Category Archives: Education

School officials backtrack on bathroom panic

Maybe the folks at Green Mountain Union High School got advance word that the Obama administration was issuing guidelines on bathroom rights (and other issues) for transgender students. That happened earlier today; yesterday, the Vermont school district reversed itself and announced that transgender male students would, in fact, be allowed to use the boys’ restrooms instead of being consigned to the closet-sized gender-neutral facilities.

The original decision had prompted a brief walkout by a couple dozen students on Monday.

A.J. Jackson is a trans student at Green Mountain Union High School. He says the student protest made a difference and now he can use the boys bathroom at the high school.

“I didn’t think we would get this far,” said Jackson.

He’s now hoping for a general review of school policies with an eye toward accommodating students of all kinds. And hey, now the district has guidelines from the state and federal governments to follow.

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Bathroom panic in Vermont

Seems to be a little confusion down Chester way. Officials at Green Mountain Union High School have barred a transgender student from using boys’ restrooms. In response, a couple dozen students staged a protest on Monday. WCAX:

Recently a transgender student, who identifies as a boy, was told he could no longer use the boy’s bathrooms at the school.  A complaint from a fellow student prompted the school’s decision.

… As the protest unfolded outside, school officials claim they have been ahead of the issue of supporting students’ rights, including the LGBT community. The school has six gender neutral bathrooms. The trans student was told to use one of them.

Yeah, kid, go use the Weirdo Bathroom. That won’t create a stigma.

On its face, this would seem to violate the legal principle that “separate but equal” isn’t the same as “equal.”

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How NOT to attract young people to Vermont

Here’s a campaign issue that’s seemingly tailor-made for Phil Scott. But somehow I doubt that he’ll capitalize on it because, well, he doesn’t have any solutions to offer.

In a new, comprehensive study of college affordability across the country, Vermont finished a dismal 46th. It’s one of the least affordable places to go to college.

What’s even sadder is that just about every state is doing badly, and we’re doing worse than badly. This, according to the 2016 College Affordability Diagnosis just out from the University of Pennsylvania. Its nationwide findings:

— Every state has lost ground on college affordability since 2008.

— Financial aid doesn’t go as far as it used to, and most full-time students cannot make enough to work their way through college debt-free — even community college.

— Low- and middle-income families face significant barriers that limit their ability to invest in education.

This, despite the bounteous lip service paid by politicians to the importance of accessible higher education.

That’s the national picture. Vermont’s is even worse.

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UVM’s athletic priorities

The University of Vermont chose Friday afternoon, traditional bad-news dumping ground, to announce the firing of its women’s basketball coach, Lori Gear McBride.

It couldn’t have been a surprise; Gear McBride had compiled a miserable 46-134 record in six seasons. In her “best” campaigns, the team lost twice as many games as it won. Throughout her tenure, UVM was a consistent cellar-dweller in the America East converence.

So the real question isn’t “Why was she fired?” it was “Why did it take so long?”

And here’s another puzzler. After her first four seasons, coaching the team to a 32-89 record, she was given a four-year contract extension at an annual salary of $131,000. That seems, shall we say, out of proportion with Gear McBride’s performance.

No way a men’s coach with such a record would see his contract extended. No way a men’s coach would be allowed to lose that many games, period.

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The Property Tax Rebellion Has Been Postponed Indefinitely

It’s common knowledge that the people of Vermont are mad as hell over the high cost of public schools. And even angrier over the Legislature’s attempt to fix the problem. The situation was so dire that Governor Shumlin and Democratic leaders rushed through a fix to Act 46’s perceived unpopularities at the start of this year’s session.

Then came The VPR Poll, which showed an astounding lack of engagement with the issue. Here’s how I wrote it up:

As for Act 46, the school governance bill seemingly reviled by all — from conservatives who want tougher spending controls, to liberals who want no restrictions — most people are, well, ehh. Only 13 percent are “very familiar” with Act 46; 44 percent are “somewhat familiar”; and a whopping 42 percent are “not at all familiar.”

… Also, despite the Act 46 uproar, a solid 51 percent support Vermont’s efforts to encourage school consolidation. An underwhelming 29 percent oppose. 20 percent say “it depends” or “no opinion.”

One week later came Town Meeting Day, and the results add more credence to the poll. Josh O’Gorman of the Vermont Press Bureau totted up the numbers, and the conclusion may surprise you.

Around the state, voters approved 95 percent of school spending plans, and approved five merger plans by wide margins, according to unofficial data from the Vermont Superintendents Association.

All told, voters approved 231 of the 242 budgets offered Tuesday, creating a three-year trend that has seen fewer budgets defeated each year.

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The VPR Poll: Everything You Know Is Wrong

Previously in this space, I looked at The VPR Poll’s reading of the race for governor. To encapsulate: Phil Scott has a huge early lead, Bruce Lisman’s in the crapper, and the two Democratic candidates are still trying to build identities with a largely uninvolved electorate.

The poll is an important snapshot of the race — really, our first since last fall, when the field was still a work in progress. But even more interesting are the issues results, which campaign builders ought to be examining closely. Because the message, as Firesign Theater once put it, is

Everything You Know Is Wrong

Well, maybe not everything, but a whole lot of things.

Issues that are supposed to be driving forces in 2016? Eh, the voters don’t much care.

Positions that could make or break a campaign? Over and over again, The People fail to conform to conventional wisdom.

Darn people!

Generally, the poll depicts a populace that’s more or less okay with how things are going and not especially engaged in politics. This, despite an ongoing barrage of doom-and-glooming by Republicans and certain interest groups.

Examples: A broad desire to stay the course or go even further on health care reform; widespread acceptance of large-scale renewables; strong endorsement of Vermont’s efforts on climate change; healthy support for the state’s school consolidation efforts; and huge majorities in favor of modest gun-control measures.

After the jump: the details.

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A closer look at the “reasonable” Republican candidate

Ohio Governor John Kasich is offering himself to the good people of New Hampshire as a pragmatic, optimistic, kinda-centrist manager: a guy who can Get Things Done and Work With Others. His campaign schtick even convinced MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who called him “real and reasonable-seeming and relatable-seeming.” And:

If some voters up here are looking for authenticity in their candidate, well, just as a political consumer, a political observer who’s been up to New Hampshire for a lot of primaries and seen a lot of these events, I can see how New Hampshire voters see authenticity in John Kasich.

Yeah, well, not so fast. John Kasich is a veteran politician. He is presenting himself as relatable and reasonable, but his actual record in Ohio tells a very different story. His administration has been nearly as hard-right dogmatic as those of Michigan’s Rick Snyder or Kansas’ Sam Brownback. And just about as successful, too. When you open the attic of Kasich’s Ohio, there’s an awful lot of spiders up there.

“Out-of-state media are oblivious to the disgrace at the Ohio Department of Education.”

Those words are from the keyboard of Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanek. She’s writing about Kasich’s scandal-plagued education reform effort, which centers on that favored right-wing nostrum, school choice. His (ahem, former) school choice director, David Hansen,

… engaged in a fraudulent scheme to boost the evaluations of some charters. Mr. Hansen, whose wife worked as the governor’s chief of staff until she left to manage his presidential campaign, admitted scrubbing data on failing online and dropout recovery-charters to improve their standing in the state.

Wonderful. If charter schools aren’t working, then cook the books!

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