9-10-15 – Mathis’s Latest Attack on Choice in Education

John McClaughry

Former Rutland  Northeast Superintendent William Mathis PhD has over the years been the most outspoken Vermont critic of parental choice in education, aside from the Vermont-NEA public relations team.Gov. Shumlin appointed Mathis to the State Board of Education four years ago.

Last week Mathis published a lengthy recital of Vermont’s long and uneven history of lurching toward consolidation of its public schools, culminating now with the controversial Act 46. This is the first act ever to confer upon the Commissioner (now Secretary) of Education the power to mandate consolidation of school districts that don’t consolidate on their own. This will happen in 2018.

I have no problem with Mathis’s history on this issue, but three sentences in particular attracted my attention. The first two are: “The protection of existing town level school choice in the law may prevent the law from being successfully implemented. This structure could potentially freeze 90 towns and lock out many alternative arrangements.”

Mathis doesn’t explain just how school choice will prevent Act 46 from being “successfully implemented”, and the second sentence is largely impenetrable.

But then comes this: “Given that choice schemes cause segregation, the potential for harm to equality of opportunity exists.”

Segregation is an ugly word for anyone who remembers the South’s battle to keep black Americans down. In 1959 Prince Edward County, Virginia closed its public schools and allowed white (but not black) students to take public funds to segregated all-white schools. The Supreme Court struck down the funding in 1964, marking the end of Massive Resistance.

But how do “choice schemes” cause segregation, when every child has equal opportunity, including the means, to choose among a number of schools, all of which are forbidden to discriminate in admissions based on race, color, creed, sexual orientation, etc.? This is obviously a cheap shot.

One could argue that the students compelled by the state to attend a public school have les opportunity than students who can choose. Right! And the remedy is to let all students choose, among a variety of education providers competing to meet their needs.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Quackenbush September 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm

FY2011 47% of VT STATE TAXES went to Public Education~ I don’t think closed door meetings in Montpelier for the consolidation of 272 School Districts (Act153 & Act46) is the answer to cutting taxes! Act 46 will only diminish local CONTROL and REDISTRIBUTE taxes by relinquishing local Education budgets to unaccountable Montpelier. Montpelier has a SPENDING problem! The best way to curtail spending is to be accountable by getting rid of WASTE & COMPLACENCY namely underperforming teachers/programs that are protected by unions and big lawyer mediators! Also, access to Education has become much easier and should be less expensive with the implementation of CommonCore and the internet. There are many online self tutorials such as Khan Institute which is FREE and could be done without any cost to local taxpayers. Furthermore kids could do self study at home or at night without school infrastructure. Also libraries are becoming more obsolete as many citizens get their information/books online. Also, Montpelier has its’ eyes set on Act 60’s redistricting because it’s a “win-win” for control of public real estate. Empty school buildings are a GREAT asset for public redevelopment or repurpose. Our local municipalities would pay the taxes on public repurposed infrastructure.

I truly believe Vermont is headed towards a Nationalized Statist governance that will control all of the private sector enterprises especially information gathering Common Core Referendum. A one size Education Referendum of Consolidation towards Act 153-46, 60-68 were intended to be fair, cost-cutting and well representative but they are far from that. Montpelier has a spending problem that has gone virtually unchecked and that’s a big problem! As successful business owner I find that I have to adjust to increases in business liabilities (ie: fuel, permits, utilities & taxes) Most Unionized contractual Government-NEA employees/teachers don’t worry about market increases/decreases as they rely on unions/mediators to negotiate contracts/budgets for them. Vermont’s Bureaucratic regulation & legislation is putting a lot of hardworking Vermonters out of work and businesses out of business~ However, Vermont Pubic Education is solvent and has a very fluid level of STATE & FEDERAL grants aka TAXPAYER MONIES coming in even though student enrollment is on the decline. Act 46 is another bureaucratic boondoggle put in place to control, redistribute and/or dictate how to spend OUR “LOCAL” taxes. As a resident of a “sending town” I have seen an increase every year for the past 14 yrs! 80-90% of my Property taxes goes to Education! Parents are the best evaluators and guarantors of “fairness” of their children’s education. Parents and Residents(local & out of state) of sending towns shouldn’t be burdened by immense tax irregularities & conditions that Montpelier deems “fair & equitable” because they have shown time and time again that our hard earned dollars are divvied up behind CLOSED DOORS of UNACCESSIBLE BUREAUCRATIC DESPOTS who ARE NOT FAIR or EQUITABLE~All you have to do is look at your Property Tax bill~

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J Paul Giuliani September 13, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Rob – The Mathis piece is an interesting and informative exposition of how we got to where we are today. What’s missing, however, is any reference to the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the parlor – the single factor which ensures continuation on the road of public education mediocrity. The role of the federal government in the public education systems of the states means a one-size-fits-all dictate. Innovation and initiative have no place in a regimen whose parameters are set by the feds.The laudable goal of educational opportunity has morphed into a race for the lowest common denominator. If you want to see how this works in real time, I encourage you to watch a televised meeting of the State Board. What passes for “local control” now appear to be an exercise in complying with the conditions attached to federal funding.

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