By Guy Page
Life has changed so much in the last year – how I work, travel, and dress. Today I discovered the pandemic – or rather, our leaders’ misguided handling of it – has changed how I vote.
Not every vote changes. I still vote for a Town of Berlin selectboard candidate I know and trust (John Quinn). When I don’t know either candidate for the other selectboard race, I pick the one (Richard Sawyer) recommended by someone I do know and trust.
I vote for the town budget. I vote for Kellogg-Hubbard Library (sorry, PF!) because I love and believe in libraries and because KHL’s once-snooty staff has been doing its cheerful best to serve this isolated, book-starved reader.
Swallowing hard, I approve the hefty $1.4 mil repair job of my “Drive To The Gym Road.” Most afternoons I check the mail in Montpelier then drive up the hill to Planet Fitness, hoping Fisher Road will finally be open again. Drat! It never is! The Town Meeting warning tells me why: it needs a new culvert, and should the town pay for it? Comforted by the ballot question’s vague promise of state and federal aid, I vote “yes.”
I vote against retail pot in Berlin. I only regret that I have but one vote to give in support of our youth, whose mental health always suffers where pot-shops open. These stores make their coin selling highly concentrated products that can cause psychosis. Today, (says WCAX) voters at these 26 municipalities will decide whether to allow the retail sale of marijuana: Barton, Bennington, Brandon, Brattleboro, Brownington, Burlington, Danby, Danville, Duxbury, Johnson, Londonderry, Lyndon, Middlebury, Montgomery, Montpelier, Newport City, Pawlet, Randolph, Richmond, St. Johnsbury, Salisbury, Strafford, Stratton, Waitsfield, Waterbury and Winooski.
I vote for Town Meeting Moderator Paul Gillies because he can run a meeting and is one of the smartest, most genuine lawyer-people I know (insert favorite lawyer joke here).
Enough dalliance. Now comes the hard part: explaining why – for the first time ever – I vote against the school budget.
Since casting my first vote in 1976, I’ve put aside occasional concerns about lack of transparency, PC agendas, taking voters for granted, and uneven learning outcomes because every time I said, “I need to support children and their role in the future.”
Therefore, I don’t vote no this year because the revisionist, intolerant, and fundamentally marxist BLM flag occupies pride of place with Old Glory on so many school district flag poles. In Windsor, BLM zealots intolerantly fired School Principal Tiffany Riley just for asking questions. Barre residents who dislike flying the BLM flag year-round are called haters and racists. This is not the American Way. It is sure as heck not the Vermont Way. I’m the proud father of two African-American children who does not think BLM merits official support.
Neither do I vote no because of the annual tax increase. It’s pretty small this year. Even if it weren’t, I wouldn’t have voted no because the future is priceless.
I vote no because in the past year, the adults who make school policy have failed our neediest children. I mean the Legislature, the teachers’ unions, and the State of Vermont. While they nattered on unceasingly about equity, they deprived poor, academically-challenged children of the in-person classroom that for many is their only portal to a better future. Low-income children were already failing at twice the rate of well-off peers.
Remote learning for many children is a nail in the coffin for a hopeful future. They will pay for our mistake for the rest of their lives.
I know that sounds harsh. I don’t blame individual teachers. I think I understand some of the challenges of in-person learning during a pandemic. But it could have been done. Private schools managed it, somehow, with no apparent health issues. Even when statistics showed school actually was the safest place to be, part-time remote learning continued. In my opinion, the grownups failed the children. If school budgets fall across Vermont, I hope the Public School Establishment will get the message and truly put the neediest kids first.
The pandemic has turned so much upside down. I hope that 2021 will be remembered as the last year conscientious Vermonters thought it necessary to say yes to children by saying no to the school budget.
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