Defund Our Systematically Racist Public School System

June 17, 2020

by Rob Roper

The latest Vermont standardized test scores are out, and the results are not good, especially for students who have been “historically marginalized.” This is nothing new. The “achievement gap” has been persistent for decades.

In 2017, when these numbers came out, then Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcomb stated, “The achievement gaps between our vulnerable youth and students with greater privilege remain….”

Cut and paste from 2016 when she said, “Our most vulnerable youth- those living in poverty, with disabilities, from marginalized populations and who speak English as a second – continue to have test scores that are on average lower than our general population.”

Cut and paste from Holcomb’s predecessor, Armando Vilaseca, who said when he left office in 2013: “I am particularly concerned that we still have not made major progress in closing the achievement gap for students living in poverty.” Though it would be more accurate to say that our public school model has not made ANY progress in addressing this issue.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

In a 2015 report titled, Kicked Out! Unfair and Unequal Student Discipline in Vermont’s Public Schools by Vermont Legal Aid reported, “Vermont’s students with disabilities and students of color were two to three times more likely to be excluded from school through suspension and expulsion.”

The “reforms” put in place, designed to bolster a flawed system not alter it (expanding public school oversight to Pre-K, Act 46 consolidations, etc.), clearly are not working and are arguably making the problems worse. As you can see from looking at this year’s posted scores from the Agency of Education…

X.1 ~~~English scale scores~~~ X.2 X.3 ~~~Math scale scores~~~ X.4 X.5
Grade Historically marginalized Not historically marginalized Difference Historically marginalized Not historically marginalized Difference
Grade 3 2394 2459 65 2407 2470 63
Grade 4 2434 2506 72 2446 2507 61
Grade 5 2471 2550 79 2470 2541 71
Grade 6 2491 2568 77 2475 2557 82
Grade 7 2516 2598 82 2497 2582 85
Grade 8 2524 2605 81 2502 2595 93
Grade 9 2528 2616 88 2492 2583 91

… the longer marginalized populations remain in the system the larger the gap grows.

Perhaps it’s time to accept that this is a structural problem with the system. The way we provide education does not work for the most vulnerable in the system, and hasn’t worked for a long time. Forcing any child, especially those from marginalized groups, into a system that, as the evidence repeatedly shows, does not work for them is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

According to a VT Digger article, “Bill Mathis, the managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, said that both the age of the scores, and the fact that they largely reflected longstanding and stubborn achievement gaps, suggested that they offered little insight into what is working or not in Vermont’s schools. ‘The ball game is socio economics,’ said Mathis, who also sits on (but was not speaking for) the State Board of Education. ‘You’re measuring socio economics more so than the quality of the school.’”

In any other context this would be derided as a “dog whistle.”

Stop Police Terror D.C. Project organizer Sean Blackmon said in a June 9 NPR story regarding policing reforms, “We keep seeing a massive investment into the D.C. police even though policing isn’t working. I mean, homicides are going up in Washington, D.C. So, we have to ask ourselves, why does money keep going to an institution, an agency that is clearly not working?”

The same could be said of the Vermont public school system. And should be.

— Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

gdp June 20, 2020 at 11:46 am

Statistical correlation is no way to measure education. Education, as stated before, is highly personal, beginning before birth, but at least in the home under the ongoing supervision of parents well attuned to the requirements, including the strengths and weaknesses of formal education, where, contrary to the modern illegal drift of in loco parentis moral indoctrination in the way of ‘secular humanism’, the purpose and scope is not so much the development of the muscles enabling the limbs, as in disciplining the muscle between the ears, and there the old fashioned way of honing the most important attribute of the mind, the memory, by continuous repetition leading to sound instruction.


Mike June 20, 2020 at 12:43 pm

It’s not complicated. Close the schools which do not educate and use the funds to subsidize CHARTER SCHOOLS!!!! Let the libs and NEA scream as loud as they choose. We’re looking for a solution to the poor performance problem. Those in or running the system have FILED!!! Intelligent folks recognize the reality that if one approach fails, it’s time to move on and find a better way. As noted earlier, it’s not complicated.


thome muir June 20, 2020 at 6:25 pm

Vermont is perhaps the most hostile State in the union when it comes to religious education. Their desire to make it almost impossible for Catholic schools to function is beyond comprehension. Statistically, Vermont is one of the ” whites States ” in the union, Catholic schools have a much larger percentage of minorities than do the public schools yet the powers to be at the State level continue to mandate that all Catholic schools are not given any financial assistance, to me that is racial inequity..


forbes morrell June 21, 2020 at 1:53 pm

Spend your top money on a super guidance councilor first ! Next implement their recommendations and you will see that education can work and give meaning to the development of students.. Next hire a liaison between the school and home place to identify any problems that may effect the students performance. Use test scores last !


John B June 27, 2020 at 2:55 pm

Reduce the student to teacher ratio. Set up three groups of learning capabilities through minimum basic skill testing. Break up the group of under privileged learners into 1on 1 or 2 on 1 tutorials with special education or volunteers. Combine schools with poor educational scores with schools of higher score. Revise no child left behind


Justin Turco June 27, 2020 at 9:23 pm

For towns where it could work, I propose we bring back the one room schoolhouse. We’ve got one in my little town. Hire a teacher to act a facilitator/ keeper of the order. The kids bring a lunch or everybody coordinates lunch like they used to do. No big sports programs, no special organizations for every crazy idea you can think of and no off the wall flags flying on behalf of the latest fad. Reading, writing, arithmetic and the very watchful eye of the teacher making sure that everybody is treated and treats there fellow student like family.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

Latest News

VT Left Wing Media Bias Unmasks Itself

July 24, 2020 By Rob Roper Dave Gram was a long time reporter for the Associated Press, is currently the host of what’s billed on WDEV as a...

Using Guns for Self Defense – 3 Recent Examples

July 24, 2020 By John McClaughry  The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal last week published eleven news stories about citizens using a firearm to stop a crime. Here are...

FERC ruling on solar subsidies could help Vermont ratepayers

July 21, 2020 By John McClaughry Last Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finalized its updates to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), in what the majority...

The Moderate Left’s Stand for Free Speech

July 17, 2020 By David Flemming Harper’s Magazine, a long-running monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts, is hardly what you would call a ‘politically...

Trump’s Regulatory Bill of Rights

July 16, 2020 by John McClaughry “President Trump [last May] issued an executive order entitled  ‘Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery.’ The executive order includes a regulatory bill...