Pawlet residents and artists Stephen Schaub and Eve Ogden Schaub interview.
Pawlet residents and artists Stephen Schaub and Eve Ogden Schaub interview.
From Far Away
Solo Exhibition Vermont Governors Gallery
I am very excited to announce that I have been selected by the Vermont Governors Gallery for a solo exhibition at the State Capitol form January 4 – March 31st, 2017.
The show title is “From Far Away” and represents selected works from 2004 till present. There will be an opening reception on January 12th from 4-7PM, (please note a photo ID is required to enter the gallery.) Click on the link below to read the full press release!
On Tuesday, Pawlet and Rupert both voted to maintain designation to New York State high schools, and to reject school choice.
This is going to sound weird, but as disappointed as I am about the results of the vote, I’m really proud of Pawlet and Rupert. Both town clerks reported an unheard of turnout for our two small towns.
You could say, “But they were coming to vote for president anyway!” and that’s true. But Election Day wasn’t the only time people have showed up on this issue. Since way back in July, when I started covering the (now-dissolved) Pawlet/Rupert/Wells Merger Committee and posting blogs about their progress I’ve watched the Act 46-related public meetings grow from audiences of one or two people, to well over a hundred. And these were not just ordinary meetings; these were long, three-plus-hour meetings, standing-room-only meetings, emotional and rancorous at times. Not just adults, but kids showed up and bravely made public statements on both sides of the issue. Heck, kids from other towns were showing up, just to hear our version of the debate, to see what our town was going to do.
I think we’ve all come to know way, way more about educational law in Vermont than any one of us probably thought we would ever need to know.
So now, at long last, we have actual numbers as to the will of the townspeople. Although it wasn’t a landslide, it wasn’t exactly razor-close either: in Pawlet 413 voted for designation, 306 voted against. In Rupert, it was a similar margin: 235 in favor, 145 against.
Clearly, the majority of people in our towns feel that school choice is a luxury we simply can’t afford. They believe it despite all the arguments that have been made to the contrary: even if designation means exploiting a loophole of New York State law, even if it means we have no say in how the educational system is run, and even if that means our Vermont kids can’t freely go to a Vermont school… public or private.
For a long time I thought that opponents of school choice in our area just must not have all the information. And so I made it my business to help get more information out there. And guess what? I was wrong. We still disagree.
So that, as they say, is that.
Who knows what will happen next? Nobody. Maybe another merger committee will be attempted, but I doubt it, since we’re surrounded on all sides by communities who have opted for school choice. Maybe we’ll just keep going along with things as they are, unchanged, until the day that someone comes along and tells us we can’t anymore. If that ever happens.
But my biggest hope now is for our community to heal. The school issue has been so divisive along so many lines, that at times it has felt like Act 46 was tearing our town limb from limb… pitting young versus old, “born-here”s versus newbies, those who are struggling to make ends meet versus those who are not. I think the key to moving forward is rooted in being proud of the fact that we all participated, and not just a little, but a lot.
I mean, did you see all those signs out there on Election Day? If you were in our area you could hardly have missed them. Printed ones, hand-lettered ones, sheets, banners… they were everywhere.
Outsiders driving through must’ve thought the entire town was having a schizophrenic seizure or something. I kind of loved it. It was evidence of a thriving democracy, in which each person really does feel like their opinion matters. And in our town, it really does.
No matter what, you can’t say we suffer from apathy around here. I’m glad that we are a community who doesn’t leave our important decisions- no matter how painful they may be to make- up to someone else. We can all be proud that on last Tuesday we did the most important thing of all: we showed up.
Just so there’s no mystery: here’s the ballot Pawlet voters will see tomorrow for Article 3. The Rupert ballot will be identical, except of course it will say “Rupert.”
Although the article’s language is easily confusing, the upshot is this:
I could repeat the arguments here in favor of voting “NO,” since that’s what I intend to do, but I won’t. What with all the many-hour public forums, pro and con flyers flying about, and lawn signs popping up everywhere, you probably know all the arguments backwards and forwards at this point. I figure any local resident who hasn’t fully made up their mind one way or the other by now is either dead or… no they’re probably dead.
People are often surprised to hear that in Pawlet and Rupert we don’t send our kids to high school in Vermont. It’s been a quietly contentious issue for decades, but the merger requirements of Act 46 have now brought the issue to a head. Next Tuesday residents will vote to find out once and for all: should our towns maintain high school designation in New York State?
Rumors abound, as do speculations and fears. No matter what we decide, there are no guarantees. No matter what we decide, taxes will go up. We just don’t know what the numbers will be.
If we vote “No” on article 3, we make sure that kids don’t have to get stuck in a school that’s not working for them. Contrary to some rumors, voting “no” to designation doesn’t mean our kids can’t still go to high school in New York- they can. Nor does it mean that our town’s property taxes will have to accommodate any school a kid wants to go to. It only means that child will receive the Vermont state average tuition.
In fact, it all comes down to this question: are Pawlet and Rupert willing to pay the average tuition to send their kids to school? Not pie-in-the-sky tuition. Not boarding school in Europe prices. Not the highest tuition in our state… but also not the lowest.
Which is what we have right now: the lowest tuition in the entire state of Vermont.
Right now, because we send kids to New York (where tuition is heavily subsidized by New York State) we have the lowest high school tuitions in the state of Vermont, ($8,755 and $7,739) which, on the face of it sounds like a good thing, right? Unless you are a kid who would do better elsewhere. Because then, that’s the same amount you get towards tuition at a different school. Vermont state average tuition ($14,297) is well above these numbers, which means: forget about private school, you can’t even go to a public school in Vermont.
Let me say that again: our tuition rate is not high enough to send a Vermont kid to a Vermont public high school.
Once upon a time, around the turn of the last century, the town of Pawlet actually did have its own high school. It was a two-year program with a 70% graduation rate, which for that time was actually pretty good (well above the national average). Nevertheless, around 1939, the town made a bold decision: they would pay more money in order to send the kids across the border to Granville High School instead.
Just like today, the residents of our town were faced with a difficult choice: should we stay with what we already have, which is pretty good, and spend somewhat less on education? Or do we go with something new, and more costly, in hopes of an even better outcome for our children?
As we now know, they made the choice to spend more. Mind you, this was no flush period of economic prosperity either; the late 1930s were the tail end of the Great Depression. And yet still, they decided to spend more money on education.
The Superintendent at the time said this: “It is more sensible to sacrifice money to save children, than to sacrifice children to save money.”
Pawlet and Rupert residents, I urge you: let all our children have access to the Vermont state average tuition. Vote “No” on Article 3.