4-3-14 – Vermont’s War on Educational Freedom

by Kyle O’Grady

The Vermont House of Representatives recently voted to deny students of secular and religious private schools across the state of Vermont access to a taxpayer funded educational program called Dual Enrollment (H.876, Branagan Amendment). Dual Enrollment allows Vermont high school Juniors and Seniors to enroll in up to two classes at any Vermont state college, and receive both high school and college credit for the courses. Though public school students greatly outnumber private school students, these private school students still deserve the same educational opportunity and funding as public school students. I know this, because I myself am a private school student.

This year I am a senior at Rice Memorial High School, a private Catholic school in South Burlington. I’ve spent my entire high school career at Rice, and have come to know many of my classmates on very personal levels. I have also spent a lot of time around a number of friends that attend public school, and contrary to the state’s judgment; I see no difference between my public and private school peers. My friends at public school are hard-working, intelligent, and driven, just as my classmates at Rice are. So what is the difference between the two groups? In the end it all boils down to one term; choice.

What distinguishes my friends attending Rice from my friends at public school, is that my friends attending Rice make an active choice to do so. Some attend for religious reasons, some attend due to family tradition, and some, like myself, attend because they see it as the best educational opportunity in the area. I see the state’s actions concerning the Dual Enrollment Program as an assault on the religious liberty of my classmates; I see it as an assault on the tradition of attendance, spanning many generations, that some of my classmates hold; and I see it as an assault on students like myself, who make an active choice to attend a private school, in hopes of receiving an education at a higher standard than public school provides. We are no different than those eligible for Dual Enrollment, we have just simply made a different choice.

Naturally, the Establishment Clause and the separation of church and state are the basis for the House’s argument against allowing secular schools to participate in Dual Enrollment. They argue that if students take a course through the Dual Enrollment program because their secular school does not offer the course, then the school has saved money at the taxpayer’s expense. However, since only a small number of secular school-students take part in Dual Enrollment, it is highly unlikely that the secular school would have introduced an entire new course just for those students. This shows that Dual Enrollment would not be used as an alternative to offering new courses, but rather to extend the opportunity for students to take courses that their school cannot fit into their curriculum. By denying secular school-students this program, the state is also denying them of opportunity.

The discussion about public education and private schools is much broader than just this one issue, however. Like just about every other industry that government involves itself in, government is crippling the education industry. Vermont public schools are among some of the best in the nation, but public education in the United States as a whole is not where the country needs it to be. One way to combat this would be to expand vouchers, and expand school choice entirely. But those running the education system are not interested in allowing people this freedom. They are not interested in schools getting better. They are only interested in expanding government power here in the American education system, and this is the real reason why the Vermont Legislature voted to deny secular-school students the opportunities that Dual Enrollment provides. This vote was just another step in the process of derailing private schools, to eliminate competition for public schools, put on by big government and unions.

An ignorant society cannot be free. That is why we must fight so hard to keep big government’s influence out of education, and allow liberty to prevail.

Kyle O’Grady is an 18 year old senior at Rice Memorial High School.  He plans on attending Clarkson University after graduation in June.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dean Salvas April 5, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Nice piece of writing Kyle. It is good to see young people, and more specifically yourself, taking a stand for freedom. Press on at Clarkson.

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Mary Daly April 5, 2014 at 3:16 pm

There is a saying, “Out of the mouth of Babes,” but I would never call Kyle a babe. His article brings a strong perspective on the issue on dual enrollment from someone who is living with the problem. Thank you Kyle.

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Doug Richmond, Underhill April 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm

The Legislature failed the easy logic that Kyle and his parents paid, in full, for public schools too, and are qualified for State University or college.
Apparently Legislators believe the money is only for the Education blob, but not for the students, who are just along for the ride.
Privately educated students are citizens, who have paid, in full, for full priveledges of any part of “public education’ they choose to use. Advance placement, higher sciences, dual enrollment, school sports and extra curricular all included.

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