Letter: Don’t Penalize Independent Schools
To the Editor:
I was disappointed to read “Vermont Discusses New Requirements for Independent Schools” in the March 12 Valley News. I found it ironic that no one mentioned the quality of education that students for whom they so ardently compete would get. Two things come to mind here. The first is that Vermont’s students are not young minds to enrich and nurture, but rather heads to count when budgeting for state funding. The second is that rather than asking Vermont to provide quality education for all students, Royalton School Board Chairman Tom Honigford and Sen. Dick McCormack are seeking level the playing field by penalizing the independent schools to make them more like public schools. It’s like two runners in a race in which the second-place runner grabs his opponent and pulls him back instead of adjusting his own effort to run faster.
Who cannot recognize the important need being filled by independent schools, which are a viable alternative for students to excel in small groups with low student-to-teacher ratios and the flexibility to group students according to ability instead of age? Independent schools are places where the students and staff know each other as family. I doubt anyone can question the quality of education students at The Sharon Academy are getting. The article said that 85 percent of Sharon Academy’s students are funded by “public” money. Personally, I don’t consider that money to be “public.” Families’ taxes in sending towns fund high school education the same way that towns with public high schools do, and they have a choice.
We need to ask why Vermont’s Senate Education Committee would even consider penalizing successful independent schools who get 33 percent or more of their support from sending-town tuition by adding burdens as heavy as public schools’ with 100 percent public funding. Why is the Senate Education Committee not working to make public schools a better choice for students from sending towns? If families do not choose them, there must be a reason. Has anyone asked what that is?