Holcombe’s Inane Reason for Leaving the Scott Administration

July 18, 2019

By Rob Roper

Newly minted gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Holcombe in her announcement press conference stated that one reason she left her position as Education Secretary was Governor Scott’s determination to institute “a statewide voucher plan that would pull millions out of our public schools … and give that money to private schools that mostly benefit privileged Vermonters.” (Seven Days)

Firstly, would it were true that Scott had had actually proposed and promoted a statewide voucher system, but he hasn’t. So, there’s that bit of weirdness to the claim.

But, regarding the policy directly, here are some thoughts to consider regarding Holcombe’s statement:

In Vermont, the students in ninety or so towns who are lucky enough to have school choice under our 150 year old tuitioning policy get to pick from both public and independent schools. Why does the former Secretary of Education think that if, given a choice, parents representing “millions of dollars” will pull out of the public schools and choose Independents? Does the chef know something about what’s in the stew here?

Also, under the current system, where kids are forced to attend the public school they are assigned within imaginary district lines, the wealthy truly are the privileged class with multiple options. If the local school doesn’t work, the wealthy can afford buy their way out of the system by paying tuition to an independent school regardless of access to a voucher. The wealthy are more likely to have the flexibility, financial and otherwise, to choose to live either in a district with the best public schools (usually more expensive for real estate and property taxes), or, having their cake and eating it too, to move to a tuitioning town to get the subsidy for an independent school or the ability to pick the public school of their choice.

It’s the poor kids who are stuck. And if the school they’re stuck in doesn’t happen to be the right fit, that can be an educational death sentence.

Vouchers and school choice bring more equity to publicly funded education. They give the poor an opportunity much more equal to their wealthier counterparts in terms of the ability to find and benefit from an educational environment that is right for them. It gives them economic and political leverage within the public school system to make demands for better service (or we’ll leave along with our money) that currently only wealthier parents can exert.

To support school choice with tuition following the child is to support greater educational, financial, and social equity. Opposing it is to support a monopoly that exploits the poor and, if you look at the disparity in outcomes between income classes, is failing them miserably in the process.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

H. Brooke Paige July 19, 2019 at 1:40 pm


The old adage “One picture is worth a thousand words” aptly applies here ! You posting of the photo of a rotten apple says it all !



Charles Marrin July 19, 2019 at 10:44 pm

Since the population of the entire state of Vermont is less than 1 million, how can any policy of any kind whatever affect millions of Vermont schoolchildren?


Rob July 20, 2019 at 1:37 am

Hi Charles. She was referring to millions of dollars, not millions of kids.


Bruce Buxton July 20, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Good take on the voucher issue. And how many members of congress send their children to private schools? And if most parents are not competent to choose a school for their children (a common objection to vouchers), shouldn’t the government be choosing their grocery stores, cars and clothing?


R.W. Holden July 20, 2019 at 8:50 pm

Yup! That’s the plan. You nailed that one.

The grocery store project just started (two item limit – carry one in each hand), the unusable car project is well down the road (taking up four hours of your time every other day), and I can’t wait for the mandate to wear hooded black shirts (so you’re ready to demonstrate whenever the command comes).


William Hays July 26, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Love the “two-item” grocery store limit! No need for free “polluting” plastic bags, which only get re-used a couple of times. Do feel free to buy them from the retailer., when your ‘Food Stamps’ arrive.


Dick Tracy July 20, 2019 at 9:27 pm

Well said, Rob. The Vermont Left love to beat the class envy drum about every possible issue, not the least of which is public education.


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