Most recently, I have received questions pertaining to my stance on School Choice. Before I go into more information, I do want to make it clear that I hold representation higher than my opinion. Representation is what I will do if elected, and that involves gathering information as to if the community supports school choice. It is my opinion, based on studies, surrounding states, and my experiences, that School Choice is an excellent option for taxpayers.
Some have asked how I can be running for a public school board when I am pro- school choice, and that simply comes down to I am part of this community. It is not just about me or my children, but it is about our community. If I don't step up to try and make a change for our public school system to be better, then can I expect someone else to? Also, if I don't step up to defend EVERY family's right to choose the schooling that best suits their children, then who will?
Already, as of last year, there was a sharp increase in people choosing to send their children to private schools. Articles from Burlington Free Press and True North Reports show the same thing: enrollment in public schools is declining and enrollment in private schools is increasing. These trends were taking place prior to COVID, and with this past COVID-year, private schools all report that interest and enrollment is up. In a VT Digger article from August 7, 2019, Carol Frenier, who is a partner with her husband, former Vermont representative Bob Frenier, in the Advantage Group, Inc., Freneir details how disadvantaged families benefit from school choice.
Tuition vouchers and school choice make private schools affordable for all income levels. A student in one of my son's classes at EWSD needed a different learning environment. It was not due to a lack of trying on the teacher's part; it simply came down to that student needed a different avenue than traditional school. That student's parents took on additional jobs in order to have enough money to send their child to a private school. Parents know best on what helps their child learn. Within a month of changing, the parent reported to me that their child was doing so much better, and it was worth having to work extra jobs. With tuition vouchers/school choice, those parents would not have had to take on extra jobs in order to provide the education best suited for their child. This is a great example that school choice is meant to help everyone, regardless of income level.
Our cost per student per year in EWSD is $16,910. For private schools around our area, the cost is around $8,000. Many opponents of school choice argue that if you allow parents to choose private schools over the public system, the public system receives less tax dollars and the kids "stuck" in public school are hurt. This is simply not true. Many numbers have been crunched, and the findings are that by allowing school choice, there is a positive fiscal impact on both the public school system and taxpayers. (Reference this article.)
I know firsthand the difference between private schools and public schools. I have worked in both, and my children have attended both. At less than half of the cost of public schools, I can attest that my children are receiving an education free of bias, and that I, as a parent, know the curriculum being taught and what steps I need to take to be heard by school administrators. Having full transparency as to what is in the curriculum, as well as knowing that you have a direct line to the administration, is very important to parents.
Questions have also been asked about funds for special needs children in the public education system and how school choice would impact that. As of 2018/19, 26% of tuition voucher students required IEPs (Individualized Educational Programs) in private schools, which was up from 22% in 2008/9. According to the Agency of Education, the percentage of students with IEPs in public schools is 16.3%. What is interesting about these percentages is that it shows private schools are increasing enrollment for students needing IEPs, and they are finding ways to serve that community to the fullest, meaning it isn't just public school that can satisfy the educational needs of students needing IEPs. I am always looking for more research pertaining to our special needs community and how to best serve them with tuition vouchers, and I welcome ideas from the parents who know firsthand. I did find this article, Tuition Towns- A January 2020 Article about Vermont, which specifically addresses how tuition voucher towns are working for those with children with learning disabilities.
I am happy to take more questions as I do more research and continue a dialogue with those who have questions. I do believe in the value of the below petition for our community, but again, if elected, my loyalty is to the community, which I represent.
Sign the Petition for School Choice