Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: School trends attack small towns

My family and I, like many families in Addison County, love living in this area because of its highly regarded local schools that reflect the virtues of rural Vermont’s good character. We trust in the good faith of its citizenry. So it’s been perplexing to see the processes orchestrated by the political leadership directing the procedures of local school consolidation. 
At every turn, there’s been an angle of presentation that skews biased and jarringly removed from the local character of the area. Perhaps it is not hard to discern why. Directions emanating from the centralizing forces of state government often overshoot the wisdom and common sense of local communities’ self governance.
The state’s court-mandated concept of absolute equity in education requires a centralized, complex, financially engineered formula to fund it. It is now unwinding. They are blaming demographics and the cost of health care. As in most things, the truth is in the details. When they set this process in motion 20 years ago, it primarily impacted the rich ski towns. Now, the cost of this concept and the centralized Montpelier formula that underwrites it is threatening the budgetary and democratic independence of small towns across Vermont.
Though a dilemma, it is perhaps a profound conversation worth having as a state — what does it mean to be a Vermonter? Is it promising to every child across the state a Montpelier-engineered absolute equal amount of educational equity, or is it assuring that the budgetary and democratic independence of Vermont’s small town communities, citizenry, and schools remain vitally intact?
It is becoming increasingly clear that we as Vermonters cannot have both. There is no free lunch. As it stands now, the state is making the decision for us. They are trying to do it in a way that minimizes complaint. And in doing so they are inexorably altering both the social fabric and the fundamental character of what it means to be a rural Vermonter.
Ethan Miller
Weybridge

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