Education Commissioner Edelblut Under Fire For Speech at ‘Fringe’ Group Meeting

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Frank Edelblut, commissioner of the Department of Education

By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington and other Democratic leaders called on Gov. Chris Sununu to demand the resignation of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut for speaking Sunday “at an event of fringe right-wing extremists encouraging people to forgo public health guidance in our schools.

“Frank Edelblut’s continuous disregard for New Hampshire public health puts the well-being of our school children at risk,” said Warmington, D-Concord. “It is time Governor Chris Sununu demanded Frank Edelblut resign from his position as Commissioner of Education.” 

Edelblut responded by email saying, “I accepted the invitation to speak directly to parents on Sunday, not to speak to the NH Government Integrity Project.”

As the education commissioner, Edelblut said he strives to make himself available to parents throughout New Hampshire as often as possible, and to the best of his ability.

“There are many educational pathways for parents to navigate that will help set their children up for success, and I feel it is only appropriate to be as transparent and forthright with these families about how to discover the different pathways and various options. As I told those parents in attendance on Sunday, when they are involved in their own child’s education, there will surely be better outcomes,” Edelblut said.

Sununu’s spokesman emailed a statement from the governor that said, “Given this fringe group’s history and support of anti-government actions, the Commissioner’s decision to attend in his official capacity was inappropriate. He has given me his assurances that he will use better discretion going forward.”

Warmington said Edelblut’s speech to the Government Integrity Project’s forum on Sunday comes just “two weeks after the group and other far-right extremists put the safety of state employees in jeopardy by disrupting the functions of government at an Executive Council meeting.

“This denial of science and disregard for the safety of our public schools comes just four days after the Republican Executive Councilors rejected $27 million in federal funding to combat the deadly COVID-19 pandemic,” Warmington said.

According to House and Senate Democratic leaders, Edelblut praised agitators who have shut down school board meetings across the state and encouraged parents to fight against mask requirements as well as necessary lessons on race and gender.  

House Democratic leader Renny Cushing of Hampton said, “Commissioner Edelblut has inappropriately used his office to meet with fringe groups on multiple occasions, and it is past time for the governor to demand his resignation.  Since Sununu first appointed him four years ago, Commissioner Edelblut has been working to undermine teachers, school boards, and public education every step of the way.”

Ken Eyring, co-founder of the Government Integrity Project, said his group wasn’t unruly at the Executive Council meeting and said people were arrested who shouldn’t have been.

As to the event Sunday, Eyring said it is totally understandable to invite the education commissioner and several Republican lawmakers to talk to parents. He said he asked Edelblut to speak first and the Republican lawmakers speak after he left to make sure it wasn’t political.

Republican Reps. Rick Ladd of Haverhill, Glenn Cordelli of Tuftonboro and Norman Silber of Gilford, and Sen. Bob Giuda of Rumney all accepted his invitation, Eyring said. Edelblut didn’t say anything controversial, Eyring added.

“I think it’s important that people understand what’s really going on. There’s been a lot of spin and a lot of disinformation that’s been distributed,” Eyring said.

He said his group was not disruptive at the Executive Council meeting. “I was there and I was quiet…,” he said, adding he was there to listen and observe. “We’re not there to be disruptive. We’re there to hold our government officials accountable. Gov. Sununu is trying to frame us,” Eyring said.

He believes parents know what’s best for kids and need to be listened. He said his group put together petitions to have voters determine mask policies because school boards were ignoring them.

“They are turning what was an informative event for parents into a political circus. And it’s not right,” Eyring said.

“What is the harm of our state’s top most educator making himself available to parents? What is the harm in that? The governor is turning it into political circus,” Eyring said.

Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy of Manchester said: “It is deeply concerning that Commissioner Edelblut would think that attending this meeting was appropriate under any circumstance — but especially given that our schools are facing a barrage of attacks from anti-vaxxers who, almost daily, are attacking our teachers and school boards for doing what they need to in order to protect our students’ health and safety.”

Rep. Mel Myler, D-Hopkinton said: “In the Commissioner’s recent meeting, he praised agitators who have shut down school board meetings and encouraged parents to fight common sense mask policies in schools. It’s also worth noting the Government Integrity Project is infamous for spreading conspiracy theories about the election and they’ve worked to undermine our state government.”

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