Thoughts on Gov. Shumlin’s Address

Shumlin Inaugural

Since Governor Shumlin announced that the Vermont Department of Education would be taken under the jurisdiction of the governor’s office, essentially making him the czar of education in our state, I’ve been anxiously waiting to hear the governor’s priorities.

Thankfully, he made education the centerpiece of his second inaugural address, and I was pleased to see the governor speak about dual enrollment (the opportunity for high school students to take college classes), personal learning plans for all students, the need to connect students with internships, real-world learning, and online classes, and that public money should follow the student.

Of course. everything the governor spoke about is exactly what we do at LiHigh School. But we take it so much further.

Our students’ personal learning plans are completely driven by the student’s interests, passions, and the skills they need to develop, which makes their learning plan totally relevant and meaningful to them. In addition, in order to graduate from LiHigh School, students are required to take college classes. We also work hard to connect students with experts in their field of interest through internships and independent projects — in fact, this process is at the heart of all the work the students do each term. We also bring guest speakers from every sector of the economy to present their stories and broaden our students’ understanding of what careers are available to them in today’s marketplace.

Governor Shumlin mentioned several times “for the money to follow the student.” Unfortunately, the governor was only referring to public school students. Although LiHigh School is an approved independent school in the state of Vermont and maintains a tuition rate below the Vermont state average, parents of students who live in a town that maintains a high school cannot send their child to LiHigh School with public funding. If the governor is serious that “the money should follow the student,” there would be no added financial obligation to families who send their student to LiHigh School. Parents and guardians would have the ability to make sure that the student gets the education they think fits best with the student’s needs.

According to the points raised in the governor’s speech, LiHigh School is a model school that incorporates all the best practices in education, yet some parents, by virtue of what town they live in, do not have the ability to send their student to us, a school that both they and the governor believe would most benefit the student. Simply put, despite the governor’s words, in Vermont, the money does not follow the student.

And it ought to.