“It’s a pregnant moment for state education policy” | NHPR

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We missed this report last week but it’s worth catching up with Josh Rogers’ review Senate and House Education Committee decisions last Tuesday:

It’s a pregnant moment for state education policy. Republicans control Concord, and Gov. Chris Sununu ran on a promise to change how education is delivered here. Key aspects of that debate – full-day kindergarten, broad school choice, and the power of the state education commissioner were all debated Tuesday by lawmakers. But the message was mixed, and decidedly less conservative than last year’s election results would suggest.

Take the question over how much power the state education commission should hold. If any person could be said to embody the hopes of people pushing for educational change in New Hampshire, and the fear that public education stands to lose under GOP control in Concord, is it Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

He drew a crowd when he testified before the Senate education committee.

“I am not the legislature, I am not responsible for the legislature, but I am responsible for the department, and so I am coming to the legislature asking them to help me solve this problem,” he told lawmakers

Edelblut wanted lawmakers to sign off on giving him clearer control over state education programs, personnel and finances. But they held back….

“I’d be surprised if you could get any changes made in the department of education. So this is the status quo,” Reagan said.

Meanwhile, two floors up, the House Education Committee was putting the brakes on another GOP-backed effort to change education policy, a sweeping school choice bill that would allow parents to use tax money to send their children to any school of their choosing. The education committee voted by a 15-4 margin to retain that bill for more work this summer. Sitting outside the committee room was Neal Kurk, the House’s top budget writer. He says that was a prudent move under the circumstances.

“There is momentum to do something but the policy issues haven’t yet been resolved and so the form that this will take is very difficult to determine at this point,” Kurk said.

But on a separate education issue – full-day kindergarten – the form seems to be taking shape.  In another 15-4 vote, the House Education Committee decided to support spending more than $14 million dollars a year for full-day kindergarten, across the state….

All of these actions  — on kindergarten and school choice in the House, and on realigning the education department in the Senate — were at the committee level. They could be overturned during floor debates. But together, they may suggest that education is an area of more cross-party agreement than anyone would have anticipated. Concord Democrat Mary Stuart Gile sits on the House Education Committee and has served in the Legislature for 25 years.

“It is a bit of a surprise but maybe both groups are getting closer to the center,” Gile said….

See the whole story at: Lawmakers Send Mixed Message On Education | New Hampshire Public Radio