Education Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Ripton chose to exercise rights

I was astounded by Oliver Olsen’s comments in the Addison Independent article last week referring to Ripton’s withdrawal from ACSD. He said, “Other communities contemplating similar activity should view Ripton’s experience as a cautionary tale and should consider postponing any withdrawal actions…” I cannot believe Chairman Olsen warned Vermont’s small towns against exercising their constitutional, democratic rights to self-determination. Has he suspended the Federal and State Constitutions?

If I am reading his statement correctly, Chairman Olsen has directed that Ripton be punished for achieving independence from an educational system that has disenfranchised and marginalized the town and its children. In retribution for Ripton’s independent spirit, the Vermont State Board of Education has relegated Ripton to the same powerless negotiating position that the town has struggled to be free of for the past two years.

Oliver Olsen’s public statement last week subjected Ripton to a virtual public whipping as a warning to other Vermont small towns who might show the same courage and initiative. As Vermonters, we have the right to an equitable voice in directing the education of our children. This right is not diminished in proportion to the population of the town we live in. We do not live in a third-rate totalitarian state in which an insecure petty apparatchik can retaliate against the peasants of a small village for upholding their rights of self-determination.

Given what the Chair of the Vermont State Board of Education has declared, I would warn the small towns of this state that democracy does not defend itself — we must defend democracy ourselves. The political fight does not evidently end at the schoolhouse door.

The State Board of Education and the Addison Central School District advocate “equity” as one of the principal requisites for children in Vermont and in the Addison Central School District. Apparently educational and democratic equity is not essential for children who live in small towns whose citizens insist on democratic rights.

Here are the State Board Rules for the State of Vermont Agency of Education: The powers and duties of the Board include making regulations governing: attendance and records of attendance of all pupils, standards for student performance, adult basic education programs, approval of independent schools, disbursement of funds, and equal access for all Vermont students to a quality education. (italics mine; you can read it yourself online at

Nothing here about cautioning small Vermont towns to shut up and close their schools.

Millard Cox



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