Valley News Forum for March 20, 2023: A step to regulate ‘independent’ Vermont schools

Published: 03-20-2023 4:19 PM

A step to regulate ‘independent’ Vermont schools

Jay Badams makes a powerful case for new rules on the public funding of private schools in Vermont. “Independent” schools that lean on public funds for up to 85% of their budgets, he argues, should accept at least some degree of public supervision.

Just how much, of course, would have to be arduously negotiated between the relevant parties. But on one crucial point, the state of Maine has shown what can be done right now.

In the Carson v. Makin case decided last June, which Badams cites, the Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, that so long as the state of Maine subsidized private schools by means of tuition grants, it could not exclude any school on religious grounds alone. It could stop sending tuition vouchers to religious schools, the court said, only if it stopped sending them to all private schools.

But Maine’s legislators quickly found another way of drawing the line between church and state. By passing amendments to the Maine Human Rights Act, they blocked voucher funding to any school that actively discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Vermont should follow Maine’s lead. At the very least, it should stop public funding of any school that discriminates in this way — as a first step toward making state-dependent “independent” schools play by public rules.

James Heffernan


Thanks for the op-ed

Thank you Jay Badams for your in-depth article, “Vermont must resolve the school choice disconnect.”

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I support public schools and Vermont should as well!

Joan Hoffmann

South Royalton

Public life hacking

I recently used the orange bus to pick up “A Hacker’s Mind” by Bruce Schneier at Kilton library. From there, I took the green line for an errand in Hanover and then the blue to an appointment in Lebanon. On that leg, a rider behind and across the aisle from me asked what I was reading. While presenting the jacket I listed chapters on hacking financial, legal, political, cognitive and AI systems. He then asked if I was a “commie,” to which I answer no, I’m a democratic socialist. demystifies the party. Under “Deepening and Strengthening Democracy,” the 2nd sentence relates that democratic socialists clearly understand “the force of money in politics (makes) it impossible for the will of the majority to be expressed.” My last letter to the editor (“Get with the system?” Feb. 26) spoke of the rich and powerful hoarders that destabilize society. They are hackers of our norms and laws, examples right out of the chapters of Schneier’s book.

A hack comes about when someone tweaks a process for personal gain. It could be insider knowledge or voter suppression, an amendment or new bill ... maybe even a counterfeit bill! And maybe someone else observed the tweak, and the idea caught on. Eventually it will come to the attention of regulators (see “Frontline’s” recent “Age of Easy Money” from PBS). If deemed beneficial to the system the hack will be commercialized; if detrimental, the offenders will be prosecuted.

It seems likely the system most needing adjustment is the set of agencies that subvert democracy, equality and truth. It would be lovely if we repealed Citizens United, adopted the national popular vote, let the people choose to ratify or reject legislation (we’d still need congress relegated to author and craft the law or amendment). Once enacted, it will be easier to get the money out of politics, regulate the Fed, and induce the voters to research the issues. This posting’s my hack.

Finance, politics and law together braid a menage a trois that requires tighter regulation: Close the wealth gap toward equality, direct rule by constituency brings democracy ... but lawyers? Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

Kevin M. Leveret

White River Junction

Nuclear storage not the solution

A March 12 letter (“Nuclear waste transport a risky endeavor”) cites two transportation accidents with empty containers for nuclear materials — waste and used fuel (recyclable). The writer compares these to the recent terrible derailment accident in Ohio. Obviously, the tank cars that leaked were not designed for crashes and should have been.

An online search for “Nuclear fuel casks crash tests” shows full-sized crash tests of transport casks, done in 1977 and 1978. These tests are very reassuring. They prove to me that the casks will survive transportation accidents.

The writer goes on to say that nuclear waste should be protected at nuclear sites and kept there. This is the opposite of national policy, which plans for national central storage facilities. This policy is supported by concerned citizens in the Vermont Yankee plant area. The writer does not identify themselves as a long-term nuclear power opponent.

Howard Shaffer

PE, NH (nuclear) (retired)

nuclear power advocate