By Stu Lindberg
In the last year I have watched the Act 46 merger votes and re-votes that have been conducted in towns around Vermont, and I have made some observations of this process. Study committees and school boards are strictly guided by the Agency of Education “experts” to present two choices for the voters to pick from. This allows for the illusion that Vermont’s proud tradition of local self governance and direct democracy is still alive.
I participated in the Act 46 vote in my town of Cavendish. From local news reports, and from speaking with my fellow citizens, the choices presented are viewed as negative. One citizen commented that the vote is like being presented “a choice between eating one pile of steaming cr– or another similar pile of steaming cr–.” I did not disagree.
To make the choices more palatable, the voters have been told by superintendents and state “experts” that if you vote for the state’s “preferred” steaming pile, there will be lower educational costs, lower taxes and increased opportunities for students. As an added incentive to vote for the “preferred” pile, the Agency of Education has made it clear that regardless of your vote you will still be dining on their “preferred” steaming pile. This choice is not a choice at all. It is coercion and is tyrannical. Enough hard evidence exists to prove that the bold promises of cost savings, lower taxes and increased opportunities are a pack of lies. Act 46 is an overreach and abuse of state power to increase the state’s power.
It illustrates to me is that direct democracy and local self governance is suffocating in Vermont. Tyranny in the legislature, the governor’s office and the Agency of Education is alive and growing stronger.
What are Vermonters to do? Perhaps all is not lost. I am encouraged that local citizens who were naive about the implications of Act 46 have had their eyes opened wide. Act 46 has been a true bipartisan screwing of the Vermont citizenry. We have elections in our little Vermont republic for a reason. Democrats, Republicans, Progressives and independents that voted for Act 46 can be thrown out of office.
Vermont’s education funding law Act 60/68 passed in 1997 needs to be revisited and repealed. It has exacerbated the increase in taxes by creating a fund that is too often subject to raids by duplicitous politicians. Local control, including education financing, could be returned to the local citizenry, where it rightfully belongs. It is the locals that are paying the bills, and it is the locals that have children and grandchildren in our public schools. The educational system in place now, with control in the hands of distant and out of touch politicians and bureaucrats, is clearly not working. To those Vermonters reading this, you still have choice. You don’t have to let it slip away.
Stu Lindberg writes occasional commentary for True North Reports. He lives in Cavendish, Vermont.