This commentary is by Jay Eshelman, a business owner and a former Work Force Investment Board and River Valley Technical Center board member. He is a resident of Westminster, Vermont.
There is only one fix with regard to the preK-12 educational chaos currently being levied on Vermonters and their children. Be it any assigned curricula, or Orange Southwest Unified School District Superintendent Layne Millington’s unilateral decree on the “Let’s Go Brandon” disciplinary judgment, these actions are explicitly unconstitutional. As the Liz Cady circumstance clearly shows us, constitutional resolution cannot be achieved by replacing one school board, administration, or teacher with another. Tyranny is tyranny, no matter how it’s assigned.
What is that “one fix”? Need I repeat it over and again? It is universal school choice — period. No other form of educational governance can resolve this chaos, short of eliminating governmental education support entirely.
So, what about eliminating educational support altogether? Is this a viable alternative? I submit to you that it is not. At least not without opening the door to a profound constitutional debate on what the 1997 Brigham v. State decision, and its reference to the 1954 SCOTUS decision on Brown v. Board of Education, gives us.
“When we consider the evidence in the record before us and apply the Education and Common Benefits Clauses of the Vermont Constitution to that evidence … the conclusion becomes inescapable that the present system has fallen short of providing every school-age child in Vermont an equal educational opportunity. This duty was eloquently described in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954):
[E]ducation is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. … It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities. … It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
Please note that these landmark decisions define that it is the “opportunity” that “must be made available to all on equal terms.” There is no reference as to what that opportunity involves. And the Brigham decision goes on to say that “[t]he distribution of a resource as precious as educational opportunity may not have as its determining force the mere fortuity of a child’s residence.”
Currently, approximately 90 Vermont school districts provide tuition vouchers to parents, allowing them to choose the school (both traditional public and independent) they believe best meets the needs of their children. The only way to satisfy the Education and Common Benefits Clauses of the Vermont Constitution is to provide tuition vouchers to all parents — and there are several pending cases in Vermont’s Superior Court arguing this point.
Let the free market determine educational methodology. For those wanting the progressive “woke” point of view, let them choose their poison. For those wanting traditional values and academic curricula, let them choose theirs. Unless and until universal school choice is legislated, the current disagreements voiced throughout the state will be the standard fair — guaranteed. Again, there are several lawsuits pending against various Vermont school districts and the Agency of Education for breaching these constitutional precepts. Here’s the legal logic in a nutshell:
“In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” — Brown v. Board of Education
When the Vermont Supreme Court decided the Brigham v. State case in 1997, it made the following citation:
“The distribution of a resource as precious as educational opportunity may not have as its determining force the mere fortuity of a child’s residence.”
Again, using our judicial system to demand universal school choice, short of reasonable legislative action, is our only recourse. And, as always, I welcome comment and debate on this issue and will endeavor to address as many alternative points of view as I can.
12 thoughts on “Jay Eshelman: Let’s Go, Superintendent Millington”
much appreciate the article and the feedback, wow you all rock!!
I was one of those in the 90’s to remove my children from public (and I was not happy with it back then, now I would be/am overwrought with concern) and sent to alternative venues and PAID for it, and paid my taxes so other parents had their choice..
I do not regret it; as I said and continue to say “you get 1 chance at this education thing….k-12 that is; do what in your heart is best for your children” because…you dont get a do-over on this one…..
Great article Jay.
I got to thinking about this.
The middle of the country cannot stand the two coasts.
Our New England is right there with California going more off the rails and extreme -by the day- it often feels like.
We all know the indoctrination is strong up here and it feels a lot like we are not getting on top of it.. “we are pretty late to the party” -as they say.
Then I think of how Vermont is depopulating, this is another big issue up here..
I can’t help but to wonder how many families we are driving down to the south because of Education alone.. the colleges are cheaper down there. Money is tight, the cost of living is much less down there.
Between the cost of living up here, the high degree of Wokeness, then the mess the schools are,
I can’t help but to wonder if our greatest exports are now our young families.
I think not solving all of this and reeling it all in, I bet this is costing us far more than we know.
No Families, No Future.
Getting out of Dodge is, of course, an option. There are other options too. But the courts are, in my opinion, still the best bet.
Homeschooling didn’t begin as a movement on the moral conservative side, but rather on the liberal side. It was liberals, indeed self-styled hippies of the 1960s and especially the 70s who were saying that they wanted to take their children out of the schools run by “The Man”, which is to say, the authorities in government. They wanted to avoid a monoculture developed by the public schools.
They pulled their children out. Christians began to learn about that model and then to emulate that model and by the time you get to the 70s and especially into the 80s and the 90s, homeschooling is exploding. That’s at the very same time that seismic changes are taking place in America’s public schools.
As homeschooling emerged on the left, the tutoring pods or the pandemic pods also emerged way on the cultural left in one of the most liberal areas of the United States in some of the most economically [advantaged] communities on planet earth in Silicon Valley and in the Bay Area of California. Another footnote here is that, if you were to look at a map of the United States and consider those areas that experience the greatest income inequality, they tend to be right where the people who say they are most opposed to income inequality live. Places like Manhattan, San Francisco, the larger Bay Area.
One of the most fundamental of those advantages is actually having two parents in the home. It is the intact home. It is the natural family, that includes mother and father and their children in an intact environment that is filled with harmony and love and commitment, one to the other. The fact is that where you have economic disadvantage, you also have a pattern, which is simply easy to identify if you look at the data of a disruption in that process.
Morally, the children are innocent of this. That is to say, they didn’t make the decisions about their own birth. They didn’t make the decisions about the circumstances of their raising. For the most part, they’re not making decisions about the choices concerning their own education. Parents are making those decisions, but here’s what we need to note. We have been living in a society that has increasingly been trying to say that marriage and the raising of children and parental authority and the structure of the family don’t matter all that much. And yet in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is abundantly clear they matter a very great deal. As a matter of fact, they matter so much that they matter in the Bay Area of California and in Manhattan, as much as they matter anywhere else.
Even as you have so many people on the left saying, “We want government to take control of more and more of the schools. We want government to dictate more and more of the curriculum of every school. We’re going to dictate national policy that marriage doesn’t matter and families really don’t matter, that any kind of relationship is as good as any other, that children don’t need two parents in the home. They certainly don’t need a mother and a father, as a woman and a man united to one another in marriage.” You have the people on the left who’ve been making this argument and yet when it comes to their own children, they don’t live that way, and they don’t make their decisions that way.
There is no structure, no program, there is no government intervention that can ever replace a functioning intact family. Now, let’s be clear, these days it is considered controversial and perhaps some form of harmful language to talk about some families being stronger and for instance, using language like, “more intact,” than other families. That is becoming language that you see sociologists running from. Social scientists say you can’t use that language. But that is a form of moral insanity. The fact is that we either as Christians believe or we do not believe that the scripture indicates that God had a plan for the human family from the beginning, establishing it first of all, with the covenant union of a man and a woman, monogamous and exclusive, and then extending to the children who would be God’s gifts to that couple.
The responsibility begins there. It doesn’t end there. There is a very important Christian principle, that is, the principle of subsidiarity. The most important issue is to understand that that principle says that the most basic structure that God has created is the most competent. That is to say, that when you have a mother and a father in a home, they are actually most competent to arrange the wellbeing of their children.
Now clearly when there is an absence or a fracture or failure there, and throughout human history that has happened, someone has to step in, but the point is, every intervention after that and every structure beyond that is less competent in ensuring the wellbeing of that child or for that matter, delivering any other social good.
But we’re living in a society that is operating by the opposite logic.
h/t to Al Mohler
Your point raises an issue of the utmost importance. Liberty, Freedom, and the personal responsibilities that comes with them are no guaranty of success. Not for the individual. Not for the community. And no two people ever, I repeat ever, think precisely the same way, let alone at the same time. Failure is an equal opportunity precept. Failure is how we learn. What a paradox. We must welcome the U.S. Constitution, the single most elegant form of governance creating the free market in which people who hate each other can co-exist and work together. Now we need to apply those free market principles to our education system. Our survival depends on it.
I have to applaud your thoughts above. As I was reading it, I thought of my own upbringing. I was raised in the intact family unit you mentioned. We had our family problems and our family secrets and issues to deal with but we were a unit of support for each other. Where my father lacked in some discipline my mother took care of. My brother was 8 years older than me. He taught me how to swim, hunt, fish and more even though he was experiencing his own growth as a young man. My father worked every day and mother stayed home to be there when I got home from school. I could go on but somewhere these elite activists and educators empowered by a supportive media have created an unnatural world as opposed to my life as you have mentioned.
I have something to compare the craziness too. You hit the nail on the head. America, as well as Vermont is adrift in craziness because of these radical ideas. As you stated, when you remove the traditional family and replace it with anything else, it leads to where we are now. The original plan worked the best, It can’t be replaced but we can replace those who have caused this insanity in our culture. This country needs a resonance to bring us back to what works and these theories thrown out. Excellent writing and thought provoking!
Hi Dano, great stuff, I agree.
We’ve got great minds that comment here now..
We’ve got a few generations now that have been raised in daycare centers and in places that were not at all how we grew up- we are seeing the results of this.
They wind up being empty vessels to then be filled up by the propaganda machine..
Everything from school to business, to Big Tech to Big Pharma: All on the same page working together.. against us.
If your head is but an mere empty vessel.. then guess what it’s filled with..
Here we are, on the verge of going off the cliff.
It’s all by design, Marxists will never give up the indoctrination from cradle to college, it’s a major part of subverting a country or state.
One might think those sworn to defend and uphold the constitution would chime in, but most think we are a democracy, can you see how well our education system works?
Very true! But the more the far-left progressives violate public trust by launching experimental theoretical gender and race ideologies on children, the more they will seek to compel attendance to prevent the understandable rout. The government can’t have it both ways. And to make parents pay for a partisan public education while they pay also for the private one for their kids necessitated by this perverse abuse, is grossly inequitable.
Yes, John. We know what ‘factions’ do, be they legislative or executive. This is why we have a third branch of governance, the judiciary, as you well know.
In fact, in Vermont, parents are suing the state over unequal access to education Residency restrictions on historic Town Tuitioning system violate state constitution.
“Vermont’s Town Tuitioning system works well for the favored few who happen to live in a location where it is available,” said Brian Kelsey, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “Unfortunately, only 17 percent of Vermont school children are afforded some form of choice under the present system. Those who are ineligible are at a distinct, and unconstitutional, disadvantage.”
We need the parents of these students, who are finally figuring out they and their children are being discriminated against, to take action. The links cited above reference advocates like the Institute for Justice and the Liberty Justice Center that are leading the charge.
Simply reiterating the injustice in TNR and VDC commentary does nothing to further the cause. We know what’s going on. The question is – what are we going to do about it? I say, sue the b – – – – – ds.
Thank you — very clearly put.
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