The Vermont Agency of Education has announced the establishment of a Family Engagement Council, an advisory body to be appointed by Secretary Dan French.
One could see this as a benign move, or even overdue. The problem is, “family engagement” has become a buzzword for conservatives angry about critical race theory or LGBTQ+ issues or Black Lives Matter. To establish such a body at this particular moment should set off some alarm bells. At the very least, we should watch closely the formation of this council.
Plus, neither French nor his boss have inspired confidence. Gov Phil Scott openly supports a statewide voucher program that would funnel taxpayer dollars to private schools and home schoolers. Scott hasn’t actively pursued the idea because he knows it’s DOA in the Legislature. French, meanwhile, came to the Agency from the Canaan school district, one of the most conservative in the state. It was the only district that never instituted a mask mandate, even during the worst days of the pandemic. And during French’s tenure,
Applications are being accepted until December 18. Who can apply? “The council will consist of between 10 to 15 parents, guardians and family members of students enrolled in Vermont schools.”
Note the last phrase: “…enrolled in Vermont schools.”
Not public schools. Any school, public or private.
But wait, there’s more! Later on in the press release we find this line: “Members must be a parent, guardian, or family member who is the primary caregiver of a student enrolled in a Vermont school or Home Study program.”
Home Study program? You mean home schooling?
Yes. From elsewhere on the AOE website: “Home Study and Home Schooling mean the same thing.”
Okay, well now. The Council’s door is open to parents who have opted out of the public school system. On one hand, that kind of makes sense. The Agency does set standards for home schooling and private schools. But the bulk of its activity concerns the public schools. I’d cry foul if the Counsil has more than token representation of non-public school parents, guardians, and family members. Or, for that matter, people who’ve been actively engaged in protests over critical race theory or book banning or any such conservative bugbear.
People who actually support public education should seriously consider applying for the Council. I have a feeling there will be plenty of applications from conservatives with grudges against the public schools. And once the deadline has passed, let’s reconvene and take a look at who gets appointed to the Family Engagement Council.