The following first appeared as a Caledonia Record Editorial
Last year the North Bennington village school district voted to close its K-8 school and tuition pupils to a school of their choice. Then local district leaders created an independent school and leased the former North Bennington public school building to receive most of the newly empowered choice pupils. These moves were made out of fear that the state – by forcing North Bennington to consolidate into a larger supervisory union – would eliminate local representation and control.
Last Thursday Representative Johanna Donovan, D — Burlington (chair of the education committee) invented a bill (H.461) seeking to subvert future districts from making the same survivalist move that North Bennington did. H.461 “proposes to prohibit a school district from closing a public school for the purpose of reopening it as an approved independent school serving essentially the same population of students.”
We assume the VT-NEA is behind H.461. After all, the NEA passed Resolution A-12 at their 2012 convention in Washington, D.C. which states, “The Association believes that closed public school buildings should be sold or leased only to those organizations that do not provide direct educational services to students and/or are not in direct competition with public schools.”
Not surprisingly, new Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca testified in favor of H.461. The bill remains in committee – likely awaiting an omnibus bill onto which it might attach itself.
The union and Vilaseca are of one mind when it comes to school choice. They hate it. H.461 is their latest monopolistic move to dis-empower families and communities. As such it strikes us as actually quite feeble.
What we’d really love to see is a bill that prohibits unions from dictating educational policy, driving up costs and lowering standards. “We” aren’t holding our breath.
The provisions of H. 461 have now been inserted as Secs. 16-18 of H.521, now in House Appropriations.
John McClaughry is the Vice President of the Ethan Allen Institute