Category Archives: Education

Philpuckey

There’s a particular kind of statement unique to the candidacy of Phil Scott, which has attempted to combine budgetary discipline with expressions of concern for the problems faced by “hardworking Vermonters” (copyright pending).

That effort to square two circles has resulted in a phenomenon I call “Philpuckey” after the great Rachel Maddow’s use of “bullpuckey” when she doesn’t want to say the S-word on the teevee.

You can tell when you’re about to receive a load of Philpuckey. His voice slows down a beat, his face gets that open-and-honest look designed to soften the hard edges of Republicanism, and he expresses concern for suffering Vermonters and how we must help them. His voice has a painstaking tone, as if he’s explaining an abstract idea to a preschooler.

There is, of course, a big fat “but” in the offing. As in, “But my first concern is the affordability crisis.”

He may be earnestly concerned, but won’t spend a single dime to address it. He’ll just suffer his concern — for our sake.

It’s kind of like seeing a begger on the street, pausing in front of him, shaking his hand, wishing him all the best, and walking on without putting anything in the hat. Noble sentiment, unsupported by action.

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On the VPR Poll

Must have been some soiled britches at VTGOP headquarters when the news came out: a new poll shows the race for governor is a statistical dead heat.

If it’s accurate, of course. Usual caveats apply. Doesn’t help that this is the only pre-election poll we’re going to get, since VPR is the only media organization putting up money for surveys this year.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s reasonably on target.

There were reasons to believe the race would be close, but the almost universal assumption (me included) was that Phil Scott was the front-runner because of his name recognition, his inoffensive image, and Vermonters’ presumed post-Shumlin fatigue with liberal policymaking. Minter, by comparison, was known (to the extent she was known at all) mainly as a Shumlin underling, which meant she would struggle to create a profile of her own.

Instead, here we are, with Scott at 39 percent, Minter at 38, and a rather surprising 14 percent undecided.

So why is this race so close? Assuming, again, that the poll is accurate.

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That’s right, the woman is smarter

Takeaways from today’s gubernatorial debate on women’s issues, viewable here

1. Bill Lee has nothing to contribute to this campaign.

2. Phil Scott offers empathy, but no ideas or policies on women’s issues.

3. Sue Minter’s getting good at this.

And finally, and most importantly,

4. This debate shows why we need more women in political office.

Let’s take ‘em in order.

Firstly, Bill Lee is a joke of a candidate, even by the oddball standards of Vermont small-party politics. He arrived late, delaying the start of the debate by about 15 minutes. He’d done nothing to prepare. He had little to say on the issues. His answers meandered all over the place. At one point, he appeared to utterly forget the question and just rambled on until his time was up. And here are a few examples of the Spaceman’s forthcoming entry in Bartlett’s:

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Jobs for the Boys (and Girls)

Patricia Moulton just became the latest high-ranking rat to leave the Good Ship Shumlin. The Commerce Secretary, under whose watch the EB-5 scandal went on undetected for years, has herself a soft landing spot as interim president of Vermont Technical College.

Moulton is one of those seemingly unmovable fixtures of Montpelier life — a species that moves effortlessly between government, private sector, and government-related nonprofits. She’s served in the last two administrations, Douglas and Shumlin; and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she turned up in a hypothetical Phil Scott cabinet.

What are her credentials to lead an educational institution? Pish tosh. Who needs relevant experience when you’re one of the cross-partisan In Crowd?

“… I can bring to that institution great knowledge about education and workforce for the state of Vermont,” Moulton said in an interview Thursday.

Well, that’s one way to spin it.

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And now, a moment of appreciation for Peter Galbraith

Anyone who’s read this blog for more than ten seconds already knows how I feel about Peter Galbraith. The Most Hated Man in the Senate.  Happy to obstruct legislation for obscure points of principle detectable only to himself. Narcissistic. Oil baron of questionable provenance. Leaves a trail of enemies wherever he goes. Questionable temperament for the state’s highest office.

I’m not voting for the guy, but he did a couple of things this week I truly appreciate.

First, he unveiled the most progressive higher-education plan of any of the three Democratic contenders. And second, he made a practical, hard-headed, economic argument for a social safety net initiative — which is something Democrats almost never do.

It’s a shame, because there are solid, evidence-based arguments to be made. I mean, appeals to fairness and helping the unfortunate are fine, but they’re not enough.

But first, back to the college issue, which is one of the most crucial in terms of helping people achieve success AND boosting the economy. After all, employer after employer complains about the lack of trained workers. Getting more high-school grads into college is a sound investment in our own future.

Galbraith’s plan, unveiled Tuesday, would cover the cost of a college education for Vermont students at state colleges and universities, and offer reduced tuition for some UVM students.

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Sue Minter and the “poorly educated” vote

On the same day that Matt Dunne scored a political trifecta — netting the endorsements of two major unions plus seven members of Burlington City Council — fellow gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter launched a bold initiative that strikes me as great policy and sound politics.

Sue Minter, a Democratic candidate for governor, says her initiative, “Vermont Promise,” would give Vermont high school students the opportunity to attend the Community College of Vermont or Vermont Technical College for free for the first two years. After that, students would be able to continue their schooling for half the current cost of tuition.

Minter unveiled the program on Tuesday, California primary day, and suffered the same undercoverage that befell Dunne’s endorsement news.

Vermont Promise strikes at the heart of a fundamental inequity of living in Vermont: the high cost of college. It’s a strong, clear idea, as opposed to the higher-education incrementalism of the Shumlin years. It would provide a huge boost to working-class Vermont students who’ve had trouble reaching the next rung on the ladder — and to employers who’ve been desperate for trained, or trainable, workers.

Minter pointed out that Vermont has one of the nation’s highest rates of high school graduation, but one of the lowest rates in continuing on to post-secondary education. This is a break point in our education system, a roadblock to success for young people, and a damper on our economy.

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Burlington College and its ex-president

We could have seen this coming, but hope sprang eternal… until it died, poetically, in the snows of mid-May. Burlington College finally gave up the ghost after several years of trying to overcome one of the dumbest decisions ever made by a college president.

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I have to agree with Ms. Hallenbeck. For those just joining us, Jane O’Meara Sanders was president of Burlington College from 2004 to 2011. In her antepenultimate year, she engineered a massive land deal that put the college deep into hock: the college agreed to buy 33 acres of land and some buildings for $10 million from the Diocese of Vermont, which was liquidating assets to help pay the consequences of its long-suppressed pedophilia scandal.

Burlington College, with a student body of 200, had to assume millions in debt to acquire the property. But Sanders had a Big Plan. She was going to greatly expand the campus, nearly quadruple the student population, and dramatically increase fundraising.

In the depth of the Great Recession.

When liberal-arts colleges were dropping like flies.

It was a terrible idea on its face.

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