Governor Phil Scott’s administration is engaged in a self-described thought experiment titled, “Designing Our Future: A Blueprint for Vermont’s Education System”. The document, released by Seven Days Vermont on January 11th, is reported by administration officials to be a compilation of creative ideas and innovative thinking. Instead the memo reads like a public education horror show.
Here are some of the so-called creative ideas:
- Consolidate all Vermont schools into a single district
- Dismantle the Vermont Board of Education
- Transfer all public school property to the state
- Remove local representation from planning and design committees
- Adhere to a statewide teacher contract
In other words, it is an education power grab right out of the Koch Brothers/Betsy de Vos playbook. Changing the education system as we know it was a central focus of Koch’s three-day donor seminar during the 2018 campaign aimed at disrupting the status quo and breaking teachers unions. And they delivered: The Koch funded super Pac, A Stronger Vermont, spent $826,000 dollars on Scott’s re-election campaign, more money that Scott raised himself. (https://www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2018/11/20/republican-super-pac-spent-826k-on-phil-scotts-reelection-bid).
Scott’s new plan is just the latest in a series of efforts to undermine local public education. In 2017, Scott failed to make the prudent financial decision to invest a one-time surplus to fund the state’s pension obligations to teachers and other public employees. In 2018, Scott asked local communities to keep the growth in education spending below 2.5%. When the total increase enacted by local communities across the state came in at 1.5%, well below the target, Scott insisted that the increases were excessive. And now, in 2019, Scott launches an education plan devised by individuals who very evidently hold the enduring commitment of Vermonters to public education in contempt.
Vermont’s education system is one of our state’s strongest assets and the character of our schools is vital to our communities. As we start the 2019 legislative session, Vermonters beware. Phil Scott is not acting in our interests. It is up to us to pay attention, speak up and protect the Vermont we love.
I’ve been talking to friends about our election this Tuesday, and some of them are Democrats thinking of voting for Phil Scott. When I ask why, they say something along the lines of, “He stuck his neck out to support gun reform. He’s moderate. He deserves a second term. And I’m not sure Christine Hallquist is a serious candidate.”
I can understand these arguments. And according to polling, enough Democrats may hold them to re-elect Scott on Tuesday.
But for those considering voting Democratic up and down the ballot–except for Governor–here are three other arguments to consider:
1. Phil Scott lacks political courage.
Phil Scott took a courageous stand when he signed the law that brought new gun control laws to our state. But it was courageous precisely because his Republican Party is so extreme in their opposition to common sense gun reform. Ask yourself, how else has the Governor shown political courage, and a willingness to buck his party to do the right thing?
For example, our precious resources Lake Champlain, Lake Carmi, and bodies of water all across this state have high pollution levels that are unacceptable and illegal, as they are in violation of the Federal Clean Water Act. Has Scott had the courage to take on polluters, and raise funds to clean up our water? In fact, has he had the courage to raise taxes on the wealthy to help solve any of our state’s problems, from housing shortages to the opioid crisis? Instead our Governor has vetoed bill after bill, from a $15.00 minimum wage, to paid family leave, to toxin regulation, brought to him by the Democratic legislature.
This year Governor Scott financed a national publicity campaign that offered relocation fees to bring a few new telecommuting residents into our state. Yes, rural Vermont needs good jobs, and our small towns need a new generation of Vermonters to help our economy and educational system thrive. But how many Vermonters already here are struggling with slow, or no, internet? Where is Scott’s political courage to confront corporations that won’t spend what it takes to connect every Vermonter to the digital world? Where’s his vision to create solutions to our problems, including digital infrastructure?
Maybe you joined me on the State House lawn to thank Governor Scott for signing our new gun reform laws. But fellow Democrats, ask yourself before you vote, is Scott showing the political courage to buck his Republican Party on any other front, and lead on all the other critical issues we face?
2. Scott is backed by the Trump GOP.
Vermont Democrats, you are disgusted with the national Republican Party for being unwilling to put any brakes on the autocratic, extreme, and unethical actions of President Trump. Yet some of you are willing to give Governor Scott a pass in the voting booth Tuesday because he’s a moderate compared to the rest of his party, and a nice guy.
Yes, he is both of those things. But consider this. The Republican Party that is 100% behind Trump is also 100% behind Scott. They are spending many hundreds of thousands of dollars in our little state to elect Republicans all up and down the ticket, from State House Reps to Senate. National Republican organizations, including Koch Brother PACS, are supporting Gov. Scott and flooding our mailboxes, TV screens, and social media with ads, Many of them are lying about the Democratic candidates, including Christine Hallquist.
By accepting the Republican Party’s money and help, how is the Governor not complicit in supporting Trump and his party’s agenda? Has he switched parties and become an independent (as our Senator Jim Jeffords did) in protest against Trump and the Republican’s gutting of Obamacare, stigmatization of immigrants, or use of racist dogwhistles? Democrats voting for Scott should be sure they want to cast a vote that will be supported by, and help, a Republican Party that is now wholly owned by Donald Trump.
3. Christine Hallquist is a GREAT candidate.
Maybe you are worried that Democratic candidate Christine Hallquist is not a serious candidate for governor? You might be thinking that a vote for her would be a vote that didn’t mean much.
Have you heard Christine speak about the issues that matter to her? Do you know where she stands on the issues you care about? Go to her website https://www.christineforvermont.com before you cast your vote, and look at her plans for lowering healthcare costs, raising the minimum wage, and improving education. You’ll be impressed by Christine’s passion, her values, and her grasp of the issues.
We Vermonters take the threat of global warming seriously, and, unlike Scott, so will Christine if we elect her governor. Take a look at her plan to work with a Vermont Democratic legislature and other states in our region to help tackle this crisis. We Vermonters want to have a 21st Century infrastructure so we can have well-paying jobs. As the former head of Vermont Electric Co-op, Christine has the plan and the skills to finally get everyone in our state connected to the internet.
Christine Hallquist’s goals are our Democratic Party goals. They are goals rooted in reality, they are visionary, and with the right leadership and our Democratic votes, they can be our future.
In the July 16th VT Digger article, “State Political Control Will Come Down To A Few House Races”, the authors wrote that Phil Scott “is expected to easily win a second term.” The authors, as well as other media outlets in Vermont, write as though the November 2018 gubernatorial race has already been decided. Vermont lore says that governors serve two terms and both Democrats and Republicans seem to nod in agreement. At Indivisible Brattleboro, we disagree. We have looked at the data, crunched the numbers, and come to one conclusion: Scott’s only chance to hold on to the Governor’s seat is if Democrats and Progressives allow it. If Democrats and Progressives show up to the polls to oppose Phil Scott, he can and will be defeated.
There is an inherent danger in calling the gubernatorial race before a Democratic candidate has been chosen. It keeps voters from voting and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, all while giving Phil Scott a green light to continue his brazen politics. And make no mistake, Phil Scott’s policies and actions are a far cry from the moderate Republicans of Vermont’s past. Since December 2017 alone, Scott and his administration have done the following:
- Vetoed 13 pieces of legislation and 2 tripartisan budgets.
- Sided with industry over Vermonters on environmental issues including liability for toxic exposures and protecting children against environmental toxins.
- Denied Vermonters a fair and livable wage
- Denied Vermonters paid family leave
- Devalued the bipartisan Joint Fiscal Office when their numbers failed to support his flawed budget
- Scrubbed Vermont policies of climate change language
- Attempted to invite the private prison industry to Vermont (and faced a fierce backlash)
- Suggested that a person without education experience — a Betsy Devos equivalent? — would be appropriate for the role of Education Secretary
- Made end-of-session budget proposals with no time for dialogue, analysis, or debate, then refused to work with lawmakers on a solution
- Threatened the quality of Vermont’s public education with rigid staffing ratios and a deaf ear to democratically decided town budget and school board decisions.
Scott’s actions are accompanied with an unwillingness to discuss issues with lawmakers or even Vermont’s Lieutenant Governor and bear resemblance to the tactics of the Trump administration. To concede this election now is a disservice to the Vermonters who believe in the democratic process and in the cooperative, forward-thinking tradition of Vermont politics.
Indivisible Brattleboro urges the media and the voters of Vermont to treat the gubernatorial race as it is: a serious and important election that could have grave consequences for the future of Vermont. As importantly, we encourage the voters of Vermont to learn about Christine Hallquist, Scott’s democratic opponent, and to vote with the future of Vermont in mind. Phil Scott can be defeated, but only if we refuse the myth of his invincibility and vote against him.