Time For A Change

(Editor’s note: The following Commentary is from a Caledonian Record Editorial on December 3, 2012, which they graciously granted permission to re-print)

The State Board of Education has forwarded the names of three candidates for Vermont’s first Secretary of Education. Two of them are current Vermont Superintendents, one from Bennington-Rutland and one from Orange Southwest. Both have considerable experience outside education, and both appear to have good reputations for management and innovation in their rural Vermont supervisory unions.

Then there is the current Commissioner, Armando Vilaseca. There are at least three good reasons to toss Vilaseca overboard in favor of someone better.

One is Vilaseca’s poorly disguised hostility to independent schools and parental choice in education. That was made evident a couple of years ago in a meeting in Walden, and emphasized in his favored proposals for Regional Education Districts. These would be designed to either abolish existing and cherished parental choice from the beginning, or after a transition period.

Then there is his urge to force regionalized school districts under ever more rigid control from Montpelier (i.e., him). He got to the point of saying that if the locals didn’t regionalize to his liking, he wanted the power to force it on them. Even the liberal legislature balked at that idea.

Finally, when asked by the Rutland Herald in August 2010 to produce certain documents in connection with the Challenge for Change program, Vilaseca simply said no. He didn’t claim the documents were exempted from the open records law; he just decided not to release them. The Herald’s headline: “Education Commissioner flouts public record law.” This was unconscionable.

Vilaseca summed up his philosophy of education before the House Education Committee three years ago. Here’s his key sentence: “I think that at some point as educational leaders we make a decision about what’s best for kids and then everyone has to be moving in that direction.”

That’s enough for us. The Governor should drop this guy like a hot potato, and choose a Secretary who stands for parental choice, transparency, innovation, competition, and respect for local school districts and voters.