You don't have to be an MV parent to care

Last modified: 4/20/2012 12:00:00 AM
A couple of weeks ago, the New Hampshire House passed HB 1403. Most of New Hampshire did not notice or care since the legislation was specifically targeted at an academic program that has only been implemented in two public school districts: Bedford and Merrimack Valley. But trust me, you should all care because this legislation threatens what has long been held sacrosanct in New Hampshire: the local control of education and curricula.

In passing HB1403, the House is setting the precedent that regardless of how much study a school district might have done, regardless of what might have been invested, the good folks in Concord reserve the right to override and remove the program.

This year it is the International Baccalaureate program. Next year maybe it is the Advanced Placement programs. Then it may be whatever program your local community volunteers, school board, administration and voters have studied and chosen to adopt. Apparently our elected representatives, most of whom have no background in education or school administration, believe they know best.

HB 1403 seeks to limit or eliminate the International Baccalaureate program. It does so on the premise that the program minimizes the sovereignty of both the state of New Hampshire and the United States of America. Specifically, from HB1403:

'A public school or public academy shall be deemed to meet school approval standards only if the curriculum and instruction of the school or academy promotes state and national sovereignty and is not subject to the governance of a foreign body or organization. Proof of governance of a foreign body or organization may be demonstrated in several ways, including, but not limited to:

(a) Use of a specific name to promote the school, such as 'world school'; or

(b) Required inspections or visits to ensure compliance with programs, rules, or polices of the foreign body or organization.'

On the surface, this is not all that threatening, but it is chasing a bogeyman that does not exist.

The fear by the proponents of this bill is that nefarious people will direct our curriculum in such a way as to promote a 'foreign' social agenda. I have met with multiple IB teachers and coordinators. I can find no one who feels pressured to comply with any rules or standards that do what the legislation seeks to preclude. The IB staff at Bedford and elsewhere with whom I have spoken are concerned with the rigor of the program and the quality of the education, not with a social agenda.

If implemented, this legislation could:

1. Cause Bedford, Merrimack Valley or any high school to remove the IB program, thereby disrupting the program plans of the enrolled IB students.

2. Waste the funding already invested in the development of an excellent program supported by outstanding staff.

3. Cause a district to further invest in new programming to fill the void left by IB.

The Military Council for the Education of Children (with many generals on its board) promotes the International Baccalaureate program to the families of our service people around the world. It provides a consistent but rigorous standard assuring high quality education. It does not threaten either national or state sovereignty. I would expect our military to have done the appropriate vetting.

Do the research. Talk to some IB students. Talk to some IB teachers. Talk to school and district administrators. I have, and I am comfortable with the International Baccalaureate program. Our Legislature might have the right to remove it, but it is certainly not the right thing to do. And it is most certainly not consistent with the professed belief by the legislators who claim to support local control.

I guess it's only local control on those issues with which they happen to agree. Seems somewhat hypocritical.

Today this is a Bedford and Merrimack Valley issue. Tomorrow it will be your issue.

(Paul G. Brock is a former member and chairman of the Bedford School Board.)

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