Edelblut Nomination: Time to Act

February 9, 2017

Pending some communication between Governor Sununu and all the members of the New Hampshire Board of Education, the Executive Council delayed a vote on Frank Edelblut’s nomination to be Commissioner of Education. The Council meets again on February 15, and three of the five Councilors have indicated support for the nomination. We hope that the Council makes it unanimous, putting the interests of New Hampshire students ahead of partisanship and old political habits.

The Council held a public hearing lasting more than six hours regarding the Edelblut nomination. The nominee patiently and clearly answered questions from each Councilor, even when the questioning from Councilor Volinsky went far off course and became an inquisition into Mr. Edelblut’s religious beliefs. (Breitbart News publicized the video of Volinsky’s questioning, filmed by Cornerstone’s education liaison Ann Marie Banfield.) Mr. Edelblut refused to be baited, and he kept his focus where it belonged: on education.

Opposition to Mr. Edelblut’s nomination is based on fear and misinformation. Councilors can reject that fear by confirming him.

The position to which Mr. Edelblut has been nominated is an administrative one with extensive oversight authority. Like five of the seven members of the state Board of Education, Mr. Edelblut does not hold a degree in education. Instead, his business work includes experience with administration, budgeting, and personnel, which will serve the state well when he is overseeing a large state department.

Mr. Edelblut understands that New Hampshire public schools include public charter schools, and he is refreshingly free of any us-vs.-them attitude that pits charter schools against their conventional counterparts. He has a well-rounded view of educational options and the opportunities those options can provide to students and families. He has been a homeschooling parent, and he is an advocate for school choice.

On education policy, he supports local boards when it comes to curriculum choices, and he wants to promote flexibility and autonomy for teachers. This is all of a piece with his opposition to Common Core and federal control of education. He wants to untie the hands of educators and school board members so that New Hampshire students, not Washington mandates, are at the center of public education.

Within the past couple of years, no issue has brought more new supporters to Cornerstone than education. Parents are concerned over federal meddling in educational standards and curriculum choices. They are concerned about students being subject to “assessments” rather than achievement tests. They’re concerned that literacy and academic excellence have given way to “workforce training.” At hearings on Education bills in Concord, we’ve met parents frustrated by what they perceive as a state Education bureaucracy that does not take their concerns seriously.

Frank Edelblut sees parents and teachers as allies in education, not antagonists. He understands the importance of the word “public” in “public charter schools.” He knows the difference between education and workforce training. He will bring a fresh attitude to a Department that needs one. The sooner the Councilors put him to work at the New Hampshire Department of Education, the better.