Tuesday March 5, 2013

Don’t close CHSVT Editor of the Reformer:

The potential closing of the Community High School of Vermont is appalling. The school is the last bastion of hope for many young people. CHSVT exudes a sense of community and caring that does not exist in any other educational setting. The students that attend receive one on one mentoring that allows them to earn their high school diploma. With that diploma, they are life long productive members of society- entering community college, trade school and/or the workforce. Without that diploma they may not be.

In recent weeks, our Governor in his State of the State address and our entire legislative delegation have decried that education is the key to success. Taxpayers are asked to provide more school lunches, to expand college classes for high schoolers, to fund preschool opportunities all in the name of education - the key to success in an individual’s life and in our state’s vitality. Yet, the Feb. 14 Reformer headline informs us that this same Governor and these same representatives are willing to consider cutting a vital program for those who have fallen through the cracks but who now want to better themselves and society.

Community High School of Vermont serves a different population than Vermont Adult Learning and does so in an entirely different way. CHSVT students need the daily encouragement of body, mind, and soul given to them by the dedicated staff at CHSVT. The cost for educating one student pales in comparison to that student falling into the welfare system or to the Department of Corrections. At CHSVT, a potential life sentence of failure and non-productivity turns into pride of achievement culminating in graduation with all the pomp and circumstance replete with cap, gown, and diploma. The pride of earning their high school diploma can never be underestimated. The CHSVT graduates are contributors to society. If we believe in the value of education from cradle to graduation, then we must give that opportunity to the young adults who made poor choices in the past but who are now ready to work on their future.

It seems to me that the DOE chose to exploit the most vulnerable program hoping that no one would speak out against its closing. I implore the Department of Education, Governor Schumlin, and our Representatives to reconsider their decision to close the Community High School of Vermont.

Thank you to Bob Audette of the Brattleboro Reformer for your insightful articles that brought this closing to light.

Lynda Starorypinski

Vernon, Feb. 21

Fukushima rally on Saturday

Editor of the Reformer:

The second anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster approaches. Most of us try to block out such thoughts, thinking and hoping such a tragedy could never occur here in our beloved home. Yet the Japanese victims of Fukushima were no less safety conscious or community oriented than ourselves.

In order to show solidarity and build connection with the victims of Fukushima, Brattleboro members of the Safe and Green Campaign and friends are adopting the "sister town" of Namie, population 21,000, situated five miles northwest of the still leaking reactor complex. Namie fell within the radiation plume of the reactors that melted down, and is largely abandoned. It is an eerie ghost town where some surviving livestock roam free, and where nature has begun to reclaim buildings and infrastructure. The former residents are scattered throughout Japan. Most hope to return if the town can be successfully decontaminated.

On Saturday, March 9, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., we will gather at Pliny Park and share images and information about our sister town of Namie. We will collect messages to send directly to former residents who are living in sustained exile from their homes, in care of their Mayor Tamotsu Babu, who is valiantly trying to represent the scattered community in their duress.

For more information about joining us or a "sister city" in your own town, please contact me at blindcommissioner@comcast.net or visit the Safe and Green Campaign website www.safeandgreencampaign.org

Leo Schiff,

Brattleboro, Feb. 25

Invest in Vermonters

Editor of the Reformer:

Recently, our legislators held a hearing and heard from hundreds of Vermonters, re: the state’s budget. Overwhelmingly, people testified urging our elected officials to pass a budget that meets the needs of the people. I wanted to testify but being a 35-year veteran of a highway department, inclement weather took priority of my time so I’m writing this letter to add my support. I’m proud to live in a state where the people and the legislators have such easy access to one another, legislators are elected to be our voice after all.

In Vermont, we’re proud to stand together when an emergency hits and get the job done, Tropical Storm Irene showed us that. These hearings were about another type of emergency though, one that we have to demand our legislators address just as we would any natural disaster. At town meeting day, voters across the state vote in budgets that invest in themselves, and the payback is worth it. We invest in our schools, and we’re always at or near the top as the smartest state. We invest in the environment, again at the top as greenest state. We invest in our health, yep ... healthiest state and the list continues. There’s a direct correlation between taxes and standard of living but those that work the hardest or have the least shouldn’t be fighting over state programs because the ones with the most don’t pay their fair share. That’s why this budget is so important to focus on people’s needs to ensure that they’re met, cutting needed programs from people who can least afford it is not the Vermont way.

Please pass a budget that invests in the people of Vermont, we’re all counting on you to get the job done and we’re here to support you.

Reed Webster,

Rockingham, Feb. 25

Rethink the
education tax

Editor of the Reformer:

On Feb. 21, the House passed H265, which I voted against, raising the statewide homestead property tax rate 5 cents and the nonresidential rate 6 cents. Proponents of the bill argue that they are merely supporting decisions by local school boards to increase budgets. However, rates are based on property tax contributions to the education fund, and, currently, property owners are being overcharged in two ways.

First, programs, not directly K-12, have been billed to the fund over the years, thus, raising the burden on all property tax payers. Second, as about one-third of education funding comes from non-property tax sources, such as dedicated statewide revenues and general fund transfers, any shortfalls, such as the outstanding $27 million in the general fund, are picked up by property owners.

During the debate on H.265, Rep. Anne Donahue offered a defeated amendment that I supported, that would have shifted the cost of the current use program out of the education fund, and Rep. Heidi Scheuermnn offered an amendment I supported that challenged the Legislature to replace present education funding. Her amendment was replaced by a compromise amendment from Rep. Bill Lippert, which I opposed.

Until we confine ourselves to using the education fund for K-12 purposes and until we guarantee proper general fund transfers, the property tax payer will be over burdened. I have introduced H.352 which would restore the $27 million owed to the education fund. I will continue to call for fiscal notes for legislation that affects property taxes. I will also continue to work with others not only for fairness in education funding, including small school grants, but also for equal educational opportunity in education spending.

Rep. John Moran,

Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg,
Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro,
and Whitingham, Feb. 26