Roper: Statewide school choice an imperative as schools push political agenda

By Rob Roper

For the past year or two, Vermont public schools have become increasingly, overtly political in the indoctrination of students to a political agenda. We have seen several examples of students walking out of class to protest climate change, gun control, and “social justice” issues, often if not always with the encouragement of the faculty and administrations.

Back in May, True North Reports put out a story, Vermont Youth Lobby using taxpayer assets to carry out student activism, chronicling how Harwood Union assets were improperly used in connection with a climate march on Montpelier.

On May 3, the group’s Join Us page read had a sign-up form that read at the bottom, “This form was created inside of” The domain name is the website of the Harwood Unified Union School District….

Since WWSU is a school district, and therefore a taxpayer asset, the use of the internet system makes it appear that the state is supporting the activism of the Youth Lobby….

Also appearing on the Youth Lobby’s Join Us page is the group’s contact phone number. On a different page for the group’s “third planning meeting” in spring of 2016, that same number is listed as the number for Matt Henchen, an “adult mentor” to the group whose email address is listed as a address — another taxpayer asset.

On Aug. 1, the Brattleboro Reformer reported:

Kurt Daims of Brattleboro has been pushing for the issue of climate change to be discussed during every Windham Southeast School District meeting.

“That’s the way that recognizes the feeling of emergency I think many people in the public have,” he told the school board last week, “so that they can be assured that like national security during a wartime, which the climate crisis approaches, it’s always on the agenda for them to address.”

A nonbinding resolution to include agenda items on climate change at every meeting had been proposed by Daims and approved at the annual school district last month. His motion was amended to also direct the board to make decisions with an eye toward economic, social and racial justice.

Last Wednesday, the Windham Southeast School District Board of Directors approved a motion to establish a policy that would create a climate change council to advise on sustainability issues.

This isn’t an educational mission; it is political indoctrination.

If schools want to have a political mission, that’s potentially fine. But only if the parents of children are OK with it, and, if they are not, have the option of sending their kids somewhere else — somewhere that reflects their own values as opposed to those of these left-wing ideologues. Or maybe even a school that focuses on reading, writing, arithmetic, and teaching kids how to think, not what to think.

Rebecca Holcombe, former education secretary and, so far, the only Democrat to enter the 2020 gubernatorial race, launched her campaign accusing Gov. Phil Scott of pushing a statewide school choice program. He hasn’t, but in light of what’s going on in our public schools, maybe he should.

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

7 thoughts on “Roper: Statewide school choice an imperative as schools push political agenda

  1. The powerful teachers union is the reason we don’t have more choice. Their narrative is always the same, they babble about equity, equality and discrimination, the truth is, the big public education monopoly hates competition and is willing to harm children and families to move along its greedy agenda.

  2. Why haven’t more schools opted to be independent such as St J. Academy…there was another one w/in last 10 years or so…

  3. I was recently solicited by one of our local independent schools for a donation to support parents and their children wishing to attend an alternative education program. This is how I replied.

    “With the understanding that all property owners in Vermont already contribute mightily in support of our children’s education funding, I would like to take this opportunity to ask the ‘friends of Compass’ to lobby their local public high school boards to support the last bastion of our ‘local control’ in education.


    V.S.A. T16 § 822. School district to maintain public high schools or pay tuition

    (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.

    (2) The judgment of the board shall be final in regard to the institution the students may attend at public cost.


    Recent Superior Court rulings in the various Act 46 consolidation cases clearly emphasize two important issues of which most of us were not aware.

    “As a matter of law, school district assets lawfully belong to the State;” Athens School District v. VT State Board of Education Pg. 16
    “The Vermont Supreme Court has explicitly held that in Vermont, the obligation to provide a public education is a State, not a local, obligation.” Elmore-Morristown Unified Union School District, Stowe School District, and Lamoille South Supervisory Union v. VT State Board of Education. Pg. 26


    In other words, it is the State Board of Education, not our local school district boards or their electorates, that control all public school assets and curriculum; what is taught, how it’s taught, and, importantly, what isn’t taught – including its imposition of the assessments measuring educational effectiveness.

    V.S.A. T16 § 822. (c)(1), on the other hand, authorizes our local high school boards, in their final judgment, to do the right thing and allow all parents of secondary school students, regardless of the district in which they live, the opportunity to send their children to schools like Compass using the State’s Tuition Voucher.

    Isn’t it time to do the right thing by our children and the taxpayers supporting them?”

  4. Holcombe “accuses” Scott of favoring school “Choice” !! Evil Monster.

    How could any good progressive allow anyone to have a CHOICE in anything.

    When you vote for a progressive – you vote for top down dictatorship on almost every item.
    You signal that you prefer unelected bureaucrats to dictate what is best for you – with no complaints allowed.

  5. We have a lot of high schools who allow school choice ( upon application submittion and usually in 10th grade) but I’d love to see more school choice with the elementary schools! I understand parents need to provide the transportation if they decide to send kids out if the town they live but it’s worth it! K-12 school choice needs to happen for our kids !

    • V.S.A. T16 § 822. (c)(1) authorizes our local high school boards, in their final judgment, to do the right thing and allow all parents of secondary school students (grades 7 thru 12), regardless of the district in which they live, to attend the school of their choice, public or independent.

      The only thing one needs is for each community to elect school boards sympathetic to the wisdom and wishes (i.e. freedom and liberty) of parents to choose the school that best meets the needs of their children.

      • And, indeed, these same statutory provisions should be applied to elementary school (grades PK thru 6) students as well.

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