“Have We Created This Problem by Replacing Parents With Government Agencies?”

By Rob Roper

This page has not found many occasions to agree with Rep. Dave Sharpe (D-Bristol), who chairs the House Education Committee. However, during this past week as House Ed debated issues related to Universal Pre-K, Rep. Sharpe has made several refreshing comments and opened some encouraging lines of discussion.

Noting an increase in disruptive students in the classroom since the implementation and expansion of Universal Pre-K programs, Sharpe asked if we have created this problem by replacing parents with government agencies. “I applaud your [Pre-K advocates] efforts, but are we creating these agencies to replace parents because we’ve created a culture where mom and dad get up every day and go do work and aren’t a part of their kids’ lives? Did we create this problem by creating a culture where children are without parents for so much of their life.”


Sharpe also recognized that while these disruptive students have a right to be in the classroom, the other students being disrupted also have a right to an education that they are not getting as a result of the disruptions. How do we fix this?

On a different but related topic, Sharpe later admitted that the reforms enacted after the Brigham Decision (Acts 60/68 as well as pre-k expansion) have failed over two decades to create equity, noting that our state recently received D- in this category from rating agency. “We have districts that spend 20K and districts that spend 10k. It’s hard to argue that you have equity when you have that kind of variation throughout the state,” said Sharpe.

While I doubt Rep. Sharpe has reached the (correct) conclusion that expanded school choice can play a big part in remedying these situations, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. Or several problems. We appreciate his willingness to at least have a frank discussion about these issues.

– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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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.

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