2-19-15 – Testimony on Why School Choice Is the Best Choice

Fran Bisselle, Head of the Maple Street School, an independent school in Manchester, testified before the House Education Committee on February 13th. Here are some highlights of what she said.

Fran Bisselle: If you are a child in [the tuitioning town of] Winhall and you have a town voucher (there is no public school in Winhall) you have the choice to go to the Mountain School at Winhall, to the Long Trail School, to the Maple Street School, to MEMS (Manchester Elementary & Middle School), to Dorset… there are a lot of choices.

Because there are so many different schools there, each school differentiates itself from different schools…. These are small, little towns with small, little schools trying to figure out what kind of school they want to be.

Rep. Tim Jerman: If a publicly funded student comes from a choice town, are they guaranteed admission to the approved [independent] schools?

Bisselle: The answer is in policy, no. But in practice, yes. We haven’t turned a child down at Maple Street. With a declining demographic state you don’t have very many schools saying, don’t come. In a unique place like southern Vermont where I am, a family has choice, and they can choose from a whole bunch of schools what they want. Normally they’ll figure out who their kid is and what the best choice is; what the best fit is. And I think that is really empowering for kids. I really think that when kids say “I want to go to this place,” all of the sudden they think, well, I made the choice so I have to get invested in this, and I’m going to do well. So, we don’t reject kids from the choice town. We try to help parents figure out, is this the right fit for your kid.

You can choose a car, right? Poor people will choose a very different car than rich people. But, whether you’re rich or poor in a choice town, you get the same amount of money to choose your education. That, I think, is really empowering, and really a level playing field for kids.

One question I’m often asked is how many parents show up for parent teacher conferences? 100%. 100% of parents show up for parent teacher conferences because they’ve made the choice that they want their kid to be here.

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