Letter: Vote NO to Article 1

Vote NO to Article 1

Editor of the Reformer:

I urge my fellow Jamaica voters to vote, and to vote NO for Article 1 on July 12. Leaving the Leland & Gray Union Middle High School District #34 will not provide school "choice" for all Jamaica children.

Leaving the district means greater socioeconomic stratification. Students most likely to make use of "choice" are those that have the means to, including having access to transportation. This will lead to Leland & Gray serving a higher population of struggling students, growing the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Leaving will cause our public school system to struggle to pay for quality programming. This will lead more parents to remove their children from the system, and could ultimately result in the closing of Leland & Gray, and Jamaica Village School.

Leaving this district means joining a district that will bear the cost of both operating a public school and paying tuition for all students who wish "choice." Why would Jamaicans vote to increase taxes? They will go up according to a study by the Windham Central Supervisory Union.

Leaving the union makes no financial sense. If the voters of Townshend, Brookline, Newfane and Windham allow Jamaica to leave the union, and if the State approves, the divorce will cost the taxpayers of Jamaica in excess of $370,000 of bond obligations and interest that must be repaid. And do not expect to pay over the scheduled 12 years, all is subject to negotiation.

Other questions remain. According to the Windham Central Supervisory Union:

Low income families will need full tuition support to participate in school choice.

Low income families will need transportation to participate in school choice, which may be complicated if the receiving school is not on a supported bus route.

Jamaica Village School and Townshend have three-meal feeding programs. "Choice" option schools have two- or just one-meal programs.

In addition, Jamaica Village School and Leland & Gray have dental programs.

Be aware that, unlike public schools, private schools are not beholden to voters. There is also no requirement that private schools accepting public tuition dollars admit all students from Jamaica who wish to attend.

The Center for Public Education (CPE) says "school choice" has no "strong effect on students' academic achievement," according to Nicole Mace, Vermont School Boards Executive Director. She adds that across Vermont communities are unifying their school systems under Act 46 to achieve greater equity, higher quality, increased cost effectiveness, transparency and accountability. Voting to leave the Leland & Gray Union Middle High School District #34 would produce results directly opposite to those goals.

This vote is not about "choice," it is about abandonment. Vote to stay in the district and work with the other towns to make our schools the best they can be. Leland & Gray ranks high among other public schools in the state of Vermont. Both of my daughters graduated from Leland & Gray, and are now college graduates.

New England Common Assessment Program exam results in mathematics, reading, and science compare the performance of (higher-income) students ineligible for free or reduced-price meals (non-FRM) and (lower-income) students eligible for free or reduced-price meals (FRM).

Results show that, in 2013 and 2015, Leland & Gray educated non-FRM and FRM students more effectively than the Vermont State average and, in nearly every area, better than the nearest Town Academy, Burr and Burton (BBA), according to Dorinne Dorfman, Ed. D. and former Leland & Gray Principal.

The majority of taxpayers in Jamaica have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Vote NO to Article 1 in Jamaica on July 12.

Jeff Dickson Jamaica, July 4


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