Legislators clarify intent regarding school choice; Call on Board to reverse ruling

Fourteen representatives and senators have signed onto a letter to the State Board of Education and the Secretary of Education clarifying what their intent was when the passed Act 46 into law. It’s not what the SBE and the public school bureaucracy are saying it is.

The letter states and concludes:

“In fact, it was made clear to us prior to passage of Act 46 that while the goal of the law was the consolidation of districts, the intention of the law was to ensure that school choice would be protected in the 90-plus communities that currently enjoy it – even if they took advantage of the merger incentives….

“As legislators who care deeply about protecting the existing school choice, we are calling on the State Board of Education to reverse the recently released decision, and to clarify that all communities that currently enjoy school choice may maintain that school choice regardless of their merger decisions. Further, we are calling on this reversal to be done and made public by Friday, November 13, 2015 so that the communities can continue their community discussions and merger exploration.”

Signatories on the letter as of this posting are:

Rep. Job Tate (R-Mendon)

Rep. Vicky Strong (R-Albany)

Rep. Bob Bancroft (R-Westford)

Rep. Gary Viens (R-Newport)

Rep. Michael Marcotte (R-Coventry)

Rep. Marty Feltus (R- Lyndonville)

Rep. Brian Savage (R-Swanton)

Rep. Mary Morrissey (R-Bennington)

Rep. Carolyn Branagan (R-Georgia)

Rep. Butch Shaw (R-Pitsford)

Rep. Paul Lefebvre (R-Island Pond)

Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland)

Sen. Dustin Degree (R-Franklin)

Sen. Brian Collamore (R-Rutland)

Rep. Marianna Gamache (R-Alburgh). Added 10/30/15

Others have weighed in less formally, including Rep. Linda Martin (D-Wolcott) and Rep. Steve Berry (D-Manchester), both of whom were interviewed by Vermont Watchdog on this topic.

Berry and Martin say the clear intent of Act 46 was to protect school choice.

“I believed that what I was voting for made it clear that school choice would be retained in Act 46,” Berry said.

Martin said she got her assurances from members of the House Education Committee.

“I was assured choice wasn’t being taken away. What that exactly means I’m not sure at this point. It’s very difficult to have choice now.” 

While it would certainly be nice to see every Representative and Senator weigh in on this issue, at the very least those who represent tuitioning constituencies should sign on to the letter.

To see who represents school choice districts and to contact your representatives on this issue, CLICK HERE.



{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken October 30, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Where are the rest of the Bennington reps and senators???? Please sign on or kill act 46, no need down here…


Rep Marianna Gamache October 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm

I also signed onto this letter…can’t explain why my name is not listed as having done so.


Rob October 30, 2015 at 4:19 pm

I put a YES by your name on our tally, Rep. Gamache. Thank you!


Job Tate October 30, 2015 at 4:41 pm

My apologies to Rep. Gamache and her constituents – she was one of the first persons to sign on and did so enthusiastically and it was an oversight that she was left off. Marianna is a staunch supporter of school choice and a fierce advocate for her district. An updated letter with her name on it will be going out shortly!


Jim Bulmer October 31, 2015 at 12:16 am

Until we get a significant number of Dems signing on nothing will change.


Wendy Wilton October 31, 2015 at 2:46 am

Thank you to all the legislators who signed this letter. You are representing your constituents very well, and that’s really refreshing considering the Montpelier trend to eliminate local control in favor of the state and snuffing out choices for VT citizens.


Weiland A. Ross October 31, 2015 at 3:54 pm

The legislature is missing a chance to make a significant and very necessary change
in Vermont’s school choice situation. As it stands now, school choice is a random
thing that is discriminatory by nature since it is based on the accident of residence.
The sensible solution is to make school choice universal among public schools. Private schools would not be affected by this, they are already in a 100% choice situation. One important caveat has to be included:—complete public choice must include the
requirement that blind admissions must be guaranteed. Public schools should not
have the luxury of picking and choosing their students if choice is promised to all. In
practice, the odds are that most students will stay where they are. However, for those who really need a “change of scene” for what ever reason, it should be
available to all, not just to the residents of the “lucky 90” districts that now have it.

Universal school choice with blind admission would allow parents to choose the
schools they think will best serve their child’s needs, and, at the same time, if there
are some schools that shrink to below viable size and have to close, this will be because they do not provide a satisfactory education and in the marketplace
of competence they are failing, and deserve to be closed. It’s a win-win. Educational quality will be rewarded, the incompetent will be weeded out., taxpayers
will either save money or at least feel that they are getting what they pay for.


Ralph Colin October 31, 2015 at 5:19 pm

If the State, the Government and the Education Systems of Vermont declare that they are all institutions governed by a doctrine of which the theory of democracy is a compelling component, then there is no obvious reason that school choice should not be made available to every mature resident of the state so that they may send their child(ren) to a school best suited to the best interests of both the parent and child.

If the reality of school choice is in any reasonable way inhibited, then any claim that the State is governed under the conventions of democratic practices is nothing more nor less than an hypocrisy.

That it is, in fact, an existing hypocrisy is an observance that has been too-long tolerated and it should be terminated without further adieu. Any politician or other government office-holder who denies the reality of this pretense is guilty of professing sanctimony and should be promptly relieved of his/her responsibilities on the grounds that they hold that office under false pretenses.

Neither the State Agency of Education nor its principal “raison d’etre” should be structured as an employment agency primarily for job-seekers in the field of education regardless of the absolute need for such jobs to be filled or maintained. The unmitigated limitation on school choice in Vermont can only be explained as a political effort to protect and expand job opportunities, often entirely unnecessary and/or irrelevant, for members of various unions of employees in the education professions.
It is an unfair, unreasonable and frequently uncalled for and expensive imposition upon all Vermont citizens.

This kind of crap should be vanquished in any community which pretends to be governed by democratic principles.


about time that this crap be eradicated in the State of Vermont.


Ralph Colin October 31, 2015 at 5:23 pm

The final two lines of this comment should be eliminated. They were discarded parts of an earlier draft.


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