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State education nominee Edelblut: 'I have no intention of dismantling public education'

State House Bureau

January 31. 2017 8:21PM
Frank Edelblut talks with members of the audience at Tuesday's hearing. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD — Wilton entrepreneur Frank Edelblut, Gov. Chris Sununu’s nominee to lead the state Department of Education, tried to allay the fears of opponents in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday before the Executive Council.

“I have no intention of dismantling public education, but I have every intention of helping the system move forward and offer a product that parents and educators want for our young people,” he said

Edelblut, who came within 800 votes of defeating Sununu in the GOP gubernatorial primary in September, was nominated by the governor to replace Virginia Barry as education commissioner. He could be confirmed as soon as today.

He spent much of the four-hour hearing answering questions on his credentials and personal philosophy of education.

Democratic Councilor Andru Volinsky cited the state statute regarding credentials for the position, which requires the commissioner of education to be qualified by virtue of experience and education. He listed the credentials of every commissioner of education since the 1970s, all of whom had traditional education degrees and experience.

Edelblut said he meets the statutory requirement for education and experience.

“I have a master’s degree and am a certified public accountant,” he said.

Edelblut said the word “experience” in the statute doesn’t necessarily mean experience in the public school system.

“I have the experience and demonstrated track record of helping an organization achieve its goals and objectives,” he said. “The experience I bring is particularly germane right now. There may have been other times in history when experience directly associated with education might be more important, but now the priority is to help students get the workplace experience they need now. So bringing my commercial experience into the department to bridge that gap will help the organization achieve those goals.”

Members of the public who spoke in support of Edelblut cited his business success, personal integrity and leadership skills.

Opponents testified that they worried about his lack of experience and involvement with religious organizations that might affect his position on issues such as evolution and LGBT rights.

Democratic Councilor Chris Pappas asked Edelblut about perceptions that he favors charter schools, private schools and home schooling over public education.

Many of Edelblut’s supporters in the audience wore a yellow scarf signifying support for the school choice movement, which endorses use of public funds for private schools.

“Some have said that I will push for school choice and destroy public education. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want to see public education work well for all students,” Edelblut responded.

He suggested that the public school system is offering a product that some parents and some students are not completely happy with and said parents are voting with their feet.

“If public schools are meeting the needs of all students, why do parents have an interest in seeking out the alternatives,” he said. “The only reason parents choose private, or charter or home school is because they believe that option will better serve that child.”

“We have to move beyond the idea that education is a zero sum game in which success for a charter school is a loss for a public school,” he said.

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