- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Republican Frank Edelblut defended himself repeatedly Tuesday against charges he is unqualified to be the next leader of New Hampshire’s education department.

Edelblut, a businessman with no formal background in public education who chose to home-school his seven children, is Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s choice for education commissioner. His appearance Tuesday before the Executive Council marked one of the most contentious public hearings on a gubernatorial nominee in recent memory.

Members of the public jammed into the council chambers wearing green stickers that said “I support Edelblut” or holding signs with messages such as “Nice Guy, No Experience.”

“I have no intention of dismantling public education,” Edelblut said. “I do have every intention of helping the system move forward and offer a product that parents, employers and educators want for our young people, and what our young people deserve.”

Edelblut must be confirmed by the five-member, Republican-controlled Executive Council. Monday was Commissioner Virginia Barry’s last day in office, and the council will vote on Edelblut on Wednesday or in two weeks.

Edelblut and his supporters say his business background will allow him to be a bridge between schools and employers. He is also a strong proponent of “personalized” education and school choice, such as charter schools and home-schooling, arguing the public school system isn’t set up to serve the needs of all children.

New Hampshire is already moving toward more competency-based and personalized learning, and Edelblut’s supporters argued he is the right man to see that vision through.

“Somebody needs to step on the accelerator,” said Fred Bramante, a former GOP-appointed chairman of the state Board of Education who supports Edelblut’s nomination.

But opponents questioned whether Edelblut understands the needs of public schools.

“Help me understand how the most qualified person in this state to become the commissioner of education didn’t give public education one chance for his own children,” said Ella Klein, of Bedford.

Democratic Councilor Andru Volinsky pointed out that Edelblut serves as a board member of Patrick Henry College, a Christian college that espouses a biblical world view. Edelblut did not answer when asked whether he would support schools if they chose to teach creationism, saying the commissioner does not set curriculum.

“Whether or not I would have concern is irrelevant,” Edelblut said. “I would not have jurisdiction over that.”

Edelblut also declined to say whether he would remain active in Republican politics by attending party functions or endorsing candidates if confirmed.


This story has been corrected to show Virginia Barry’s last day as education commissioner was Monday, not Tuesday.

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