Tuesday, February 23, 2010
In Vermont there is legislation pending to stop public funding for local schools that are "independent" or that have public and private money. Many of us that use these schools do so via a voucher system which is very popular here. Vermont leads the US in education measures and our system is comprised of students in the second most rural state in the US. Nearly 15% of students (11,000 out of 90,000 total) attend these independent schools in our local communities or in some cases we drive a long way to match the needs of our kids with the school. These are not trivial choices, they are painful, expensive and grinding. We lose friends because it is assumed we have become elitist or angry.
Our little cross section of Vermont-- the families and communities that use local public funds for local schools that are "independent" are as varied as any group can be. We are rich and poor, troubled and gifted, too smart, too slow, too fast, too sensitive, too energetic, .... you know. And using the best we can do the kids in these situations have some of the best performance measures in the state compared to all other groups. These schools are less costly not because they are cheap but because their survival depends on living within the guidelines set by the communities as "fair" price. The cost is capped for the public contribution.
I don't know what problem is being "solved" by this proposal but I don't believe the ones that say it is a way to "save money" or reduce costs. What is involved is much more complicated and the unintended consequences of this legislation could be not only ineffective-- it can't cut costs-- but disastrous and devastating. Destroying the livelihood of the major employers in small towns (schools) and hoping to disperse the children into schools we left or didn't choose in the first place will not save money--our town would pay 50% to 100% more per pupil if this legislation is passed.
It isn't about money nor should it be. I beseech the VT legislature, please do not "fix" what is not broken. We are public education, VT style, and rather than remove this option for the significant minority involved we should explore and expand the best elements and make them available to all VT students. Ask more questions.
Here is Taylor Mali in "what teachers make" a moving call to activism and I hope a boost for the families driving to Montpelier in the cold dark Wednesday night from all over Vermont to speak with the legislators and who fervently hope to find that we are all ready to listen.