Tag Archives: Bill Sander

School consolidation: It’s coming

Interesting sidelight from Saturday’s meeting of the Democratic State Committee. Various candidates for statewide office spoke to the Committee, seeking its endorsement… including Governor Shumlin. He delivered an energetic stem-winder of a speech, citing accomplishments and goals and thanking the party faithful for making it all possible.

There was one glaring omission from his list of issues: Public school funding and organization. Not a word.

Then he took a few questions, and longtime committee member Bill Sander asked directly about school consolidation. He’s not a fan.

The Governor’s answer was a masterpiece of pointillism, the technique in which, sez Wikipedia, “small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image.”

The image that emerged: School consolidation is on the way.

He first credited legislative leaders for their “courage” in bringing up the idea earlier this year. Of course, they showed equal amounts of the opposite of courage in ditching the idea when the negative reaction came in waves.

That negative reaction in mind, Shumlin offered a “collaborative” approach which, boiled down to essentials, consists of “We’ll convince you that our plan is right.”

“I’ve asked my Education Secretary to sit down with local schools and show them the math,” he said, “and let the local communities discuss how best to proceed.” He calls this “a partnership, especially with schools that are becoming too small.”

He spoke, not of saving money or centralizing decision-making, but of educational opportunities. He pointed to schools too small to field a football team or cast a theatrical production; of a lack of “a critical mass to provide an educational experience” in classes with only a handful of students.

“Take it from that perspective,” he concluded, “Providing a quality educational experience, plus cost, and we’ll work through it together.”

Yes we will. We’ll work through it to a preformed conclusion.

I’m not necessarily against consolidation, but let’s be honest: as far as the Governor is concerned, the debate on the big question is fundamentally over. Now, it’s a PR blitz and detail work.

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Corren meets the Dems

The Democratic Party State Committee met Saturday in Montpelier, and gave its endorsement to the Party’s expected slate with one exception: Dean Corren, Progressive candidate for Lieutenant Governor. He did not actually seek an official endorsement from the state committee, but he did address the gathering and asked for their support in getting people to write in his name in the August primary.

“I got into this race on one issue,” he said, “Single payer health care.” He described this as a critical time for the issue, and said “We need a Lieutenant Governor working shoulder to shoulder with Governor Shumlin. I would be a good partner in this fight.”

(He didn’t say, but I will, that the Lieutenant Governor casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate. If Corren’s there, passing single-payer becomes easier than if Phil Scott wields the gavel. That, in itself, is a powerful incentive for Democrats, Progressives and liberals to unite behind Corren, no matter how much of a nice guy Scott may be.)

He also emphasized his common ground with the Democrats on two key issues: campaign finance reform and renewable energy. Since he qualified for public financing, you could say he has struck a real blow on the issue of money in politics. On energy, he pointed to his own professional involvement in climate change and green energy.

He also addressed the past (and for some, present) tensions between Democrats and Progressives. “We are more interested in progress than in bashing anyone.”

There was a lot of favorable reaction in the room. Corren took several questions, and all were supportive.Longtime committee member Bill Sander recalled past times when the party actively considered endorsing Republican challengers to then-Congressman Bernie Sanders, on the theory that they could get rid of Bernie and then beat the Republican two years later. Now, Sander said, “Our goal is to further the policies we believe in,” and that includes working alongside Bernie instead of trying to undercut him.

Some committee members obviously wanted to go ahead with an endorsement, but it wasn’t on the agenda. John Wilmerding of Windham County posited an endorsement via the transitive property: the state committee had previously endorsed then-candidate John Bauer; since then, Bauer has endorsed Corren; and if A equals B and B equals C, then maybe the committee has already, kinda-sorta, endorsed Corren. No one argued the point, but it remained in the unofficial realm.

After his presentation, Corren had a brief media scrum in the hallway. He pronounced himself “extremely” encouraged by the committee’s reaction. “It was wonderful. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

He was asked if he’d run into any Dem/Prog tensions in his contacts with party officials. “Actually, I haven’t,” he said. “My calls to state committee members and county chairs and so forth have all been incredibly positive.”

After this week’s anti-Prog comments from a few state senators, it was good to see the Democratic hierarchy taking a more positive view of Corren. Maybe the “Dems for Phil Scott” idea is mostly a creation of the Senate’s clubby, cloistered atmosphere.

I certainly hope so.