Opinion: Proposed 306 revisions equals slow death to public schools


Published: 04-02-2024 4:25 PM

Janet Ward lives in Contoocook.

New Hampshire’s Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut recently submitted his revision of the 306 Rules to the NH State Board of Education for their approval. Many of the commissioner’s revisions are so subtle they could easily be overlooked but they amount to the equivalent of death by a thousand cuts to our public schools. Let me explain why.

Many New Hampshire citizens have never heard of 306 Rules which were established through legislation (RSA 193E) to provide basic directions on matters ranging from specifications for safe school buildings to maintaining curriculum requirements that prepare students for success after high school graduation.

The 306 Rules set the state’s minimum standards. By using the legal term “shall,” they required local communities to provide such subjects as math, science, language arts, etc. The intent of the 306 Rules was to share control of public schools between the state and local communities.

Commissioner Edelblut’s revisions challenge the intent of this legislation by frequently changing a “shall” to a “may,” thereby informing local communities that they are not obligated to offer critical subjects or to maintain educationally appropriate class sizes or to hire certified educators.

By not offering certain courses, by enlarging class sizes, and by reducing the number of certified teachers, costs and therefore school taxes necessary to support quality public schools could be reduced. This is dangerously attractive in the short term, but what about the long term?

What will be lost if the commissioner’s changes are allowed to stand? Certainly, students who find themselves sadly ill-prepared for their lives beyond high school will lose out on successful futures and over time our communities will also feel the pain as they discover that they do not have the well-qualified workforce needed to successfully compete in the marketplace.

In the end, everyone will lose. This includes school voucher students using our tax dollars to pay for educational programs that are operating with virtually no effective academic or financial oversight by our legislative representatives. And consider this reality: Nationwide studies of voucher programs have shown that voucher programs do not improve academic achievement (National Coalition for Public Education).

What can we do to protect our public schools? Attend the public hearing on the revised 306 Rules which the State Board of Education has scheduled Wednesday, April 3, at 1 p.m. at Granite State College in Concord.

Check the NH Department of Education website to read the complete draft of Commissioner Edelblut’s revisions and check for details on the Board of Education’s second public hearing.

Review the nonpartisan Reaching Higher NH website for detailed information on 306 revisions and what they mean to our public schools. Finally, email your comments to Commissioner Edelblut and to the State Board of Education . Let them know what you think of these 306 revisions.