Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

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Vouchers revisited: “Public Education is much broader than public schooling.”

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Today’s Union Leader carries an oped that sets out clearly the new theme for those who would have talked in the past about “school choice”, “parental choice”, “government school monopoly” or how voucher funded private schools outperform public schools.

You saw this theme first when now Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said at his Executive Council confirmation hearing that he intended to be responsible for all New Hampshire children, not just public school students.

And Senator John Reagan is proposing SB 280 which would almost double the state adequacy benchmark to $7,500 per student by increasing the Statewide Education Property Tax.  At the same time, the bill would count all private, religious and home schooled students in the calculation of a community’s adequacy grant and allow school boards to send any child to a private or religious school.

In other words, rather than fight the losing battle for a high profile statewide voucher program, SB 280 would issue vouchers locally that would use full state funding and local property taxing power to send students to private schools.

Since the old proposals haven’t worked, advocates appear to be trying out proposals that can be promoted as,  “public education is broader than public schooling and so deserves the same access to public resources…”

That’s the approach the New Hampshire Department of Education’s Learn Everywhere program is taking.  Under the proposed rule, the State Board of Education would license private groups to grant graduation credits that students could claim at any New Hampshire high school.

In the UL’s New Hampshire Voices piece today, Boston unschooling advocate Kerry McDonald deploys this new language in support of the Learn Everywhere proposal but gives away the game when she goes on to say what she really thinks.  The piece starts with this (emphasis added):

PUBLIC EDUCATION is much broader than public schooling. Schooling is only one way to be educated, and in today’s dynamic, technology-enabled, global economy, the conventional classroom may be more hindrance than help for many students.

New Hampshire’s Learn Everywhere initiative, ratified by the state legislature in 2018, is a pioneering effort to disentangle education from schooling.

Misleading, at best.  Ms. McDonald is referring to SB 435, a one line bill saying that the state board “shall adopt rules….relative to the approval of alternative programs for granting credit leading to graduation.”  There is no suggestion in the bill that the state board would authorize private groups to grant graduation credits at any New Hampshire high school without the approval of the local school board.

Ms. McDonald goes on to say,

It recognizes the limitations of standard schooling and embraces cutting-edge alternatives that may be better-aligned with the needs of the innovation era….

…The owner of a small knitting shop……could…help her students receive academic credit for their craft…..More alternatives to school, like BigFish Learning Community in Dover, could sprout and flourish.

Last year’s proposed voucher program, SB 193, would have paid for non-school schools like BigFish.  Learn Everywhere makes another run at it, proposing that the state board would license the local knitting shop, BigFish or any other group to provide education or training that not only appeared on a student’s transcript but must be accepted as credit toward graduation.

Ms. McDonald goes on to confirm the goal of the effort:

…It loosens the grip of schooling on education.

In launching Learn Everywhere, New Hampshire is leading the way in education transformation. Standard schooling is only one path toward an educated citizenry and it may not be the preferred path for the 21st century. In an economy in which many of today’s most in-demand jobs and skill sets did not exist even five years ago, and robots increasingly pressure us to optimize our human creativity and ingenuity, we urgently need a new model of education. We need to look beyond the way it’s been done for so long and toward the way it could be.

New Hampshire’s Learn Everywhere initiative provides a promising blueprint for the future of learning.

Last year’s SB 435, passed as an administrative tweek, is now being promoted as one of the governor’s major legislative priorities, the future of learning that will loosen the grip of schooling on education.

Yesterday’s post outlines ways you can oppose this proposal immediately.


  1. Peter says:

    Here’s the first “key point” on ALEC’s education page:

    Citizens, legislators, and regulators should separate the concept of public education from the monopolistic delivery system and embrace 21st-century methods of connecting students with learning experiences.

    I’d love to see ALEC’s model legislation. Do we know who ALEC’s legislators on the education committees are? Rep. Joe Pitre from Farmington is one. Sen. John Reagan is another.

  2. Jim Grenier says:

    Will never vote for the governor as long as Edelblut is Commissioner of Education; did not and will not.

  3. John Streeter says:

    I would love to know the real motivation behind this. It doesn’t save the public money or give a better education. The state has an obligation to educate at a “lowest common denominator” level. That does not mean that there is no place for religious schools or schools that specialize in math or science. It does mean that every child has the right to an education that prepares them to read a ballot, understand a tax bill, seek and understand a mortgage at a minimum. I think most of our schools do much better than that. Now we just need to figure out how to fund it.

  4. Janine Lesser says:

    Has any checked in with higher education to see how they would evaluate these knit shop credits, or how employers would think about potential employees whose math credits were populated with these types of pseudo instruction? From what I can see, the demands of the future workplace will require more from our educational institutions, not less. The idea that somehow these credits will be equal with no deep dive in to equivalency, a significant investment of time by the ‘alternative’ Ed provider is at best silly and at worst, preparing our children for participation in the workforce at the most basic levels.

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