From Shayne Spence, a Republican candidate for one of the two Vermont House seats representing Belvidere, Johnson, Hyde Park and Wolcott:

Vermont’s public education system is well-known as one of the most effective in the nation, but the system has not been on stable footing for many years. We’ve experienced struggles in maintaining rural educational resources, first with Act 46 and the many associated challenges, and more recently, the existential threat to Northern Vermont University. 

However, it is clear throwing more money at the problem won’t solve it. What is needed is creative thinking, and a new approach to the problem. That’s why I’m proposing we fundamentally change the way we deliver education in Vermont, aligning it more closely with other human services to create a more effective continuum of services.

It is unwise for us to view education and human services as two separate endeavors. Even before our current crisis, schools were often used as a sort of “human services hub,” offering pop-up health care clinics, community events and, of course, all of the services that every student receives. We must realign these two silos of state government along their shared goals, and in doing so we can potentially identify millions of dollars in administrative savings.

This will also allow us to deliver state services much more efficiently, as rural schools become community hubs where people can access high-quality food, health care services and professional development programs. The potential cost savings would allow us to reinvest those dollars into areas hit hard by the COVID crisis.

There is great reason for us to have hope about our educational future, despite the many significant challenges we now face. This is because we are able to, for the first time in a long time, take a fresh look at our system of education in Vermont, and really ask, “Is this the way we want this system to look in the future?”

COVID makes it clear we can never go back to the way things were before, so now it’s time to start making smart plans for the future, and adapting to the ever-changing road ahead of us.

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