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May 9, 2014

Education board confirmation draws criticism

Charter school advocates voice concerns

The confirmation of William Duncan to the state Board of Education yesterday is drawing criticism from charter school advocates and supporters of school choice.

They are concerned the vocal activist would do more to hurt education than advance it as charter schools and other alternative programs try to thrive in the state.

Duncan, a retired businessman from New Castle, was confirmed to a four-year term by the Governor’s Executive Council following his controversial nomination by Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The nomination and confirmation immediately brought a negative reaction from charter school supporters and backers of New Hampshire’s education tax credit law.

But Duncan, 70, said yesterday he’s ready to get down to business. He could not attend the confirmation hearing because he was out of state awaiting the birth of a grandchild.

“I am looking forward to working with the board and I’m looking forward to working with the charter school folks,” he said.

Charter school officials said they are afraid Duncan won’t respect the needs of their schools as another form of public education.

“The state Board of Education is a place for diverse opinions, but it is unreasonable to appoint someone who exhibits such a clear bias to a body meant to represent all New Hampshire students,” said Matt Southerton, executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Innovative Schools.

There are 18 charter schools in New Hampshire, with four more to open this fall. The new schools include Granite State Arts Academy in Derry and The Founders Academy in Manchester.

Representatives from both schools were critical of Duncan’s selection.

“It’s going to be harder for us to do what we need to do,” Granite State Arts Academy spokeswoman Wendie Leweck said. “Bill Duncan is not an ally of charter schools.”

Families were encouraged to contact their local leaders to voice opposition to Duncan’s nomination, she said.

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