Saturday, April 02, 2005

The New Hampshire State Board Of Education: What Century Are These Folks Living In?

The State of New Hampshire is the only state in The Union that does not require local school districts to offer public kindergarten.

This lamentable situation is not about to improve anytime soon, because, incredibly, the State Board of Education decided to continue allowing each district to choose for itself whether or not to offer this crucial first school experience.

This lack of political will has not gone unnoticed:

Educators and child advocates say the state Board of Education caved to political pressure when the panel decided not to require local school districts to provide public kindergarten.

Ellen Shemitz, president of the Children's Alliance of New Hampshire, said Thursday that the news was particularly frustrating because board members have consistently supported providing kindergarten, and had indicated months ago that they were committed to making it happen.

"The role of the board is supposed to be policy setting," she said. "I understand they were in a tough spot, and I understand that they were under a lot of political pressure. But this was absolutely necessary. And they failed."

The State Board has its own point of view, and offers this rationale for its inability to support the mandatory offering of kindergarten to the state's children:

Board members said in their meeting Wednesday that the Legislature would not support a state mandate for kindergarten, though New Hampshire is the only state in the country without one.

Board Chairman David Ruedig said the board knew that any mandated kindergarten proposal would be rejected by members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. The board doesn't have the power to make laws, he said, and he and others may have overstepped their boundaries when they had said they would stick to the goal of starting up kindergarten for all children.

So let's see.... The Board doesn't have the power to make state law. We agree, that much is true. The State Board of Education can only recommend that the state assembly enact legislation. But this Board refused to recommend that the state mandate the offering of kindergarten because the state assembly would "not support" passage of the legislation.

So... by this logic... the state board will only recommend policies that it think can get passed by a group of politicians. The determining criteria are not what the Board thinks is in the best interest for kids.

There are currently 16 communities in New Hampshire that do not offer kindergarten in their public schools. These children will continue getting a raw deal from both their educational systems and their politicians.

In New Hampshire, Harry S. Truman's legendary buck just keeps getting passed. Meanwhile, the agencies that passed it continue to flunk.
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