On Friday, July 24, Gov. Sununu vetoed the bill to protect local school districts’ control over high school credits. Why does that matter? It matters because Learn Everywhere rules eschew quality control and let a handful of political appointees decide what is taught as truth. Learn Everywhere rules are so fraught with problems that three State Board of Education members voted against them, as did the joint legislative committee that oversees rules.
What is wrong with Learn Everywhere? First, the approval process is superficial. Course providers submit program descriptions. The review committee need not meet providers, visit facilities, review curricular materials or consider outcomes before making a recommendation. The review process is inadequately resourced; an existing administrator and various staff must squeeze application administration, assessment and committee meetings into their existing work, for untold dozens of programs.
These committee recommendations form the basis for the state board’s approval decisions. Afterward, every New Hampshire high school must credit any program approved through this superficial process. This applies even if the program does not meet local standards.
New Hampshire parents have just spent months at home, supervising their children’s remote education. After that experience, most parents surveyed prefer to rely on professionals to oversee their children’s education, rather than having to shoulder that responsibility atop their professional and personal ones. For this majority, local district quality control over children’s education is essential.
Instead, Learn Everywhere rules let as few as four political appointees on the State Board of Education decide what is taught as truth in New Hampshire. A similar situation exists in Texas. The state board there ruled that creationism should be taught as an equally valid theory alongside evolution and, until 2019, taught that slavery was only a minor factor behind the Civil War.
Our commissioner of education holds a master’s degree in theology, not education. The chair of our state board moved here from a conservative think tank in North Carolina. He now leads a similar one, whose founding trustee is a Koch Industries executive, here in New Hampshire.
After all that has happened in America over the past four years, who believes that a 4-3 vote in the state board could not make creationism, climate change denial or equally unfounded theories approved for credit across the state?
These are the reasons that Gov. Sununu’s veto matters, and why I will continue to fight for local control of credits and the opportunity for every child to have a good education.
43 Pine St.
(This writer, a Democrat, represents District 9 in the N.H. Senate.)