NH Commissioner Frank Edelblut and US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos: Peas in a Pod
Earlier this week Valley News reporter Rob Wolfe wrote an article describing his fruitless efforts to get the names of the anonymous donors to the Croydon School Board’s legal fund, in large measure because he believed that former gubernatorial candidate and current Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut might have donated to that cause. Andre Volinsky, one of five Executive Council members who pass judgement on appointments by the Governor and one of two who opposed Mr. Edleblut’s appointment, was also interested in determining if Mr. Edelblut made a contribution, particularly since his predecessor and the State School Board were the ones who initiated the suit against the Croydon’s School Board’s decision to use public funds to send students to a private Montessori School instead of a nearby public school.
Today, the Valley News’ Rob Wolfe reported that Mr. Edleblut sent an email to Mr. Volinsky acknowledging that he had made a $1,000 anonymous contribution to the GoFundMe campaign launched by the Croydon School Board to help pay their legal expenses. He wrote:
Volinsky, a sharp critic of Edelblut’s during the confirmation process for education commissioner, emailed Edelblut on Wednesday morning to ask that he make public whether he had contributed to Croydon and, if he had, explain why he had not disclosed the donation previously.
“I contributed $1,000 to the Croydon legal defense fund,” Edelblut said in reply. “The contribution was made anonymously. I prefer the focus to stay on the cause and not draw attention to myself.”
Edelblut could not immediately be reached on Wednesday night.
“It’s taken far too long to disclose this,” Volinsky said in an interview on Wednesday evening, “and it’s only happened upon my demand. And that’s not how we do government in New Hampshire.”
Volinsky said as education commissioner, Edelblut could be in position to influence the lawsuit, which is overseen by the state Attorney General’s Office.
“The public has a right to know that he was one of Croydon’s financial benefactors in the Croydon lawsuit,” Volinsky said, “and it would have been good of him and the Underwoods” — Ian Underwood and Jody Underwood, the latter being a Croydon School Board member — “who testified on his behalf on Jan. 31, to have revealed his financial relationship to them at that hearing.”
Although Edelblut did not specify to Volinsky when he contributed the money to Croydon’s online fundraising campaign, all anonymous $1,000 donations listed on the School Board’s GoFundMe page are dated at least seven months ago, before Edelblut’s nomination as commissioner. During the same period, Edelblut was mounting an unsuccessful bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
As I noted in my earlier post on this issue, based on what has transpired at the federal level, I felt that if Mr. Edelblut was a donor to the “Croydon” cause he might as well acknowledge it. After all, his donations to a lawsuit defending a district trying to issue de facto vouchers would be no different than Betsy DeVos’ generous donations to various voucher plans and, like DeVos, he would have the full support of his boss– who eagerly awaits the chance to sign off on the “Croydon bill” which will loosen the use of local taxes for private schools. Furthermore, in all probability, Edelblut would still have the support of the three executive counselors who voted in favor of his appointment since the vote fell along partisan lines and Mr. Edelblut’s lack of qualifications and full support of vouchers was never an issue during his hearings. By avoiding the question he appeared to be acknowledging some degree of shame or embarrassment relative to his support for the Croydon case or might have been fearful that some might see the donation as unethical given that he was, at that time, trying to get legislation passed on behalf of the district. In the end, even though Mr. Edelblut did not want his evasiveness on this question to be the issue, his lack of forthrightness did not help him establish credibility among public school leaders and board members who are wary of his intentions.
In the meantime, it is now clearer than ever that Mr. Edelblut is a small bore version of Betsy DeVos: a privatizing proselytizing wolf in charge of the public school henhouse…. and the students, especially those who do not have the resources to “choose” where they want to attend school, will eventually pay the price.