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.