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Jan 24, 2017 10:58 PM

Sununu makes push for school choice; tells NH1 News parents have to have 'the final say'

NH1 News Political Director

MANCHESTER – Gov. Chris Sununu told a rally of school choice advocates that “I believe the future in education lies in alternative education, alternative choices.”

And in a live interview on NH1 News, New Hampshire’s first Republican governor in a dozen years said that “parents have to know they have the final say in where their kids go to school.”

Sununu spoke Tuesday in front of a couple of hundred people, including scores of parents and their children, at a rally organized by a number of groups that advocate for school choice, the term supporters use for greater access for more kindergarten through 12th grade public education options as an alternative to publicly provided schools. Supporters call for the expanded use of public funds for charter schools, and for private and parochial schools.

But those opposed to school choice say diverting taxpayer dollars to private schools would undermine public education due to a lack of resources.

Sununu, who campaigned for greater school choice during last year’s gubernatorial campaign, told the audience that “for three years we home schooled our kids. And then we tried public school for a few years. They’re actually trying a catholic school this year. So you want to talk about alternative education, you want to talk about school choice. I’m living it. And I love it.”

“When we talk about school choice, this is not political. It is not political at all. It’s simply about focusing on the individuals and the families and making sure that everyone has equal opportunity,” the governor added.

But Sununu also defended the current system, saying “it’s not about bashing down on public schools or blowing up the system or this stuff you hear about.”

And he touted that “I love public education. I’m the first governor in 25 years that actually attended New Hampshire public schools. That’s amazing. I was shocked when I learned that by the way.”

The governor closed his remarks by telling the audience that “you the parent should have the final say in where your kids are going to school. End of story.”

Sununu then proclaimed this week “New Hampshire School Choice Week.”

The rally was part of events nationwide during what’s known as “National School Choice Week.”

Sununu’s appearance comes one week after he nominated Frank Edelblut, his toughest rival in last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary, as the state’s next education commissioner. Edelblut, who home schooled his seven children, is a major proponent of school choice.

Asked by NH1 News how he’ll implement greater school choice in the state, Sununu said “it could be making sure that folks who want to home school maybe have a little extra money to home school or folks that want a better choice in their public education system or want better choices with charter schools have those options available to them. At the end of the day parents have to know they have the final say in where their kids are going to go to school and to provide that long term benefit for their families and ultimately it benefits everyone in the state of New Hampshire.”

But the governor added that “I think the structure of what we have in New Hampshire is pretty darn solid. It’s just a matter of having somebody in some leadership to really implement those innovations that are possible for us.”

Earlier in the day, NH1 News discussed the issue with Democratic state Sen. David Watters of Dover.

“I support charter schools,” Watters said. I also support home schooling. So I think we have a lot of choice now. If school choice means draining public funds away to private or religious schools, we will stand against that.”

Gov. Chris Sununu speaks at a school choice rally in Manchester, on Jan. 24, 2017

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