In an Addison Independent article last week regarding Ripton’s withdrawal from the Addison Central School District, Oliver Olsen said: Other communities contemplating similar activity should view Ripton’s experience as a cautionary tale and should consider postponing any withdrawal actions.
In effect, the chairman of the Vermont Board of Education warned Vermont citizens against exercising their constitutional rights to self-determination. Is the state board punishing Ripton for achieving independence from an educational system which has disenfranchised the town and its children?
The state board has ordered the town back to the bargaining table with the Addison Central School District, and so has relegated Ripton to the same powerless negotiating position that the town has struggled to be free of. Olsen’s statement subjected Ripton to a virtual public whipping as a warning to other Vermont small towns that want to save their schools.
All Vermonters have the right to an equitable voice in directing the education of our children. This right is not diminished according to the population of their town. Vermont is not a third-rate totalitarian state where an insecure petty apparatchik can retaliate against the peasants of a village for seeking self-determination.
Vermonters must realize that democracy does not defend itself — we must defend democracy ourselves, because apparently educational equity is not considered essential for children who live in small towns.
Vermont law guarantees equal access for all Vermont students to a quality education. The state board cannot deny Ripton’s children equal educational opportunity because we have prevented the closure of our school.
Millard M. Cox