Most people are unaware that the N.H. Department of Education has voted to end local control of high school curricula. Even fewer realize that the rule moving the credit authorization from local to state control (ED 1400) will come before the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules Thursday morning. At that meeting, members of the public may voice their opinions and members of the Legislature, who make up JLCAR, may object to the rules. However, their objection will not stop the rules from going into effect. In other words, the state will become the authority authorized to determine whether an activity or organization is to be accepted as high-school credit by every high school in the state.
What does this mean for our school districts?
It means a conservative governor can appoint people to the board of education who approve church school lessons on creationism in place of Biology 101. A liberal governor might appoint board members that let Blue America supply a civics curriculum. A laissez-faire governor might appoint people who believe there should be no criteria for curricula at all and approve just about anyone who fills out the accreditation form. Whichever course the central board approves, school districts must accept those credits toward graduation from their high school.
What does this mean for our students?
It could mean that universities do not accept New Hampshire high school credits.
Can these problems not already occur at the district level?
Yes, but in that case, it is one district, with decisions made by local board members, elected by the community without reference to any political party. This is the entire state, with board of education members selected by a partisan governor.
Is there anything parents, schools, and concerned citizens can do to stop this? The Legislature tried to stop it with SB 140, dictating that programs are authorized by school districts only, but Gov. Sununu refused to sign the bill. If lawmakers bring forward similar legislation next year, to the same governor, expect the same result.
So the immediate answer is “no,” unless a lawsuit stays the implementation of rule ED 1400, New Hampshire high school credits will be determined by the appointees of Gov. Sununu and Commissioner Frank Edelblut, who have demonstrated consistent opposition to locally controlled public schools.
Citizens wishing to protest the ED 1400 rule may attend the public hearing Thursday, July 18, at 9 a.m. in Room 306 of the state’s Legislative Office Building.
43 Pine St.
(This writer, a Democrat, represents District 9 in the N.H. Senate.)