The above was burped out this morning by “National School Choice Week,” an organization that claims to support education but doesn’t know how to spell Phil Scott’s first name. For the record, it’s one-L, as in Ogden Nash’s lama.
“National School Choice Week” is one of those innocuous-sounding labels adopted by a right-wing organization to obscure its true nature. Here’s how they themselves describe what they stand for:
School choice means giving parents access to the best K-12 education options for their children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.
Of course, parents already have access to all these options. What NCSW wants is for public dollars to follow every student no matter where they are educated, including institutions that practice various forms of discrimination and religious indoctrination. Such a program inevitably drains resources away from the public school system, which is one of the jewels of American government.
And yes indeed, Scott did issue a proclamation in support of NCSW. It’s couched in the usual language about improving the quality of education and accountability and parental authority. But look: Scott is endorsing a cause put forward by the enemies of public education on the right. That should worry anyone in Vermont who supports a strong system of public schools.
This proclamation in itself doesn’t prove that Scott is on board with the “tear it down” approach to public education. But when you combine this with his own positions and the work of Education Secretary and Uber-Nebbish Dan French, and you get a clear picture. Phil Scott would like to have an open system of taxpayer-funded school choice, but he knows it’s politically impossible. So he’s doing his best through executive branch actions to chip away at the system and enable more public dollars to flow to non-public schools.
This is especially worrying given the current judicial climate. The Bush and Trump judges who make up so much of the federal judiciary are issuing decisions that open the doors to the conservative vision of school choice. The Scott administration isn’t going to do anything to stick a flag in the ground and staunchly defend public schools. It’s perfectly happy to see the enervation of the public education system without getting their own fingerprints all over it.
It’s often noted that Phil Scott’s presence blunts the power of the Legislature to enact a progressive agenda. But it goes both ways: The Legislature and the electorate’s liberal bent are a check on Scott’s ability to enact a conservative agenda. And the truth is, if Phil Scott had his way, his administration would be a lot less moderate than it is now by necessity.
Case in point: “Cradle to Career.” Scott repeats it at every opportunity, and has since his first campaign for governor in 2016. What it means is that the Education Fund would be responsible for preschool and higher education, not just K-12. That would mean that the public schools would get a lesser share of Ed Fund support.
How much less? Nobody knows, because Scott has never put forward a concrete “Cradle to Career” plan. That’s because he knows it would cause a political firestorm and wouldn’t get anywhere in the Legislature. So he doesn’t even try to advance one of his core principles.
Well, actually, he does. But only incrementally and only through the Executive branch, not the Legislature. He can’t mount an aggressive campaign for school choice, but he can speak its language and put out innocuous-seeming proclamations. Eventually, he hopes, he will swing the issue to the other side.
Just don’t take your eyes off the man, and don’t let him get away with being an educational ideologue in moderate’s clothing.