Message sent, message received

I’m not here to tell anyone how to vote. I recognize what a personal choice it is every time someone casts a ballot, and although I have opinions about every question on every ballot, I fully support people learning the facts, deciding what’s important to them, and voting accordingly. It’s more important to me that people vote, period, than it is that they vote the way I would. What a gift we’ve been given to be able to cast those ballots.

That said, I’m going to weigh in on the school budget. I hear many people who have said, “I voted down the school budget because I want to send a message to the legislature,” or, “I want to send a message to Montpelier. This situation is really bad for me and my family, so I’m going to vote no on the school budget again.”

Please know this: Your message has been received. Loud and clear. Not only has it been received, but it’s been registered, heard and is in many ways the driving force behind conversations in the State House right now. Your message is in the forefront of legislators’ minds as we move forward regarding our education system as a whole, how it’s paid for and how it will be changed in the future. Increased property taxes are detrimental to seniors, families and members of our community spanning all income levels.

We have all made a commitment in years past to educate our kids equitably and wholly, recognizing more clearly with every passing school year that our students need more and more. They need mental health support, they need reading support, they need avenues to post-high school education that encompass a wide variety of career paths and guarantee successful futures for all of Vermont’s children — futures that hopefully keep them here in the state we all love, if that’s where they want to be.

All these other issues start to come into play, though, when we pursue those goals: housing, workforce shortages, healthcare costs, childcare availability, and on and on. It’s a great big snowball and the schools might be right at the core.

So, if you’re considering voting down the Champlain Valley School District budget again this month because you want to send a message, please take into account all the other factors that are informing your vote aside from the message you want to send to Montpelier. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You’ve been heard.

There are education committees in both chambers of the General Assembly that are gearing up to tackle this huge but essential change in the way we pay for schools. Legislation is underway, tied to school construction funding, that would incentivize smaller school districts that also need extensive and expensive school repairs to consolidate. ”Newer and fewer” is the buzz phrase for the ideal path moving forward.

There’s discussion of implementing a statewide budget, rather than giving each individual district control over their own funds. There are tradeoffs to this, of course, but I hear you and I know every other person in this Statehouse does, too: This is too much. We can’t keep paying increased property taxes. We can’t keep paying more to see less in terms of support and outcomes for our students.

I support and appreciate the teachers and staff at our schools who are stressed and worried and doing their best to proceed as usual during a time of great uncertainty.

I understand and empathize with the folks who can’t keep paying more in taxes when they’re trying to support their families, retire without worry or live here as a young person with a bright but uncertain future.

So. I’m not telling anyone how to vote, but I am reassuring you that if you wanted to send a message, please know it’s been heard, is weighing on the hearts and minds of many, and is truly a significant factor in decision-making as we try to make sure there’s a solid future not just for our students, but for the people who are paying for them.

Please let me know, any time, your thoughts. My email is here and my number for talking or text is 917-887-8231.