HB 356: Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut Makes Major Power Grab

17Apr - by Indivisible - 0 - In Action NH Legislation

From Granite State Progress:

At the request of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, Senator John Reagan (R-Deerfield) has introduced an amendment to HB 356 to vastly expand the role of the Commissioner of Education, giving Commissioner Edelblut unprecedented authority over a new plan to completely reorganize the Department of Education, and shifting responsibilities from Division administrators within the Department to the Commissioner. The amendment changes the bill’s analysis from one that focuses on education funding and costs to instead read, “This bill consolidates the duties of the divisions of the department of education into the office of the commissioner and authorizes the commissioner to transfer appropriations or transfer or reassigning personnel as the commissioner deems necessary. Just a few of the changes that would result from the passage of amendment 2017-1236:

* Replace the existing 4 divisions in the NH Department of Education with 4 new divisions, to be determined by the Commissioner. Each division would be under the direction of the Commissioner, and shall perform such functions as assigned by the Commissioner. Amendment also eliminates the duties and requirements of the division directors as currently detailed in statute.
* Allow the Commissioner to transfer or reassign personnel from any one division, office, unit or component of the Department to another; change the authority of personnel.
* Give the Commissioner the authority to administer special education (administer the provisions of RSA 186-C), career technology and adult learning programs, services for the blind; to set rates for private providers; to administer department responsibilities for nutrition programs, informational services, compilation, analysis and reporting of data; to set rates for private providers; to develop and administer standards for the professional development of educators; and to administer standards for approving elementary and secondary schools.
* On the NH Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders, designate the Commissioner as a replacement for both the Director of the Division of Instruction and the Director of the Division of Career Technology and adult learning with the Commissioner.
* In NH’s special education law, RSA 186-C, replace most references from the “division of educational improvement” to “the office of the commissioner”.

Make no mistake, this is not the organizational realignment Edelblut is trying to characterize it as – this is a naked power grab for political purposes. Less than two months into his position as Education Commissioner, Edelblut has already made waves for trying to re-open the Next Generation Science Standards that were just approved last summer (his climate change denier supporters had an op-ed in the Concord Monitor about this yesterday); he initially refused to come clean about making a donation to a school privatization lawsuit against the Department he now leads; and he forwarded an internal job posting to one of his Free State Project friends and then sent his pal’s resume to the HR director.

This is the latest attempt by Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner to undermine public education in the State of New Hampshire. During his confirmation hearing, Edelblut stated he did not need a background in education because he will rely on experts to help shape department decisions, but in this most recent power grab, his true intentions are becoming ever more apparent. Democratic Senators and even some House Republicans have called for a public hearing on this amendment, which was purposely introduced in a way designed to circumvent a public hearing.

Take Action!

Contact the Governor and all Senate members and tell them you oppose this underhanded attempt to circumvent a public hearing. Call on them to speak out for a well-publicized public hearing on the amendment. Call Governor Sununu’s office at (603) 271-2121 and please contact all State Senators, you can find contact information here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/Senate/members/senate_roster.aspx.

Attend the Senate Education Committee executive session on Tuesday, April 18 at 9:00 AM. This amendment will likely be discussed by the Senate Education committee in the Legislative Office Building, Room 103 on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at about 9:00 am when the committee is scheduled to hold executive session on pending bills.  If you have time, attend as an observer to show your support for public education.

To learn more about this amendment, Reaching Higher NH has a detailed article: http://reachinghighernh.org/2017/04/12/breaking-news-draft-amendment-proposes-increase-power-authority-education-commissioner/