On February 27, 2019

The problem with education is not about the money

Dear Editor,

I have had many conversations with hundreds of people including local school leadership in regard to the current state of education in Vermont. I have written many commentaries that have been published in newspapers throughout the state as well as having met with the Governor and other officials.

The state’s response as is the case with other educational leaders, is inadequate at best and passes the buck, while kicking the can down the road. None of them are willing or able to speak to the real issues that are decimating the Vermont public school system.

There are two statistics that should be reversed: the unemployment rate and the high school graduation rate. The unemployment rate is said to be about 3.9 percent. That statistic only includes people collecting an unemployment check. In reality the real unemployment rate in Vermont is likely 10 percent and perhaps as high as 12 percent.

In Vermont the high school graduation rate is said to be 86.7 percent. However, the real graduation rate is likely 65 percent and perhaps as low as 60 percent. As one principal told me if the state wanted it to be 95 percent, we could arrange that tomorrow. Graduating students who should otherwise not graduate is simple and done at an alarming rate.

The real problems with our education system have nothing to do with money, Act 46, proficiency grading, and none of it can be addressed with Restorative Justice or PBIS. The problem with our education system is the toxic school environment that exists in all schools throughout Vermont and in order to fix it we must first acknowledge that fact and address it.  Anything else is an exercise in futility.

In Vermont from the governor down to the superintendents and all their minions they repeat the same thing, “Vermont has one of the best education systems in the country and our students are thriving.”

Nothing could be further from the truth and saying it often enough does not make it true.  Of  Vermont’s high school graduate’s 60 percent go on to college. But 14 percent will drop out in the first year. Many of them because they lacked the skills and should never have graduated high school. That leaves 46 percent and it’s likely not all of them will finish a four-year degree. The sad thing is many who do not graduate college lack the most basic skills for getting a job; many can only read and write at a fifth or sixth grade level.

In June 2018 I left teaching due to the current school environment. I am 61 years old and I have no regrets.

Vermont can continue to close its eyes to the real problems facing our public education and in my experience, that is what they will do. In our society the rule of thumb seems to be, “Hear no evil, see no evil.”

Charles Laramie, Fair Haven

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