New Hampshire legislative rules committee rejects ‘Learn Everywhere’ program 

  • Republican Frank Edelblut at a Concord Monitor editorial board on Tuesday, August 16, 2016, in Concord, N.H. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 10/17/2019 6:27:00 PM
Modified: 10/17/2019 6:26:49 PM

Lawmakers on New Hampshire’s legislative rules committee voted Thursday to reject the proposed “Learn Everywhere” program from the state’s Department of Education, in the latest blow to a months-long effort by Commissioner Frank Edelblut. 

In a 6-4 vote led by Democrats on party lines, members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules voted to issue a final objection to the proposed rule change. 

But the action doesn’t kill the program for good. Under state law, the Department of Education can proceed with the rules over the objections of lawmakers. Doing that, though, would be risky. The department would assume all liability in the case of legal action, according to lawyers for the state’s Office of Legislative Services on Thursday.

First introduced early this year, Learn Everywhere is a proposed set of rules that would allow the state Board of Education to broaden what counts as a graduation credit.

The change would give the board the sole authority to approve alternative graduation credit programs in K-12 schools – something touted by Republicans as a way to broaden opportunities outside the classroom but opposed by Democrats who say it undermines the autonomy of local school boards.

Currently, individual school boards can approve extended learning opportunities – programs at nonprofits, companies and other entities that students can participate in to obtain credits equivalent to taking classes. But the program must be approved by the board for the student in that district to receive credit.

Learn Everywhere would give that power to the State Board of Education, whose members could green light programs for which school districts would have to accept credits. Under the latest version of the rules, a district would be required to accept up to one-third of credits earned by a student through a board-approved program.

The idea has been steadily opposed by Democrats, who say it takes away local control, and a series of votes in the powerful rules committee have put it on thin ice. Thursday’s final objection is the last time the process will come before the rules committee.

The department has the option to pursue the rules despite the objection. In a interview Thursday after the vote, Edelblut said he was aware of the process.

“There is in the rulemaking process capacity for agencies to continue to move forward, even when there’s a final objection in place,” Edelblut said.

But he added that he had not yet determined whether to proceed with the program.

“I don’t – I haven’t seen their final orders yet so we’ll wait and see,” Edelblut said.

After voting for the objection, Democrats on the 10-member rules committee took action to attempt to stop the Department of Education entirely. In a second 6-4 vote, the committee opted to recommend a joint resolution of the House and Senate opposing the Learn Everywhere rules and stating that they are contrary to the Legislature’s intent when passing a law in 2018.

That joint resolution, if passed, could strip the department of any legislative authority to proceed. But it would need the support of both chambers, and would potentially require an override of a veto by Gov. Chris Sununu, who supports the program.

The joint resolution may be brought forward by either the House or the Senate in January.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy