Bill Duncan

(Hour 1b) Rich spoke about an email that State Board of Education member Bill Duncan sent to him concerning the authority of Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut.  He shared about House Bill 356, which would provide Edelblut with an opportunity to determine who fills certain positions.  He then talked about the Commissioner’s history with authority and discussed statements made by the current Commissioner.  Tune in for the details.

Click here for the mentioned Union Leader article.

Amendment Would Significantly Increase the Authority of NH’s Commissioner of Education

Senator John Reagan has introduced an amendment to HB 356 (an unrelated bill that establishes a committee to study education funding and costs). This amendment, 2017-1236s, increases 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. 
  • 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”.  

When is the public hearing on this amendment?  The bill to which this amendment is attached has already had its public hearing.  Even though this is a non-germane amendment (meaning that it is unrelated to the content of the HB 356), there is NO requirement that a public hearing be held on the amendment.  That means that there is NO opportunity for the public to give input at a hearing on this amendment!!

So – WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Learn more about this amendment at http://reachinghighernh.org/2017/04/12/breaking-news-draft-amendment-proposes-increase-power-authority-education-commissioner/.  Other informative articles on this amendment may be found on the Reaching Higher NH’s website under “Latest News”.
  • Email the Senate Leadership to express your concerns.  Ask them to hold a public hearing so that your voice can be heard about this very significant amendment.  Ask that the public hearing be publicized in the Legislative calendar so that the public is aware of it and able to participate.
  • Contact members of the Senate Education Committee to ask them not to take any action on this amendment until the public has had a chance to be heard.  Senate Education committee members, Senators John Reagan, chair, Bob Guida, Jay Kahn, Ruth Ward & David Watters may be contacted by email at:[email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected];[email protected]; [email protected].
  • Pass this information on to your friends & colleagues who share your commitment to public education.
  • 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 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.

My personal observation:  During the public hearing on his nomination as Commissioner of the NH Department of Education, Frank Edelblut said, “As commissioner of education, it is my job to work with the state board of education, the Legislature, and the governor to implement these policies. In that respect, I honestly see myself as the ‘implementation guy.’”  As this excerpt from Reaching Higher NH’s article on the public hearing on now-Commissioner Edelblut’s nomination, highlighted, Mr. Edelblut did not present himself as the person who would be in charge of setting policy:  “whatever his political beliefs, his role as commissioner would be to carry out an agenda dictated by others:” 

The draft amendment being considered to HB 356 begs the question of whether when he said these things, Edelblut meant, and perhaps should have added: “at least for now”.