Education has been a top priority of mine for many years, and continues to be so. I firmly believe that whatever benefits our children ripples forward to benefit everybody, no matter where you live, and I will remain ever watchful in Montpelier on how decisions impact kids…our future.
In Vermont we enjoy one of the best education systems not only in our country, but in fact in the world. This is not to say we don’t have room for improvement…there is always room for improvement…but it’s unfortunate that all too often any discussion around education as of late centers on costs and not achievement. It needs to be recognized that our school boards do a remarkable job providing educational opportunities for all children, no matter what the individual needs may be, while always being mindful of the bottom line for taxpayers. This has been the case for a very long time, even though some would have you believe otherwise (please see my “Commentaries” page on this site).
We are now moving towards proficiency-based learning…advancing students to the next phase of their education based on mastery of subjects rather than their age…which is how it should be. When our kids are handed their high school diplomas, they should be confident to step out into the world on the cusp of adulthood, ready for whatever comes next: continuing their education, joining the workforce, serving in the military, starting a family, travelling, or whatever. As long as they are happy, productive members of society we all win.
Some years ago I was a delegate from Vermont at a national school board conference and during a panel discussion one of the panelists, who was clearly not a strong supporter of public education, stated (paraphrasing here) that you cannot have an equitable finance system and good student outcomes…that you can have one or the other, but not both. I raised my eyebrows, and thought “Wait, what?” but did not have to go any further because another member of the audience challenged her, asking if she was saying there was no place anywhere in the United States that connected the two. After a pause and a heavy sigh the panelist reluctantly responded “Well…there is Vermont.” And in an interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show (Oct. 30, 2013, Part 2 of the extended interview, about two minutes in) when asked if there were any places in our country that get education right, Diane Ravitch said she was “…very impressed with Vermont.” And rightly so.
We do get education right here, and I look forward to the day when we can all celebrate that. Loudly.
Of course, children begin retaining important life lessons at a very young age…for a brief statement on my recognition of the value of quality childcare and early education please scroll down to read my response to a query from Let’s Grow Kids.
Ken has been a consistent and strong voice supporting educational programs in Vermont for decades. See his statement on the importance of childcare and early education on "Let's Grow Kids", replicated below:
"I served on school boards representing Wallingford for 20 years, and have always recognized the value of quality childcare and early education. I became chair of the Wallingford Elementary Board in 2002, about the same time a Pre-K Study Committee, chaired by Duncan Kilmartin, was formed in Montpelier. I attended hearings of that committee, and vice-chair Jim Condos sent me much information about early ed. It was not a case of me needing convincing of the importance, but rather a gathering of the substantial evidence available supporting that importance, so I could convey that information to my fellow board members and the community.
I began to promote establishing a Pre-K program in Wallingford...we were the only elementary school in the Rutland South Supervisory Union without one...and faced much pushback from some board members who felt we needed to focus resources on K-12. The proposal failed to pass muster the first year I called for a vote, as well as the second...which was frustrating as I thought I had a majority but one member abstained, wanting more information. The third time was a charm, however, when the abstainer from the year before supported it. It may be worth noting that year a conference committee in Montpelier had included a moratorium on establishing new Pre-K programs in an education bill, which would have thwarted my efforts yet again, but I convinced them through a series of e-mails to remove that provision from the bill and we finally started a program, collaborating with our local daycare in Wallingford.
I do not profess to have simple answers to ensuring availability and affordability of childcare/early ed, but I have no doubt about the value and will support and promote the well-being of our children at every opportunity."