Deb Billado: Reimagine schooling

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.

By executive order of Governor Phil Scott, school is now officially to begin on Sept. 8. At first glance there seems to be little reason to doubt that it will, especially considering the support for in-person teaching by the governor and Commissioner of Health Mark Levine. And after all, children are the least likely among us to suffer any illness from the Covid-19 virus and Vermont’s rate of infection is low. Our children have been spared of the deadly effects. The death rate for school age children percentage wise is essentially zero.

Yet, there is doubt being raised by many school administrators. It is reported that many teachers and other support staff are balking at coming back to work and some say staffing will be insufficient to handle in-person teaching.

Deborah Billado, chair of the Vermont GOP

Officials overreacted and shut down an entire economy back in March that resulted in much more pain, suffering, illness, and loss of life than the disease caused, without protecting us from transmission. We just learned that the economy contracted to a greater degree than ever before in our history in the second quarter. We cannot repeat that mistake! We should have learned a lesson from that to apply to our opening of schools for in-person teaching. Children need to be in school and parents need to be able to go to work.

We must be smart and protect the vulnerable students, teachers and staff.  We can do that with reasonable precautions to reduce the likelihood of transmission.  We must not, out of fear and the quest for an impossible 0% infection rate, destroy one of our most critically needed institutions. Our children must get a quality useful education to compete in an ever increasingly complex world. That will not happen when real solutions and rational thought give way to unworkable education delivery gimmicks. We must not over-react and turn school into one frenetic futile protective activity after another while losing track of the need to educate the children.

There are those right now in Vermont considering and working toward forsaking school in school houses and teaching students outdoors. Education is not just an outdoor field trip. Can they really be serious? In Vermont? In the winter? What about toileting? What about eating? Just think about it all and when you stop shaking your head in disbelief, realize that some are serious about this.  “I want my mommy” will be a cry heard throughout the state.

The time is now to re-imagine education since public schooling has failed us in so many ways. Home schooling applications are up 75% in Vermont over last year and many are finding that option better meets the educational needs of their children. I have heard homeschooling referred to as the “new revolution”.

More parents are now considering private schools. Even religious schools are more available to students. Recently, in a landmark case, the US Supreme Court in Espinoza v. Montana Dept of Revenue, ruled that public funds used for scholarships to private schools cannot constitutionally be denied just because the school is religious in nature. Other states have led the way in micro schooling where up to ten students come together to do school. Charter schools have joined with home-schoolers to give them in-school options.

That still leaves many to endure a failed public school system. School choice vouchers must be expanded to give all parents the ability to fulfill their hope to send their child to the best school possible. Let competition reign. Redirect our tax money to a vital and exciting new educational paradigm. Just imagine it.

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7 thoughts on “Deb Billado: Reimagine schooling

  1. Re: “School choice vouchers must be expanded to give all parents the ability to fulfill their hope to send their child to the best school possible.”

    As usual, lots of talk about what ‘must be’ and never a word about how to do it.

    I don’t mean to be indignant – well, yes, I do. Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…right?

    Why can’t just one more TNR contributor address the existing Vermont education law that ALREADY allows parents to choose the school (public or private, in-state or out-of-state) that best meets the needs of their children – AND receive a tuition voucher to pay the chosen school?

    Come on Deb Billado. Come on Rob Roper. Come on John Klar and Meg Hansen. Come on Charlie Papillo. Come on ‘Mike’ and ‘Stardust’ and ‘Laura’ and ‘Willem’ and ‘Guy’ and all you other folks in TNR land clamoring for education reform. Let’s hear your thoughts on (16 V.S.A. § 822) School district to maintain public high schools or pay tuition.

    Here it is: https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/16/021/00822

    What is it about the language “(c)(1) A school district may both maintain a high school and furnish high school education by paying tuition: (A) to a public school as in the judgment of the school board may best serve the interests of the students; or (B) to an approved independent school or an independent school meeting education quality standards if the school board judges that a student has unique educational needs that cannot be served within the district or at a nearby public school” … and that “(2) The judgment of the board shall be final in regard to the institution the students may attend at public cost”…that you don’t understand?

    Come on folks…. all students have ‘unique educational needs’ – AND the “judgment of the board shall be final in regard to the institution the students may attend at public cost”.

    Hello parents. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. If you want to send your child to an alternate school, go to your school board and make your case. Even religious schools are allowable choices. And if your school board won’t accommodate you, ask them to explain why….to all of us.

    • Ants in pants much. This particular topic is not for everyone. We are not all you? What Deb *appears* to be saying is no one should have to go to a school board to make their case but vouchers should be given and received on demand. This is what I would like to see. Aand – it’s for those who have the need – and those who can fill the need to sort this out.

      Charter schools should be developed promoted as an alternative. Anyone who wishes to start a school should be able to apply for a license. In the 70s there were alternative schools dotted all over NE.

      Ppl are busy – many of us have *plenty* to do and cannot be spread as thin as what this level of activism requires.
      – Pounding fist to school board for a voucher and going from one school district to another is not an answer for everyone for various reasons
      – There are not schools ppl want to send kids in locations which are accessible
      – There needs to be more outreach notifying parents of this feature
      – AOE should have to inform parents all of their options in hard copy

      There are commenters who have great ideas and personally do not intend to diminish or dismiss any contribution. However there are some consumed with worry and fear which I can empathize with but cannot live in that place.

  2. I take exception to the phrase “over react”. It seems that the folks fond of using it, do not equate these restriction to the low incidence of the virus permeating Vermot. Wake up!!! There is a direct correlation between the use of masks and social distancing and the level of infection. Vermont is a low virus state because we’re all behaving ourselves!!!

  3. Good thoughts, but one caveat. Do not throw the baby out with the bath water. This is a great time to re-evaluate our educational system @nd include competent alternative models. But rushing Willy-nilly into every model anyone can dream up is not the answer.

  4. The model of the one room schoolhouse in the 21st century would meet the needs of parental and student convenience, reduce carbon emissions from school buses, minimize disease transmission and allow for a return to control by local democratically school boards. The closure of institutional size school buildings and elimination of Vermont’s oversized education bureaucracy would have benefits beyond saving the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

  5. I’m quite surprised that the teachers unions were not mentioned.
    That seems like the giant elephant in the room not mentioned in the article.

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