Opinion: Change is hard, disruption is easy

Published: 4/23/2022 7:01:41 AM
Modified: 4/23/2022 7:00:14 AM

Carl Ladd is executive director and treasurer for New Hampshire School Administrators Association.

When Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut assumed office in 2017, New Hampshire was ranked #1 in the country in academic achievement. Now we are ranked #5.

Over the past several weeks, Commissioner Edelblut has issued editorials criticizing educators who he claims do not want to change, while at the same time complaining about those who seek to institute change. The problem is not with educators, it’s a lack of leadership provided by the Department of Education.

After five years, Mr. Edelblut should have strong improvement to show for his efforts. Instead, he is more interested in disruption and deflection than in collaboration and effecting lasting change for good.

Mr. Edelblut misses the reality that, despite dwindling resources, more and more responsibility for educating and caring for the social and emotional wellbeing of students has fallen on our schools. Public schools were never intended to provide the religious, social and cultural foundation for communities.

Historically, schools were created for civic purposes — to ensure an educated citizenry that could participate in a growing democracy. Schools cannot and should not replace families. Unfortunately, the expanded role of schools has created unrealistic expectations while straining our system with more demands.

Mr. Edelblut refuses to acknowledge the fact that as the federal and NH governments have increased mandates, they’ve eliminated or cut the very funding that would ensure higher expectations could be met. This continues a trend we have witnessed in every decade since the 1960s.

Mr. Edelblut claims “increased funding” accompanied President Johnson’s War on Poverty, but he fails to mention the additional funding did not keep pace with additional mandates.

He ignores the 1975 landmark special education legislation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which includes a requirement of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for each child, coupled with a promise of 40% funding from the federal government. Although FAPE is the law and schools must provide necessary services, the federal government has never come close to meeting its funding promise.

Mr. Edelblut cites Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind, and Every Student Succeeds Act as examples of how public education failed to live up to the standards set. Yet he omits the fact that every one of these reforms were unfunded mandates or they required the implementation of policies that were not evidence-based. Even President Obama’s Race to the Top funding was short-lived and required changes not fully supported by fact-based analysis.

The state of New Hampshire has also never lived up to its constitutional funding promises, with New Hampshire having the dubious distinction of being last in the nation for state funding for schools. Our state also has the greatest disparity between money spent on the education of children in high poverty communities versus those living in low poverty communities.

New Hampshire spends 26%, or $5,037, less on children living in communities with high concentrations of poverty than on higher wealth communities.

New Hampshire was once seen as an innovation leader in public education, moving quickly toward a competency-based learning system based on student skill attainment. Instead, Mr. Edelblut focuses on touting educational “innovations” that no well-funded school district would adopt in place of traditional public education.

Edelblut is willing to experiment on our children and educators using approaches with unproven or even negative impacts such as education freedom accounts, charter conversion schools, and homeschool learning pods; approaches most evident in lagging states such as Arizona (ranked 40th), Louisiana (48th) and South Carolina (43rd).

Rather than building upon the strong foundation he was given, Commissioner Edelblut has done everything he can to dismantle and undermine it. His focus on loyalty oaths, restrictions on teaching history, and general antipathy toward educators shows his true intent is not to improve our public education system but to simply disrupt it.

True change requires a partnership and a collaboration. Both have been sorely lacking in the commissioner’s office for too long.

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy