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Swan song for the Vermont State Board of Education and a guv’s coup d’etat?

Ohanian Comment: The governor of Vermont, whom people like to peg as 'progressive,' made a successful power grab to wrest control of education policy from the Vermont State Board of Education. I wrote letters of protest to the board and to every member of the house and senate legislative committee. I received the courtesy of one reply.

This is kissing kin to mayor control of urban districts. They all want to be echo chambers to corporate wishes. First on our governor's plate is making algebra and geometry requirements for a high school diplomoa.

Editorâs note: This op-ed by Rama Schneider was originally posted in ConnectedVermont, a blog for discussion of education, with an emphasis on school board-related issues hosted by the author. Schneider is a member of the Williamstown School Board.

by Rama Schneider

I was able to spend the other day (Tuesday, Jan. 15) in Montpelier enjoying some quality time at the Vermont State Board of Education (VSBE) meeting and then over at the Statehouse in the House Education Committee followed by the highlight of the day â a joint presser held by the Vermont School Boards Association and Vermont Superintendents Association.

(I should also note that the Village School of North Bennington finally received its independent school approval.)

That highlight, however, is not the subject of todayâs post. Today I want to acknowledge what seemed to me a notable day in another aspect: I believe I heard Vermontâs Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca singing the VSBEâs swan song, and quite frankly I didnât hear any objections from the House ed committee.

Vilaseca began his tune that morning at the VSBE meeting in the Capitol Plazaâs Montpelier Room with what sounded to me like a well-rehearsed rendition of âIâm relevant and youâre not.â Item B on the agenda was titled âVision of the Agency of Education,â and the newly minted secretary wasted no time in explaining that he wasnât sure if implementing the governorâs desire to see algebra in eighth grade and geometry in ninth would be a matter of policy (presumably the VSBE), legislative action (the General Assembly) or rule (the governor).

It sounded to me like the beginning of the end for any real relevance for the Vermont State Board of Education regarding educational policy in Vermont.

It sounded to me like the argument over who had policy authority had been held, decided and discarded by royal gubernatorial fiat â if the guv wants his educational toys he will happily do an end run around the VSBE and either bulldoze the Legislature or, easier yet, implement a legally binding rule. It sounded to me like the beginning of the end for any real relevance for the Vermont State Board of Education regarding educational policy in Vermont.

I must add that the VSBE Chair Stephan Morse seemed to be singing backup to Vilaseca as he took the issue of independent staffing for the state board off the table completely when it came to Morseâs introduction to the Legislature later this week.

I probably would have been doing the wait-and-see thing regarding the above if I hadnât had time to head over to the Statehouse and witness Secretary Vilasecaâs sit-down with the House Committee on Education, where he was belting out the high notes of the VSBEâs swan song with alacrity.

The first head-turner for me was when Vilaseca sounded like he was already saying a preemptive no to the VSBEâs (now non) request for independent staffing.

The second head-turner was a response Vilaseca made to a question about changes in legislation that would allow the Secretary of Education to go around the Vermont State Board of Education. Quoting Vilaseca: âIt can be cumbersome having a board with policy/rule making authority and a governor with the same authority.â

Absolutely nobody on the House committee made any attempt to speak up for the VSBE â nobody.

The song has been sung I believe, and the governor has executed a most elegant educational coup dâetat that officially makes him king of the world. So long VSBE â itâs been good to know ya.

— Rama Schneider
Vermont Digger





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