Roper: Holcombe’s inane reason for leaving the Scott administration

By Rob Roper

Newly minted gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Holcombe in her announcement press conference stated that one reason she left her position as education secretary was Gov. Phil Scott’s determination to institute “a statewide voucher plan that would pull millions out of our public schools … and give that money to private schools that mostly benefit privileged Vermonters.”

Firstly, would it were true that Scott had had actually proposed and promoted a statewide voucher system, but he hasn’t. So, there’s that bit of weirdness to the claim. But, regarding the policy directly, here are some thoughts to consider regarding Holcombe’s statement:

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

In Vermont, the students in 90 or so towns who are lucky enough to have school choice under our 150-year-old tuitioning policy get to pick from both public and independent schools. Why does the former secretary of education think that, if given a choice, parents representing “millions of dollars” will pull out of the public schools and choose Independents? Does the chef know something about what’s in the stew here?

Also, under the current system, where kids are forced to attend the public school they are assigned within imaginary district lines, the wealthy truly are the privileged class with multiple options. If the local school doesn’t work, the wealthy can afford buy their way out of the system by paying tuition to an independent school regardless of access to a voucher. The wealthy are more likely to have the flexibility, financial and otherwise, to choose to live either in a district with the best public schools (usually more expensive for real estate and property taxes), or, having their cake and eating it too, to move to a tuitioning town to get the subsidy for an independent school or the ability to pick the public school of their choice.

It’s the poor kids who are stuck. And if the school they’re stuck in doesn’t happen to be the right fit, that can be an educational death sentence.

Vouchers and school choice bring more equity to publicly funded education. They give the poor an opportunity much more equal to their wealthier counterparts in terms of the ability to find and benefit from an educational environment that is right for them. It gives them economic and political leverage within the public school system to make demands for better service (or we’ll leave along with our money) that currently only wealthier parents can exert.

To support school choice with tuition following the child is to support greater educational, financial, and social equity. Opposing it is to support a monopoly that exploits the poor and, if you look at the disparity in outcomes between income classes, is failing them miserably in the process.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

10 thoughts on “Roper: Holcombe’s inane reason for leaving the Scott administration

  1. Heard the short interview clip this past weekend on WCAX and, again, so much talk with soooo little substance. Frankly, NO substance in her remarks. Not surprised.

  2. No need to campaign against this woman, she’s just kicked off her run for the office and is doing a stellar job of showing just how incompetent she is. Unfortunately Governor Scott has shown that the bar is pretty low so she might stand a chance.

  3. This woman was so out of touch with reality that she could not solve problems if she wanted to. When was the last time she ever came out to a district to talk with taxpayers and see what reality was doing to them?
    I was always told by my parents that in order to solve problems you need to be fully informed as to the reason for problems, and then come up with options to solve. And, of course knowing the day of the week would help too.

    • She went to an ivory tower school.
      She pontificates policy wonk ideas that have no practical value.
      She already has proven herself to be a poor administrator.
      How could she ever qualify for Governor?
      If the state got out of the education sector, all education, private and public, would be the better for it.
      But the sector is like a large crab weed, hard to eradicate, except with a lot of round up.

  4. If school selection were by choice, affordability by voucher and entrance to the chosen school by past achievement, educational record and qualification examination it would promote competition among schools and motivate pupils toward achieving educational goals. It would have the further benefits both of concentrating high achieving students in schools not catering to the lowest academic prospects and not placing students needing a concentration on basic learning in classes that would outdistance their abilities. It would alleviate the same problem as experienced by teachers, that high achievers are totally bored by classes where the instructor’s attention must go to unmotivated or slow learners. A further drawback in classes of mixed abilities is that it promotes absences – both of the low achievers who feel the class has outpaced them and become incomprehensible and the high end who’d just as soon go watch a movie as listen to a teacher go over things they already completely understand. As much as Progressives would like everyone to be equal (not counting their own superior children), there are considerable differences in the rate at which youngsters learn – and it even differs markedly by subject.

  5. “The wealthy truly are the privileged class”; did we really need an article to point that out?! Must be a slow news day.

  6. Sadly there truly isn’t school choice in Vermont. Students may be able to pick from public and private schools but not Christian or religious schools.

    • Parochial School Choice? In due time. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that using a publicly funded school tuition voucher to attend a parochial school does not offend the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

      In Vermont, it’s the currently overly broad and contrived interpretation that a school choice voucher offends Article 3, Freedom in religion; right and duty of religious worship, that prevents the use of a tuition voucher in religious schools. The ruling is currently being challenged in the courts, and rightfully so.

      The key point here is the concern that school vouchers take funding from public schools and that public schools are, somehow sacrosanct. Mind you. It’s not the students who are (and ought to be) sacrosanct. It’s the schools, and all the special interest groups receiving their sustenance at the great education watering hole.

      Why shouldn’t independent schools receive publicly funded tuition, if they better meet the goals set forth by Vermont’s State Board of Education. You know:
      (1) provide substantial equity in the quality and variety of educational
      opportunities statewide;
      (2) lead students to achieve or exceed the State’s Education Quality
      Standards, adopted as rules by the State Board of Education at the direction
      of the General Assembly;
      (3) maximize operational efficiencies through increased flexibility to
      manage, share, and transfer resources, with a goal of increasing the district level
      ratio of students to full-time equivalent staff;
      (4) promote transparency and accountability; and
      (5) are delivered at a cost that parents, voters, and taxpayers value.

      If our public schools were as good as proponents say they are, why would a parent go elsewhere?

      The facts of the matter are, our public school system is failing…miserably. And parents have every right to choose a school that best meets the educational needs of their children – whatever it is.

  7. Rebecca Holcombe, you think we have a spending problem within the education system
    wait if she gets control of the State……… hold on to your wallets, even though you may not
    have much left already !!

    But I assume before she gets too far into the gubernatorial race she’ll have to contend with
    the likes of Zuckerman and other Progressives that are bitting at the bit for that Governors
    seat !!

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