It is easy to understand why Vermont has attracted so many retirees over the last 30 years or so—it is truly a beautiful place to live, and property compared to many places in New England was reasonable and taxes were low. But now Vermont is at a crossroads: we have the second oldest population next to Maine in the nation. Young families, particularly those with college degrees, are leaving Vermont in record numbers. Our school population has dropped from 120,000 students about 17 years ago to under 78,000 now and is expected to drop by another 600 students this coming year. The drop in Vermont’s school population has even prompted an article addressing this concern in the Wall Street Journal.
A state that becomes a retirement community cannot survive and it is obvious that Vermont is in dire financial trouble. But there are small pockets of hope in the state. Towns that have “true” school choice are flourishing—attracting young families who want to raise their children in a rural setting. East Haven, Vt., is an excellent example, enjoying a real estate boom over the last few years because of school choice.
Now the little town of Elmore is at a crossroads—true school choice has been an important reason for young families choosing Elmore for years and now, if the merger passes through a revote, that school choice privilege will end for Elmore students—a privilege that has benefited students of all economic backgrounds for many years. The school choice movement including magnet and charter schools is sweeping across the nation—will Vermont be a part of this progressive movement or will it continue to pay the highest cost per student to educate?
Jan Miller, Elmore, Vt.