Commentary

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Commentary: Focus on the students

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he first major hurdle of the 2016 legislative session was resolved Saturday when lawmakers approved a tweak to the cost containment threshold in Act 46, last year’s education governance reform bill. The debate echoed many familiar conversations about our school system. There were speeches about declining enrollment, property taxes, and the relationship between state and local government. But what made the 2016 debate remarkable was that many lawmakers discussed the state’s educational system without ever mentioning how our decisions impact Vermont kids. The irony was not lost on me – earlier in the day, my fourteen-year-old son, Eli, visited the State House on a class fieldtrip from People’s Academy. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Four Years After Irene, Renewal In Waterbury

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his past August, we marked the four year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene. Memories of communities besieged by flood waters, houses knocked from their foundations and families forever changed are still fresh for each of us, and for so many other Vermonters. But just as Vermont rebuilt from the historic 1927 floods, Vermonters have pulled together to build back stronger, smarter and better after Irene. This has required new and creative thinking, and significant collaboration between communities, the State of Vermont and the federal government. Nowhere in Vermont is that story better told than in Waterbury. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Lara’s Legacy

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lancing through my morning paper the other day, an entry in the “police log” caught my eye, and not in a good way. It read “A woman threatened to ‘go all Jody Herring’ on a Department for Children and Families caseworker.” It was a harsh reminder of how important VSEA’s current campaign to enhance on-the-job safety for DCF workers is. But this group of workers is not alone. VSEA members working in the Employment Services Division, Office of Child Support, Probation and Parole, Corrections and other agencies and departments throughout state government have also told their union that they would like improved on-the-job safety. VSEA members recognize that our request for increased worker safety protections will cost money, but another Lara Sobel tragedy is something no one wants, and, judging by the newspaper entry I told you about (and other scary incidents workers have been told me about), time is particularly of the essence here. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Exploring Vermont’s State Parks

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hose who grew up in Vermont likely experienced a childhood with adventures through snowy woods, discoveries in neighborhood brooks, and foot races through grassy fields. In Vermont we’re so fortunate to be surrounded by a natural world that offers so much. It truly is nature’s playground that we all get to enjoy. For many, it is what ties them to our state. For others, it is what draws them to put down roots here. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: School boards rise to the occasion

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he overwhelming support for school district unification demonstrated by the voters of Essex, Essex Junction and Westford this week is reflective of the visionary leadership of the school boards in those communities. As the three communities stated in their unification plan presented to the voters, “[We are] guided by the commitment to enhance learning opportunities and equity for all students and to find efficiencies within our educational system that respect the financial investments of our communities and taxpayers. … We can deploy our resources to better support the journey of the student when we are able to plan for the entire journey, and allow the resources to be strategically aligned with our common mission and vision to prepare our students for the next stage of their lives in a rapidly changing world.”

This commitment to equity, increased student opportunity, and cost effectiveness is not unique to these school boards or communities – it is a shared commitment of the school boards of the State of Vermont. Over the past several years the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA) has been engaged in a serious dialogue with our members regarding the best public policy approaches to address declining enrollment, rising costs, increasing numbers of students with significant learning needs, leadership turnover, and growing inequity in student opportunity. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Local control matters

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ermont schools struggle to recruit quality teachers, to maintain their facilities, and to keep students in their classrooms. They struggle to provide quality education to our children who need skills for todays’ workforce. They struggle to sell tax increases — which they don’t control — to property owners. And, now they struggle to navigate a confusing and oversold education reform package known as Act 46. Lawmakers who voted for Act 46 now call for “fixes” and “tweaks” to smooth over the most objectionable parts. But, there is no fixing it — Act 46 must be repealed. Continue Reading →

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