Testimony on SB 355, Changing BOE Appointments

This is my testimony on SB 355, requiring the members of the state board of education to be elected by a joint session of the general court. It will be presented to the Senate Rules, Enrolled Bills and Internal Affairs Committee on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

If you have not already done so, please contact the committee as they may exec the bill at any time.


Currently positions to the state Board of Education are appointed by the Governor and approved by the Executive Council. This has been a highly politicized position in recent years, particularly two years ago when the controversial activist Bill Duncan was appointed despite overwhelming appeals to the executive council.

At the time of Mr. Duncan’s appointment to the state Board of Education, he was a litigant against the state in the tax-credit scholarship program lawsuit. He was — and continues to be — an activist against school choice and parental involvement in their children’s education.

Below are quotes he made in his own political blog and in Letters to the Editor in various publications.

“Charter schools are a political statement not an educational improvement”. http://anhpe.org/2013/07/05/charter-schools-are-a-political-statement-not-and-educational-improvement/

“I always consider policy discussions about privatization – proposals to dismantle public education and replace it with charters, vouchers and home schools – a distraction…”

“End the pointless private school voucher program – Bill Duncan in the Portsmouth Herald”

“The education tax credit is an embarrassment to the state, and the Senate should vote repeal the program before it begins to do real damage.”

Mr. Duncan continues his political pursuits even while serving on the state Board of Education. He is part of a new organization called “Reaching Higher NH” which is a spin-off organization from his called “Advancing NH Public Education (ANHPE).” In a post dated November 17, 2015, Mr. Duncan explains that “we will post less often on ANHPE in favor of following the activity on Reaching Higher NH…”  will now be the source for following education legislation. Examine Mr. Duncan’s strong support for Common Core standards and testing. This is also represented on the Reaching Higher NH’s “legislators” page which are all very biased in favor of Common Core, competency-based education, the experimental PACE program, and expansion of public education to preschool and Kindergarten. One look at his articles on “vouchers” (a factual misrepresentation of the tax-credit scholarship program), reveals his anti-choice opinions. This is also important because there is yet another repeal bill filed for 2016. Not unexpectedly, Mr. Duncan supported Governor Hassan’s veto of SB 101 (2015), a bill that would have made Common Core optional in our public schools. Mr. Duncan also advocated for the PACE experimental assessment program in the final negotiations between the House and Senate on HB 323, the most contentious bill of the 2015 session.  Mr. Duncan also supported the veto of HB 603, the parental opt-out bill. His positions — and that of ANHPE and Reaching Higher NH — are obvious. Clearly, he has a major role in both organizations and their opinions. They oppose school choice and parents’ rights in their children’s education.

These are not the actions of a politically neutral member of a state agency. They are the actions of an engaged activist with a clear agenda.

This testimony is not to criticize Mr. Duncan, but to highlight how the state Board of Education nominations have become highly politicized.

SB 355 would change the role of state Board of Education member to one elected by the general court, thereby making the members more accountable to NH citizens and less of a political appointment by the executive branch

Please support SB 355 with an Ought to Pass recommendation.