama administration. Federal reforms such as the Common Core Standards that have driven parents to pull their children out of the New Hampshire public schools….

Commissioner Edelblut has called for reviewing the NGSS in an attempt to improve them. The State Board of Education members voted to prevent him from working towards that goal. What are they afraid of, quality public schools for our kids? Shouldn’t we expect the best for children in public schools? Why isn’t our state board members encouraging Commissioner Edelblut to work towards that goal?

The editorial focused on creationism versus science topics absent in our current science standards. Between the editorial and the State Board of Education, it almost appears as if this is political posturing rather than an unbiased examination of what the new commissioner wants to do to improve public education in New Hampshire.

Maybe we should all support the commissioner when he suggests ways to improve public education and if there are proposals in the future that need to be addressed, let’s deal with it at that time.

School choice has become a big issue across the country because of the decisions made by our former governor and commissioner. Common Core and Next Generation Science standards have been a reason for many parents in New Hampshire to withdraw their children from the public schools. If you oppose school choice then maybe you should support the commissioner in his efforts to improve the public schools. Maybe then the political push for school choice won’t be as prominent as it is today.

Power Grab

And Susan McKevitt, former NH department of education employee, writes in the Union Leader,

Gov. Chris Sununu’s agents, Sen. John Reagan and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, are out to gut public education as Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are doing at the federal level. A non-germane amendment reorganizing the Department of Education (DOE) is attached to a study bill (HB 356.)

If passed the amendment would, in part, allow the Commissioner to: move state/federal fund to where ever he sees fit (eradicating accountability and potentially violating federal law,); move employees to where ever he sees fit (violating the union contract,); appoint directors of Divisions based on political ideology rather than skill and expertise (violating RSA 21-N:3, II,); determine the rate for special education funding; and determine if a school is meeting the mandated “adequacy” standard for all students.

Amassing such power in the hands of one person reeks of authoritarianism, not democracy. Granted, bureaucracies can be cumbersome organizations. I know. I worked at the DOE for 17 years. That however, does not justify putting our children’s education into the hands of politicos whose support of public education is at best questionable.

This also appears to be a back-door attempt to bust the union. Gov. Sununu is still angry his so-called Right-to-Work bill failed. With this amendment, state workers would no longer be protected from capricious whims of a boss, which is in part, why people unionize in the first place.