• An invitation on education
    March 20,2014

    This is an open invitation from the minority leaders in the House and Senate to the education community. That would include teachers, administrators, parents, students, taxpayers and the host of organizations that represent each. We’d like to invite you to engage with us in a sincere attempt at getting to the root cause of a problem we legislators will be asked to fix. We believe that our current education funding system is not working, with rising costs and taxes in the face of declining student enrollment. We also believe frustration

    can result when government reacts to such a problem with a top-down mentality that can interfere with your ability to do your jobs.

    We begin with a premise that is hopefully irrefutable: The main objective of education is to ensure that our children grow up with the knowledge, skills and habits necessary to obtain success in society. With that in mind, some obstacles that potentially interfere with our ability to reach that objective are easily identified:

    1. Money. The fact is, Vermont has a limited capacity for raising money. The federal government, long a major contributor, is cutting back in order to resolve its own problems. Nevertheless, we believe education is our top priority and thus deserves first crack at available resources. But in the face of declining student enrollment, we need to focus on designing a system that meets our mutual objective without overwhelming available resources.

    2. Bureaucracy. Politicians have heard for decades that the education community abhors unfunded state mandates. We hear you, and we want to help support you without getting in your way by creating unnecessary obstacles.

    3. Taxes. We believe the vast majority of Vermonters are willing to support the education of our children. Free public and tuition-based private education systems cannot be supported without all citizens contributing to that effort. We also believe Act 60/68 needlessly removed a method of controlling costs when it disconnected the ability of taxpayers to have a direct say on their own property taxes.

    Our observations here are by no means exhaustive. Our desire is that you will engage with us in a constructive discussion so that we may all reach consensus for positive change. All of us deserve no less.

    So here is our request to you: Tell us in specific and concise terms what changes you would make to enable us to meet our mutual educational objectives. What would make it easier for us all to teach, support and learn without needless government interference? We will do our best to keep your thoughts in mind as we move forward when creating new legislation. You can reach us at the email addresses below. We look forward to hearing from you.

    Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton, is the House minority leader. Sen. Joe Benning, R-Lyndon, is the Senate minority leader. They can be reached at dturner@leg.state.vt.us and jbenning@leg.state. vt.us.

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