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Vote for Edelblut plan to rebuild Education Department put on hold

State House Bureau

April 18. 2017 12:23PM
Frank Edelblut (File)

CONCORD – A proposal to give newly appointed Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut sweeping powers to reorganize the state Department of Education was put on hold by the Senate Education Committee, which had been scheduled to vote on the measure Tuesday.

Instead, the committee members agreed to schedule a public hearing, at the request of Sen. David Watters, D-Dover.

The public will now have a chance to weigh in on Edelblut’s proposal and alternatives presented by Watters.

At Edelbut’s request, State Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, introduced the reorganization plan last week as an amendment to an unrelated education bill. Watters requested a public hearing at that time, but none was scheduled.

In the ensuing week, as word of Edelblut’s proposal became public, pressure mounted for a public hearing on the plan.

It would eliminate the four existing divisions in the department and replace them with four new divisions, with names and responsibilities to be determined by the commissioner. The amendment also transfers to the commissioner the existing responsibilities of the deputy commissioner and gives the commissioner authority over all programs, funds and personnel.

Edelblut says he needs the authority to reorganize the department to operate more efficiently.

Watters on Tuesday introduced his own proposals in reaction to Edelblut’s request. One would authorize Edelblut to proceed, “with the advice of the state Board of Education and after consultation with the deputy director and affected division directors.”

The other would create a committee to study the organizational structure of the Department of Education and make recommendations for change.

“A lot of people wanted to have a public hearing and chairman Reagan thought we should do that,” said Watters afterwards. “It will be good for our process and lead to a much better result. I’ve had good conversations with the commissioner about moving forward in that direction.”

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