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Support for Vermont public education at this juncture requires that voters who are strong supporters of public education (including myself) take a realistic look at the situation.

Several things are obvious.

One is that the economic problems in the state are dire.

Two is that the public schools are not functioning adequately to meet the needs of the children.

Three is that the Vermont NEA has ignored the scientific data that shows there is very little, if any, serious danger to staff and students from the COVID pandemic. Check with Dr. Fauci if you think I am incorrect.

Four is that now is an excellent opportunity for scrutinizing the education system with the purpose of making it more effective without automatically throwing more money into it.

The comments in a letter to the Journal last week by Mr. Herb Ogden regarding my arguments for evaluation rather than automatically following the VT NEA party line are not valid. Actually, he has helped prove my point. The Vermont State Tax Commissioner has predicted a 9 cent or 10 cent rise in the school tax rates.

I did not make up the numbers that show the BRSU having a $2 million surplus to account for. These numbers were reported in the Journal, which, in turn, cited the district business administrator as the source. I am familiar with business administrator, and have a very high respect for her talents. The BRSU is fortunate that she has not moved on to a greener pasture.

As for “attending” a BRSU or a Taconic & Green board meeting by “remote,” that suggestion is a joke. Board sessions are generally opaque when you can attend in person. Filtering them through zoom does not in any way encourage public participation. If there is any “fiscal foggery” involved, the bulk of Mr. Ogden’s letter exemplifies it.

Now for a hard look at the realities. I am not “unfairly” attacking teachers. I am pointing out that the Vermont NEA, by refusing to work to reopen the schools for full-time in-person learning, is harming children. Remote learning for older students is generally not very successful. For younger students, it is a sham.

They need human contact with teachers and peers to grow socially as well as intellectually.

If you ask a teen-ager their opinion of remote learning they will usually just snicker, or give a smile and a politely evasive answer, in case you might be a snitch.

As for the younger ones, the number of homeschoolers has doubled according to the State Dept. of Education. This is a clear indication that many parents do not see any value in zoom learning for their 7-year-olds.

One wonders how many more parents would opt out of the public system if their personal circumstances permitted them the luxury of taking charge of their child’s education.

Unanswered is my question regarding the duties of the special teachers.

Do the speech therapists and reading teachers really make house calls? Dealing with students identified as having special needs is a difficult matter.

Some of them only need a little extra coaching. Many of them need more serious attention on a one on one basis. How is this accomplished? Inquiring minds would appreciate an answer, not more obfuscation.

The dictum to never let a good crisis go to waste has never been more true. There is an opportunity now to reform an education system that has been underperforming for years in spite of ever-increasing costs.

The public must demand that the education “professionals” become true professionals and start doing the jobs they are expected to do. Vote “no” until they re-earn the respect they deserved once upon a time.

Weiland Ross writes a regular column for the Journal.


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