Issue Position: Public Schools
"Local public schools are among our most important public institutions. And they are among the most accountable: a constant topic of discussion, debate and scrutiny, as they should be. Schools need our financial support, but our teachers, para-educators, staff, board members and administrators deserve our moral support, and respect, as well. "
The Core of Our Communities: As a former educator myself I understand the importance of our local public schools for all they do for our towns and cities. They are where we play sports, listen to concerts, vote and watch our kids and our communities grow and change. But, these days discussions about our schools seem to be mostly about how - and how much - we pay. Fair enough. I want us to consider, however, what we get for what we pay - the quality of our schools. And we have to think about how much we are asking of our schools. As families get busier - often with both parents working - and the world becomes a more complicated and often scary place, our schools are asked to shoulder more responsibility.
Supporting Our Local Public Schools: Too often our schools become scapegoats for other issues and problems. Fuel, health care and other costs are going up and seem out of our control and congress seems more interested in tax breaks for the rich and wars for oil than dealing with these issues. Our local school budget may seem like the only way we can control costs and taxes. But, rather than attack our schools, let's attack the real cost drivers in our school budgets and support our schools. As governor I would oppose costly state and federal mandates and oppose policies that focus on high stakes standardized tests and force teachers to teach to the test rather than to the needs of students. I would support giving public schools the flexibility to meet the needs of all our kids. Not everyone learns best behind a desk or scores well on standardized tests; students should have more options to engage in self-directed learning, community activities and work experiences. Finally, I would oppose the Two Vote mandate that requires some schools to vote twice to pass a budget, as I believe it undermines local decision-making and the work of local school boards.
The Higher Education Funding Gap: Vermont is one of five states who currently spends more on corrections than we do on higher education. For every dollar spent on higher education, $1.37 is spent on our prisons, which now account for 10% of our total state budget each year. This is beyond unacceptable. Vermont is consistently ranked last or near last on our funding of our institutions of higher learning. Recent budget cuts mean our Vermont State College System, already poorly funded, will be slightly less than level funded this year. It's time to make higher learning the priority it should be, so that all Vermonters can afford the education so necessary to be competitive in today's world.