Here is the Reaching Higher NH video of the State Board of Education public hearing on the Department of Education’s proposed Ed 1400 rules, which the department calls “Learn Everywhere.” Most of yesterday’s presenters also submitted written testimony which, together with the additional written comments the board will have received by the February 20 deadline, will be in the public record and will be posted here when made available.
And here is Reaching Higher’s thorough and reliable writeup on the hearing. We will not try to improve on that here, but will make a couple of observations.
First, it is clear that Learn Everywhere is Commissioner Edelblut’s personal and highest priority project. In addition to meeting one-on-one with SBOE members to make the case for his program, and giving presentations urging supporters to communicate with the board, he organized some (maybe more than some) of yesterday’s relatively thin supportive testimony. Two students who testified told others at the hearing that the commissioner had coached them personally in his office. At least one parent said he had contacted her to ask that she to testify in support of the program.
This sets up the traditional school choice rhetoric that would sound something like “Students and parents want Learn Everywhere. School administrators just don’t get it and want to protect their jobs.” But the real message of yesterday’s testimony, with all the detail that came out about how much care goes into making the Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) program work, was “Why a new Learn Everywhere program when we already have a great one?” (here’s all about ELO’s)
The essential difference between Learn Everywhere and ELO’s is that Learn Everywhere is a program of private groups that precludes participation or decision making by local school boards. (A detailed comparison here.) So it is clear why unschool/homeschool/voucher advocates have come out in force to call Commissioner Edelblut’s Learn Everywhere a “first in the nation” innovation and “blueprint for the future of learning.”
But the head of New Hampshire School Boards Association, Barrett Christina, pointed out that education department provides no support for ELO’s and proposed,
“So, instead of creating a new program, let’s focus our efforts on helping those behind us who are already implementing these things, and on helping the school boards, administrators, and more importantly students, fully engage in these Extended Learning Opportunities within the system of program that districts have already spent the better part of a decade trying to build up.”
The State Board of Education has not formally expressed itself on Learn Everywhere, beyond asking concerned questions when the commissioner first proposed the rule in December. But it’s hard to imagine that the board would not respond to New Hampshire’s school boards and yesterday’s widespread pushback by rewriting the Ed 1400 rule to expand the successful ELO program already in place rather than start a new private program.
Board members will give their feedback, probably at their March meeting, and department staff will redraft the rule until a majority of the board is satisfied. Then the board will then vote on whether to send the rule forward to the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR), whose job is to assure that rules reflect New Hampshire statutes.
You can call SBOE members. Ask them what they think about Learn Everywhere and how it compares to ELOs. Get their thoughts on whether it’s needed. If they need to know more, fill them in. It’s all here. Let them know what you think. Email if you can’t call.
Here are the voting members of the board (the chair can vote but has made it his policy not to):
Sally Griffin: Cell: (603) 440-8954, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Cassady: Cell: (603) 616-4120, email@example.com
Helen Honorow: Office: (603) 883-0474, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Chagnon: Home (603) 472-8029, email@example.com
Ann Lane: Home: (603) 659-5566, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Nazzaro: (603) 292-3604, email@example.com
Before February 20, you can email official comments on the proposed Learning Everywhere rule to board chair Drew Cline (ACBOE@comcast.net), copy to the board’s administrative assistant Angel Adams (Angela.Adams@doe.nh.gov)