The lead article in today’s Union Leader is a retrospective on Commissioner Edelblut’s first year in the job. Although the words of support for public school students are there, the important message for parents and voters is right in the headline: it’s all about private school choice. Here are some highlights from the piece:
Commissioner Frank Edelblut has been a lightning rod for controversy from the moment he was nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu to lead the Department of Education….
State Board of Education Chairman Andrew Cline, appointed by Sununu last year, describes Edelblut as more of a technician/manager than an ideologue.
Cline is president of the Josiah Bartlett Center, a free-market think tank in Concord, and former opinion editor at the New Hampshire Union Leader. He and Edelblut weren’t acquainted before Cline’s appointment.
“In working with him, I’ve been impressed with his management style, his attention to detail and his openness to ideas,” Cline said.
He describes Edelbut, a CPA, business consultant and entrepreneur, as a creative and thoughtful leader who is “genuinely focused on making the Department of Education as efficient and effective an organization as it can be, so it can better serve the students of New Hampshire.”
Former Board of Education member Bill Duncan, whose term was not renewed by Sununu, has a decidedly different perspective. Duncan sued the state in an unsuccessful attempt to block a 2012 law that gave businesses a tax break if they donated to a scholarship fund for private school tuition.
Duncan maintains a website called Advancing New Hampshire Public Education.
“The Department of Education has changed in big and small ways under Mr. Edelblut’s leadership,” says Duncan. “Where the priority has always been helping the school districts serve their kids, the department now seems to be on a mission to make private schools and home schooling the preferred school choice.”
Duncan points to several examples. When the legislature authorized a new position to support charter schools, Edelblut advertised for a school choice advocate, until the Board of Education intervened.
Just last week, he sent a letter to the House Finance Committee, arguing against limits the committee is considering on a school choice proposal, SB 193, now working its way through the legislature.
Here is our post about that letter, “Commissioner Edelblut’s very odd letter to the House Finance Committee”
“The department’s tenacious advocacy for private school choice puts our schools in a very vulnerable position,” says Duncan. “(Public Schools) will be on the defensive as long as this new department policy is in place.
Edelblut maintains he is not advocating for private schools, but is an unapologetic proponent for educational choice.
“I am an advocate for options in education for all students, and will remain so, only because I believe that each student is unique,” says Edelblut. “We need to create educational opportunities that are different for different students, so every student can get to the top of their game.”
Edelbut speaks highly of the state’s public school system, its teachers and administrators, and says he has spent countless hours in public and private schools since his appointment.
“The bulk of students are doing really well in the existing system,” he says. “It’s the students on the margin that we need to create opportunities for. We need to give them alternatives.”