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My Turn: Extended Learning Opportunities can be everywhere

For the Monitor
Published: 8/23/2019 8:00:46 AM
Modified: 8/23/2019 8:00:32 AM

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut was a featured guest on NHPR’s Exchange on Monday. Two other guests were Carl Ladd, executive director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, and NHPR education reporter Sarah Gibson.

The topic of discussion was Edelblut’s Learn Everywhere program. This program is a thinly veiled school voucher program. It is an attempt to let private enterprises enter what would become the “business” of public education.

Edleblut repeatedly speaks about keeping our eyes on “students’ bright futures.” This is exactly what I am doing when I ask the commissioner to review the current Extended Learning Opportunities offered at schools throughout our state.

We do not need and should not institute an unnecessary separate program. The commissioner can and should work with our New Hampshire schools to improve and multiply such ELO opportunities and ensure the “bright future” he so desires for all New Hampshire students.

Having attended several State Board of Education committee meetings concerning the Learn Everywhere initiative the commissioner has championed for months, I was amazed to hear Edleblut express his personal admiration for the Extended Learning Opportunity program that has been in place in New Hampshire public schools for more than 15 years.

The fact is that I was present when the commissioner took pains to denigrate the current ELO program at a State Board of Education committee meeting. Edelblut has never satisfactorily explained why current ELOs, which have benefited well over 7,000 New Hampshire students this year, should be ignored in favor of a new program that imitates current ELOs, but would authorize private educational enterprises through the Department of Education and State Board of Education.

As to the review of proposed private learning opportunities, only one Extended Learning director and one credentialed teacher, if available, would participate. These reviews would take place during the school day, making it a challenge for these individuals to participate.

These private Learn Everywhere opportunities would not require credentialed teachers nor independent review and approval by your own local school board.

Again and again, the commissioner speaks about “closing the equity gap” with these Learn Everywhere opportunities, but these opportunities would cost money, require transportation and would remove students from the public school environment legally responsible for their safety. Moreover, taxpayers would not be in a position to choose to accept credits from these private educational enterprises but would be required to do so.

Commissioner Edelblut, Extended Learning Opportunities already exist in our public schools. Use your office as it should be used to support and improve them, and make them more widely available.

(Janet Ward lives in Contoocook.)

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