Letter: Choice still matters in Rupert-Pawlet Act 46 effort

To the Editor:

For those readers who have not followed Rupert and Pawlet's second attempt to merge under Act 46, there is a lot to be learned. And I would venture to say that it's not what is being discussed that matters, but what is not — and it has nothing to do with the quality of education in New York or Vermont. It has everything to do with oversight and a parent's ability to affect their child's education.

There are numerous school districts in Vermont that access education by using out-of-state schools, but designation to New York schools sets Rupert and Pawlet apart. Most notable are the fine interstate school districts along the eastern border of Vermont, which are governed by interstate school boards, thus allowing community members from both states to influence education for the benefit of their students. The New York-Vermont Interstate School Compact, 16 VSA 800, was never enacted in New York; consequently, we do not have an interstate board or the ability to support the curriculums of NY schools or provide oversight for our students.

Additionally, 16 VSA 822 provides public high school choice, statewide in Vermont. Implicit in that piece of legislation is the parent's right to determine a school that best meets their child's needs. Moreover, all other school districts in the state that access education in New Hampshire or Massachusetts provide families with the Vermont average tuition to use at a public or independent school in Vermont, or to attend an out-of-state school.

We are the only two districts in Vermont that designate to New York schools, and the piece of legislation that allows designation, 16 VSA 827, only technically provides access to education in Vermont.

For many in our community, 16 VSA 827 denies practical access as a financial barrier is in place that limits funds by allowing the per-pupil tuition charged by highly subsidized New York schools to be used for education in Vermont. Consequently, we are the only districts that do not empower parents to affect their child's education through either representation or choice, and if our merger committee votes to continue designation, this concern will re-surface, again and again. There will always be parents who want to influence their child's education and determine how and where their needs are best meet.

Lastly, there is still plenty to learn about our merger process, our committee and our current school boards by watching and listening to the videos on Peg TV, and I would urge you to do so.

Melanie Cole



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