This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
Last week advocates for school choice were able to notch a big win after a lawsuit against the state was finally settled. The Vermont Agency of Education agreed to issue guidance that any towns that offer to tuition students to other schools could no longer discriminate against schools based on religion. This ruling would allow parents and students the freedom to decide which learning environment is the most appropriate for the student.
Democrats in Vermont have been looking for ways to infringe on this right, and they may grow even bolder with the supermajority they won in November. Even before the last legislative session ended, some legislators had already begun to get to work on creating more barriers, restrictions and hurdles to peel back this hard-fought right.
Senators Ruth Hardy and Brian Campion were charging hard in March to stop families from getting educated in different learning environments. This is especially interesting because the senators hail from two counties that have some experience with alternative schooling options. Addison County is home to a small private Christian school in Vergennes, and a few years ago the school in North Bennington made state headlines for closing its public school and operating a private non-religious school. With both of these anti-choice politicians fresh off their victories in November, they may already be drafting legislation to be introduced in January to take away the newly-confirmed rights of students in Vermont.
This represents one of the fundamental differences between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats are constantly trying to infringe on certain rights entirely, or at the very least limit the choices we have to exercise them. In the session ahead we can likely expect an attack on school choice. We could also see further attacks on gun rights with Senator Phil Baruth now leading the VT Senate. Many Vermonters have fewer choices regarding the medical care we receive with the consolidation of our health care system into a near monopoly and the elimination of all but three insurance carriers. Parents have fewer choices for childcare providers because Democrats regulated many rural providers out of business.
While we watch to see what other choices Democrats will be taking away in the next two years, Republicans need to commit to working together now to rebuild our party in order to deliver a higher quality of life to Vermonters who want to make their own decisions for themselves and their family.