News

Bedford High School IB program debated on the NH senate floor

Friday, May 4, 2012

By KATELYN DOBBS

Staff Writer

For organizations such as the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition, the International Baccalaureate program is an educational program that must be stopped. For local associations such as the Bedford School Board, however, the International Baccalaureate program is an optional honors program that benefits Bedford High School students.

The issue manifests itself in HB 1403, which recently passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives by a 209-102 veto-proof majority. HB 1403 seeks to eliminate international organizations, such as the IB program, from operating in public schools in New Hampshire. The bill questions the IB program’s headquarters in Geneva and its close ties to the U.N. and UNESCO.

On Tuesday, May 1, the New Hampshire Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on the IB program. Parents, students, teachers and taxpayers crowded the Senate Legislative Office Building in Concord to express their opinions regarding HB 1403. One BHS junior and student of the IB program, Michael Courtney, addressed the education committee against HB 1403.

“As important as the merits of the IB program are to the Bedford School curriculum, an even more important issue is at stake. HB 1403, if passed, will usurp the authority of local school districts throughout the state to decide their own curricula and will set a precedent which allows the legislature, rather than local school boards, to ultimately decide a school’s curriculum,” Courtney was quoted as saying. “It is not exactly my idea of ‘Live Free or Die.’ Is it yours?”

Joleen Worden, a Bedford resident and mother of a student from Manchester West High School, disagrees.

“I think the IB program puts too much emphasis on U.N. worldview, social and political attitudes and not enough on pure, factual academics,” Worden said. “I am happy New Hampshire stepped in, because the state sets all school standards so it can overrule local school boards, especially when they violate the New Hampshire Constitution. My tax money should not pay for students to be taught that anti-American values of extreme Muslims and Communists can be right, because they are not right.”

The Bedford School Board created a special education committee in 2005 with the intent of studying the IB program’s education themes, costs and overall objective. After attending IB classes, schools and workshops, the School Board unanimously voted in support of the IB curriculum in 2007.

The issue was again addressed in 2010 because of vocal concerns regarding the ideas taught in the classroom and the program’s involvement with the U.N. and UNESCO. Again, the school board unanimously voted in support of the IB program.

According to Bedford Superintendent Tim Mayes, the town has spent $50,000 in training IB program teachers. Mayes said if HB 1403 passes, Bedford would phase out the costs over two years.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives Education Committee gave its support to HB 1403. According to House Education Committee member Rep. June Frazer, D-Merrimack, only Republican state reps in the education committee voted in support of HB 1403. Frazer also said the committee did not attend any IB classes before making its recommendation.

HB 1403 now will move to the Senate floor for an executive session. At the Senate hearing Tuesday, May 1, Sen. Ray White, R-Bedford, urged the other New Hampshire senators to vote against HB 1403. The Senate’s executive session on HB 1403 will take place at a date and time to be determined.

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