ICYMI: NH Ed Commissioner Edelblut breaks promise to ‘implement,’ aims for power grab

Concord, N.H. – Last week, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut requested that Republican State Senator John Reagan propose legislation to give the commissioner unprecedented wide-ranging authority over the Department of Education. The proposal, tacked on as an amendment to an existing bill, will not require a public hearing. The power grab comes just two months after Edelblut promised to simply “implement the policies of the state board of education, the governor, and the legislature.”

See a roundup of coverage on Edelblut’s power grab:

Concord Monitor: Edelblut seeks to restructure education department

At Edelblut’s request, state Sen. John Reagan, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, has filed legislation that would consolidate all of the responsibilities housed within four existing divisions in the department and transfer them to the commissioner’s office…

“It really does amount to an unprecedented, naked power grab by the commissioner,” said Andru Volinksy, a Democratic Executive Councilor. “Given his (confirmation hearing) testimony about being merely an implementer and not a maker of policy, this is a shocking change.”

They also worry that because of the mechanism by which this is being proposed – via an amendment to a bill that’s already had a hearing – that the public won’t get the opportunity to weigh in and vet the plan…

He said he didn’t yet have any specific plans about how to restructure, other than to rename the current divisions to make them easier to navigate for laypersons…

The State Board of Education hasn’t been asked for input about the plan, though its chairman, Tom Raffio, wrote in an email that Edelblut had broached the topic in passing with him. The matter has been placed on the agenda for the board’s next meeting on May 11, he added.

NHPR: Proposal Would Give State Education Commissioner More Authority

Senator Reagan says he filed the amendment after the new DOE Commissioner, Frank Edelblut, asked for the changes.

“Well apparently he’s got – I don’t know, I don’t work there – apparently he has resistance within the department and he wants to be able to manage the department, that’s his job,” said Reagan.

WMUR: NH education chief says new proposal would give him ‘fidelity to law,’ management flexibility

Edelblut, a Republican former business executive who unsuccessfully ran for governor last year on a conservative platform, said during his confirmation hearing before the Executive Council in February that if confirmed, he would act as “the implementation guy” and would not attempt to make wholesale changes in department policy…

“Obviously, there is a whole lot of concern about this,” Watters said. “On short notice, it seems to be a wholesale reconstruction of the role of the commissioner and an elimination of long-standing areas of responsibility of others. I’m just cautious about big changes at the Department of Education without a lot of conversation and appropriate notice.”

Union Leader: Dave Solomon’s State House Dome: Edelblut power play in DOE reorganizing?

Now Edelblut is proposing a reorganization of the department that he is calling housekeeping but Board of Education member Bill Duncan is calling “a radical change in the management of the department…”

Accepting Edelblut’s proposed changes requires a leap of faith, according to critics. If the Legislature essentially wipes the organizational slate clean for the commissioner, and gives him the authority to rebuild as he sees fit, there’s no telling the outcome.

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