Draconian changes

In The Telegraph’s front page article on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, which was about the legislative fiscal committee rejection of the charter school grant, New Hampshire’s Education Commissioner, Frank Edelblut said he was disappointed and claims this grant was for economically disadvantaged and at-risk students.

I find it incredible that Gov. Chris Sununu has appointed a person to the position of education commissioner who is so out of touch with the realities of education in New Hampshire.

Edelblut claims students attend charter schools to access STEM programs or to flee academically failing public schools or bullying in their school. The plain fact is that our students in our public school systems in New Hampshire have access to STEM (and do not need charter schools for STEM education) and in the case of bullying, we have protocols, which result in suspension and/or moving bullying perpetrators to different schools.

Mr. Edelblut seems to not understand that part of his job is to work with school districts to improve academics in those schools that need improvement instead of encouraging parents to abandon those schools that they believe are not meeting the needs of their children.

Charter schools are public schools, but not all students can attend a charter school, so Mr. Edelblut’s statement that the charter school grant aids economically disadvantaged students leaves out the fact that a lot of these students will never be able attend a charter school.

The creation of these charter public schools has therefore introduced exclusivity in a system that is supposed to present equal opportunity for all. It is not as though charter schools have a great track record. Studies shows that charter schools do no worse or better than traditional public schools, and the condition and wealth of a community have more influence on the success of schools, whether those schools are public, private or charter schools.

So, why is Sununu so hell-bent on creating a two-tiered school system in New Hampshire? The key findings of a demographic brief, entitled, “N.H. Demographic Trends in an Era of Economic Turbulence,” published by the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH, included among its key findings that population growth, mostly through net migration, in New Hampshire has recently picked up, the pattern of demographic change in the state is uneven (with cities like Nashua growing more rapidly) and New Hampshire is becoming more racially diverse, especially among children. It has been more than 60 years since the Supreme Court decided that separate but equal in our school system is unlawful.

This glaring issue seems to be missing in the discussion of school funding in New Hampshire, yet it is of extreme importance as New Hampshire undergoes demographic changes.

If Sununu and Edelblut want to make draconian changes in New Hampshire’s public school system by dramatically increasing the number of charter schools in our state, they cannot in good conscience or constitutionally make these changes without providing equal opportunity for all students as currently provided under our traditional public school system.