It's school budget and school board election time, and once again there is a split in Montpelier between people who support maintaining the activities of our excellent schools and those who have been arguing for austerity the last few years.
The leading candidate for the austerity forces is Tina Muncy, a former teacher and principal, who has the support of Vibrant and Affordable Montpelier, the new conservative party in Montpelier. (VAM to its members, the Chai Party to its adversaries.) During last year's budget fight Muncy was one of the loudest voices against the school budget not only the first time around, and one of the few who also opposed the budget on the revote after cuts and restructuring that attracted the support of even some of the VAM leaders.
This year's election has stirred some controversy when City Council member Thierry Guerlain, one of the founders and leaders of VAM, signalled to voters that they should bullet vote for Muncy, a tactic that rubs some people the wrong way. This has led Montpelier resident Jed Guertin to post this letter to the editor of the Times Argus, which I am posting with his permission:
We’re lucky in Montpelier to have five candidates for two school board seats. I’m writing this letter to simply present two observations, not to tell you for whom you should vote.
1. Everyone has a right to vote or not vote, but I was dismayed to see a city councilor suggest that citizens even consider pocketing a vote to see only one specific candidate get elected.
2. While attending school board and program finance committee meetings this fall and winter, I had a chance to observe Tina Muncy’s approach to school budgeting. The finance committee’s charge was to “make recommendations … that show potential to reduce or at least control costs and show promise to improve or at least maintain the quality of educational outcomes as measured by the board’s ends policies.”
It’s one thing to show ways to cut costs; the hard part is to take the time to analyze and then measure the impact of those potential cuts on students. Tina appeared strongly in favor of cutting the budget (the first part of the committee’s charge) but seemed uninterested in addressing the need to analyze the impact of those cuts on students, the second part of the committee’s charge.
For that reason, Tina Muncy will not be getting my vote. But thankfully that still leaves me with four excellent candidates.
I'm very concerned about investing power over our school budgets on someone who has so publicly opposed adequate funding for this most vital community activity. Whether the austerity forces will get their way this time around remains to be seen.