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Mar 23, 2016 10:27 PM

Steinhauser: Sununu criticizes Hassan over standardized testing contract; NHDP ties Sununu to Trump

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Executive Councilor Chris Sununu Wednesday expressed serious reservations about the Smarter Balanced statewide tests that serve as the basis for the politically controversial Common Core educational standards, which have increasingly come under attack in recent years from conservatives.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate raised his concerns as the Executive Council considered and voted on a retroactive contract renewal with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for statewide academic testing of New Hampshire school students.

“If you don’t get education right in this state, nothing else is going to hit the mark,” Sununu stressed.

But with the prospect of the loss of a quarter of a million dollars in federal funding if the contract was not continued, Sununu didn’t oppose the renewal, which passed unanimously by a voice vote by the five member Executive Council.

Sununu said that “unfortunately I would say I feel we have no choice. I will be supporting this item reluctantly because I’m not going to put teachers and parents at risk. I firmly believe this administration has put schools and teachers and students at risk.”

Speaking one-on-one with NH1 News, Sununu continued to criticize Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who’s running for the U.S. Senate this year rather than for a third term in the Corner Office.

“Unfortunately what we saw today was yet another example of classic mismanagement by the governor’s office, by the department of education in the state. We received a contract eight or nine months late, which basically meant if we chose to vote it down, and it was a contract to keep Smarter Balance testing, we risk putting $250 million of funding from the federal government at risk. That risk is to our teaches, is to our students, is to our schools. I will not do that. I will not put them at risk as the governor has done. We have to make them a priority,” Sununu told NH1 News.

Sununu then emphasized his long time opposition to tests and what he considers a heavy hand from Washington.

“I have been a very vocal opponent of the Smarter Balanced testing. I have a fourth and a fifth grader. I live Smarter Balanced and Common Core every day. I hear the opposition to it out there from my constituents from across the state. We have to do it a different way. And the answer there is that we need state wide assessments that are built by our teachers. We need to empower our own teachers to create the tests based on the curriculum in our own classrooms. It’s not about Washington coming in and telling us what to do, or California coming in. We have leadership in this state that has simply allowed that to happen,” Sununu said.

Asked by NH1 News about Sununu’s criticism, Hassan said “I think it’s clear that Councilor Sununu has a very ideological position about education. What we’ve been doing in New Hampshire with stakeholder groups across the state including educators, businesses, families and parents, is working to make sure we are preparing our young people for changing and evolving 21st century economy.”

And Hassan touted that “New Hampshire has led the country in finding alternatives to the Smarter Balance test.”

New Hampshire is one of 21 states that are affiliated member with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Nine other states opted out. The tests, in math and English language arts, are given in grades 3 - 8 and 11.

Buckley touts ‘Trump-Sununu’ ticket

About 30 minutes before the start of Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting, Sununu was in the cross hairs of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, which for weeks has been trying to tie him to Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump.

At a news conference across the street at the Legislative Office Building, the NHDP officially unveiled their Trump-Sununu campaign.

“Chris Sununu has no such qualms about supporting such a far right candidate seeking to divide America and spread hate. Chris Sununu thinks that he can ride Donald Trump’s coattails to victory. Well he’s going to find out those coattails are actually anchor weights that will drag him to defeat in November,” Chairman Ray Buckley said. “So in honor of the Trump-Sununu ticket becoming official, we’ve drawn up a new campaign sign for Chris.”

Buckley added that “it’s critically important that all of the voters of New Hampshire understand how radical his positions are, whether it comes to Planned Parenthood or Medicaid expansion, the economy and on and on.”

Sununu is the most well-known of the four Republicans running for governor. The other candidates are Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, state Rep. Frank Edelblut, and state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, who will formally announce her bid next week.

In a candid moment, Buckley said “I’ve spent my entire life taunting the Sununu family and I don’t see any reason why I should stop now.”

While Sununu’s said that he’ll support the eventual GOP nominee, his father, former Gov. John H. Sununu, has been a vocal critic of Trump.

Buckley picked up on that, saying that “even Chris Sununu’s own father, former Gov. John H. Sununu, has joined an a anti-Trump super PAC.”

Asked by NH1 News if he will continue to support the nominee, regardless if it’s Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sununu said “I will support the Republican nominee and we’re still a ways from finding out who that’s going to be. It’s kind of exciting actually. No one knows what’s going to happen. It’s the beauty of American politics. Everyone’s going to have their say. It’s really chosen at the convention by the delegates and we don’t know what’s going to happen there. So we’ll have to see.”

“I’ve said all along, any of the Republican candidates you saw on those presidential debate stages, any of them would make a far better president than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders,” he added.

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