CONWAY — While the Conway School Board supports learning, board members are not sold on the Learn Everywhere education plan that has the backing of Gov. Chris Sununu and state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.
The board earlier this year wrote a letter opposing the initiative, saying it removes local control over students earning credits toward graduation.
The state Senate supported that position, approving Senate Bill 140, which is designed to keep local educational control with school boards, 24-0, but Sununu vetoed it.
The N.H. House and Senate could vote to override the governor’s veto next month, but for now, Superintendent Kevin Richard said, “It’s still alive. I know the commissioner wants it to live on.”
On July 18, a joint legislative committee voted 6-4 in opposition to the parameters of the Learn Everywhere program and asked Edelblut and the state Board of Education to alter the language of the plan.
Sen. Jay Kahn (D-Keene), prime sponsor of SB 140, in a statement on Facebook after Sununu’s veto, said, “It’s appalling Gov. Sununu chose to further shift curriculum approval authority away from school districts and grant more control to the State Board of Education to define what credit schools must accept for study completed outside their schools.”
Former state Sen. Mark Hounsell, who served three terms on the Conway School Board until the April elections, has been a vocal opponent of Learn Everywhere. On Aug. 1, he emailed 14 local representatives and state Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) urging them to vote to override the governor’s veto.
“We do not need the state making our local education decisions by giving away our high school graduation credits,” he wrote.
During a visit to the Sun in January, Edelblut spoke enthusiastically about the new initiative, saying it “really tries to capture learning that is taking place in our communities, all over the place.” He suggested, as an example, students could receive physical education credit through hunting and fishing associations.
Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro), who serves on the Education Committee, supports Learn Everywhere. “It is all about control and power, not the kids,” he said of opposition to the program. “The education establishment is more concerned about protecting the system than the kids.”
He noted the state has had an extended learning opportunities program that dates back a decade, and said Learn Everywhere is an extension of that program.
“There are many businesses and organizations in New Hampshire that offer opportunities that extend beyond a single school district. Learn Everywhere recognizes that fact and eliminates the need for the organization to have their program recognized by multiple districts.”
Richard said Learn Everywhere’s current format is flawed, because the school district would not be in charge of granting credits, but we would be forced by the state to accept them. “I think we have a responsibility as administrators to say, ‘We can’t assure that students actually went through and demonstrated proficiency with those,” he said.
The Conway School Board sent a letter to state officials on March 12 strongly opposing Learn Everywhere, saying it “clearly oversteps its boundaries and shows disregard for the role of the local school board and administration by including the mandate that local school districts must accept the credit through this process.”