5-4-16 – More of Sharpe’s Misrepresentations on Act 46

by Rob Roper

Fresh off getting his rhetorical tail waxed in the comments section of Vermont Digger (and on the EAI blog by John McClaughry), Rep. Dave Sharpe (D-Bristol), the principal architect of Act 46, has taken his musings to the local Front Porch Forum. His misrepresentations continue….

Sharpe says in his post, “we heard quite clearly from taxpayers that property taxes were too high.”

This implies that the goal of Act 46 was to lower or at least control property taxes. It doesn’t. If Sharpe was really so concerned with lowering property taxes, why did he act with head-spinning speed in 2016 to raise the spending caps in the law as it originally passed? Those caps (or high spending thresholds) were the only real attempt at spending restraint in the law and, if left in place, would have led to a lower property tax bill next year. But, rather that let the law “play out” to the benefit of the taxpayers Sharpe claims to have heard so clearly, he caved to special interests in the public education lobby and changed the law to allow more spending. And, no surprise, our property taxes are going up next year as a result.

It’s telling that Sharpe is perfectly willing to let the law “play out” in regard to the disappearance of school choice towns (despite assurances made to colleagues that these districts would be protected in mergers under Act 46 in order to secure their support for passage), but not in regard to protecting taxpayers.

Sharpe tells us, “Evidence is that 1700 is the best size for a school district.”

If that’s what the evidence says is best, then why did you set the number in law at 900? Does it have anything to do with the fact that the Senate Education Committee Chair’s home district has just over 900 students, and therefore won’t have to merge?

Sharpe insists, “We left these difficult discussions up to local communities and avoided deciding for the state just how the size and shape of school districts across the state would look and operate.”

What Sharpe did was create a system of carrots and sticks that lead to a pre-determined outcome. Then, the legislators who passed this system figured they’d be able to sit back and absolve themselves of any responsibility or accountability for the chaos wrought in our communities as they gyrate through these pre-determined paths to those pre-determined outcomes.

Sharpe laments, “unfortunately some are trying to use the provisions in Act 46 to expand the use of vouchers and tuitioning our students.”

Why exactly is that unfortunate? If, as Sharpe says above, the goal of Act 46 was to leave hard decisions up to local communities, and in his conclusion that he wants “citizens to figure out the best way to educate all the children in their community,” and those local communities decide the best way to do that is to expand tuitioning, why not allow communities to make that decision? Or, does that not comport with the pre-determined outcome for which he does not want to be held accountable?

And Sharpe insists, “We have seen at least two examples of each possibility when Guildhall and Concord voted to close their schools and on the other hand Westford and Elmore voted to discontinue vouchers and join the public school system of a neighboring community.”

This is really a dishonest comparison. Guildhall’s and Concord’s decisions to close their public elementary and high schools respectively had NOTHING to do with Act 46 or school district consolidation. These communities’ decisions to close their schools and tuition students does not absolve them from still having to find potential merger partners under Act 46. If they end up merging with an operating school district, they will lose the choice they just voted to embrace. If they don’t merge, the state can still force them to merge with like districts in the future.

Act 46, like pretty much every bill that comes out of David Sharpe’s education committee (and, to be fair, Montpelier since Act 60 in 1997) is about keeping the gravy train of money and power flowing to the special interest groups entrenched in public education, while blurring and diluting the accountability of elected officials regarding education costs. When you look at education laws through that prism and with those goals in mind, they are not a mess, but rather a finely tuned Swiss watch.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Stan Brinkman May 5, 2016 at 1:37 am

Would you be willing to run our Repeal Act 46 Pledge Petition on this website? If so please contact stanbrinkman@brinkmanlaw.org

Reply

Stan Brinkman May 5, 2016 at 1:38 am

See also Save our Schools.

Reply

Jim Bulmer May 6, 2016 at 9:28 pm

Sharpe, you are not hard of hearing. Our property taxes are way too high. Rather than dance around with Act 46 how about Act “reduce spending on education????????????” Why oh why does the cost of educating our kids escalating when the student population continues to decline??????????? We spend far too much per student as it is and we get marginal results in return. How about reducing the administrative load in concert with the dwindling student population each year. If the population drops say 5%, the state spends 5% LESS in the coming year. Never happen, as it makes too much sense!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reply

Doug Richmond, Underhill May 6, 2016 at 11:22 pm

Wild idea. How about if we eliminate 2/3’s of the state and federal mandates, give each school a budget based on the town meeting vote, and let the school boards make the very best of the result for the students, with no strings attached

The idea is only about 25 years old. 30? Things went well until the Carter white house crafted the Education Dep’t, the NEA got big heads (gonads) over the Federal takeover, and the state was flogged into doing whatever the pressure group of the day is demanding.

Thes children are OUR kids, and the taxes are our money.

Reply

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