Lovely Vermont

birch-tree_edited.jpgHere in the dead of winter we can be glad we live in South Carolina and not in some frozen tundra of a state—like Vermont. As I write this, the temperature in Vermont’s largest “city” Burlington (pop. 39,000 ) is a nose-nipping 18 degrees. I’d be perfectly happy let those darn Yankees keep their cold. But just because they have lousy winter weather doesn’t mean that we can’t learn anything from Vermont about, say, school choice.

Many South Carolina school choice opponents claim that school choice can’t work here as well as it can in places like Milwaukee or Cleveland because our population is too small. But this is belied as nonsense by the fact that Vermont is so small that 1/3 of their towns don’t have public school systems—they have school choice! How well does this system work? Apparently well enough for the citizens of Vermont and Maine; they’ve had this type of town-based tuitioning since 1869. (You can read a fascinating report about the history and effects of the program here.)

The fact is that Vermont’s tuitioning system has given the state access to innovative, high-achieving, cost effective schools since the 19th Century are the reason that the state consistently scores well on the SATs, the Nation’s Report Card, maintains a high graduation rate. (Did you know that Vermont 8th graders are over 30% more likely to be advanced or proficient at Math than the national average? It’s true!)

Although Vermont is very different from the rest of the country in terms of both its demographics (a very small, very white state), they have a system that embodies school choice and even makes it possible for parents and communities to get more.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere.


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