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NH parents stand up for school choice

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

January 24. 2017 10:12PM
Gov. Chris Sununu addresses a crowd at a rally for school choice held at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester on Tuesday afternoon. (Paul Feely/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — Close to 200 students, parents, teachers and community leaders rallied in Manchester on Tuesday in support of school choice, part of a nationwide campaign spotlighting the ability of parents to choose which school their child attends.

The event, held at the Currier Museum of Art, featured student performances and school choice testimonials.

“We’re here to really shine a spotlight on the education opportunities here in New Hampshire,” said Kate Baker of Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire, which organized Tuesday’s rally. “We’re so lucky here; everything is good, better and best. We have charter schools, incredible online opportunities, private schools and tons of home school students.”

“Charter schools represent a tuition-free, innovative option for many parents who are looking to change their child’s school,” said Matt Southerton, co-founder and director of New Hampshire Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in a statement. “This event is an opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate the wonderful students who attend New Hampshire charter schools every day.”

The rally was scheduled to coincide with National School Choice Week, which runs through Saturday.

“School choice isn’t just a great idea — it’s a necessity,” said Dave Thibault, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Manchester. “If we believe that each child is a unique and special gift, if we truly believe that, how can we believe that one school model would meet the needs of such a wide variety of people?”

Gov. Chris Sununu spoke at the rally, calling the issue of school choice one of his “passions.”

“I see a lot of kids here today,” said Sununu. “Want to know what my priority is here? That’s it, 18 and under, because they are the future.”

Sununu said he wants to see everyone have “an equal opportunity” when it comes to school options for their children.

“I home schooled for three years, then tried public schools for a few years,” said Sununu. “Now we’re trying Catholic schools. You want to talk about alternative education options, I’m living it. I’m honored to have had the opportunities that we had, but a lot of families here ... do not have the financial means or the options that others have. When we talk about school choice, it’s not about politics. It’s about families and individuals and making sure everyone has an equal opportunity.”

School choice has been a hot topic across the state and country in recent days, following Sununu’s nomination of Frank Edelblut for education commissioner and President Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for education secretary, both strong advocates for school choice. Edelblut sponsored legislation relating to parental rights, stating that “parents have the natural right to control the health, education, and welfare of their children.” The legislation was tabled in the last session.

While at Tuesday’s event, Gov. Sununu issued a proclamation recognizing this week as New Hampshire School Choice Week.

“Together, we can provide families the choice to explore educational opportunities that better fit their children’s needs and empower teachers to more effectively prepare students to enter an ever-increasingly competitive global workforce,” Sununu said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sununu expressed his support of HB 386, a bill that would expand school choice opportunities in the Granite State.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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