Rest in Peace School Choice: Unless We Act Now

by Rep. Vicki Strong

You will not see an obituary for school choice in the local news unless you look carefully. It comes in the form of articles on the front pages and in lead stories on television about school consolidations with regards to Act 46. It has occurred in four communities, and several similar efforts are under way around the state. If you live in Westford, Elmore, Timmouth or Fairfield, then you have already experienced the untimely death of school choice in your community.

You may have read positive reviews that school mergers will improve efficiency and allow the retention of school choice. You may have been told the following: (1) a “no’ vote would result in sharp tax increases, and (2) to leverage the allocated incentive dollars for your community, you would had to jump on the bandwagon quickly. Consequently, communities that choose not to merge will be forced to fund the financial benefits offered to merging communities. Such a carrot and stick proposition is playing out unfairly statewide, as it induces towns into making hurried decisions that they might not have chosen otherwise.

In truth, you were misled, as many legislators were, that Act 46 would retain school choice. Worse, voters remain misinformed as they head into merger elections. Perhaps, a town with a small population could still hope to hold on to school choice by special exception. However, the privilege of choice is no longer available to the vast majority of towns that have merged with a non-school choice town.

The resulting disappointment is enormous; Vermonters are losing a proud tradition that has served as a hallmark of life in ninety-four towns all over Vermont for the past 150 years. Legislators who support school choice were hopeful that they could make the necessary adjustments either through sponsored legislation or amendments to an education bill. However, Majority Democrats used every political maneuver available to prevent all such attempts to preserve school choice. The expediency with which they dismissed these important amendments is indeed remarkable.

This significant policy change has not been clearly presented or honestly discussed with the public. To educate Vermonters on the crucial issues at hand, the bipartisan School Choice Caucus is organizing a public forum in the Statehouse on Thursday, April 7 from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. We want to present our understanding of what is taking place with the loss of school choice, and we look forward to hearing from you on why school choice is vital to your community.

We understand that we cannot protect school choice without joining together in a public show of support and determination. School choice is a unique and valuable privilege that honors Vermont families with the ability to make good decisions for their children. Therefore, we cannot and will not let this issue rest in peace.

Vicki Strong is a representative from Albany, VT. She sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Valerie Mullin April 5, 2016 at 1:32 pm

What is not being talked about on the other side is the impact of towns on the receiving end of the tuition towns and the financial impact the loss of the revenue will cause. Those schools should be screaming to have their voices heard. Of course most of all, children lose in Act. 46’s power grab. The chair of the Education committee, David Sharpe also a member of the N.E.A. instead of hanging his head in shame is doubling down. As Gomer Pile would say,”for shame, for shame”.

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Carol Frenier April 6, 2016 at 4:52 pm

What a sad situation, and so frustrating. Thank you for pressing on behalf of this issue.

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