Earlier today the New Hampshire state Board of Education rejected a charter school proposal by the Foundation for Student Achievement, a group of Windham parents who worked for over two years on an endeavor to bring a STEM focused K-4 school to southern New Hampshire. No other proposed or operating charter school in the state has this unique mission.
After its third presentation to the state BOE, the Foundation for Student Achievement’s proposal was turned down by a 3 to 3 vote. Although Gregory Odell abstained from the vote, it is questionable why he is still sitting on the Board given that his term expired in January 2016. The members who voted against this unique STEM school were Bill Duncan, Emma Rous, and Helen Honorow. Two of these members are extremists in their positions against school choice.
Bill Duncan was first nominated to the SBE in 2014 while he was a litigant against the state in a lawsuit against the tax-credit scholarship program. He is a well-established political activist against parents directing their children’s education and educational options. He is also connected to the quasi-lobbying organization, Reaching Higher NH. In May 2015, Duncan made a statement on his blog that the opt-out movement is selfish and interferes with the state’s ability to improve public education. Essentially, he stated that parents must subjugate their children’s welfare for the state’s interests.
Emma Rous is a former Chairman of the House Education Committee. While in that office she spearheaded an effort to implement draconian home education administrative rules without legislative intent. She wrote a letter to the (then) state BOE asking them to change rules, attempting a bureaucratic end-around on bills that the NH House overwhelmingly rejected. NH House leadership, friendly legislators, homeschooling families and supporters, and many other organizations had to work for months to make sure those unlawful changes were not made.
How were these radicals placed on the state Board of Education? Governor Maggie Hassan appointed them. They are her hand-picked representatives, unfortunately approved by the Executive Council.
It is cruelly ironic that the state Board of Education’s decision was made the same day Governor Hassan and US Senator Kelly Ayotte made a joint appearance to celebrate achievements of young women in STEM education. There is a very real gap in STEM education for girls and low-to-middle income families, and today the NH BOE killed a viable option.
It is also paradoxical that the Governor’s appointed political hacks are responsible for killing a charter school that would directly help her STEM education initiative launched in summer 2015.
So who is responsible for killing a tuition-free STEM education for NH students? Governor Maggie Hassan. Let her know that she is just as guilty of this politically-motivated debacle as her lackeys. Her emails is Maggie.Hassan@nh.gov.
Update 3/30/16: Executive Council member and gubernatorial candidate, Chris Sununu, was the tie-breaking vote to renew Helen Honorow’s appointment to the state Board of Education on February 10, 2016. Refer to top of page 2.
Disclosure: I was a member of the Educational Choices Foundation, the organization that first proposed Windham Academy as a district-model charter school. I resigned from their Board in February 2015.