News Release — Vermont National Education Association
June 19, 2017
Holding the budget hostage – and risking a government shutdown in 11 days – are not what these educators bargained for when they voted for Scott in November
MONTPELIER – It’s no secret that Phil Scott received support from members of Vermont-NEA last year, but some of those educators now say he’s lost their votes because of his recent DC-style actions attacking educators and threatening a government shutdown.
“Teachers are voters. Teachers are volunteers. Teachers work hard for our kids,” said David Cornwell, a social studies teacher at Rutland Middle School, in a letter to the governor. Cornwell said that the plan by the governor and the Vermont School Boards Association takes power from locally elected school board members, and intrudes into the relationship between school boards and their employees. “To hold the entire budget up to get your way is juvenile and inappropriate. I am unimpressed, and will not vote for you again.”
Even though legislators did not approve the governor’s plan to strip away local control – and any locally generated savings because of changes in educators’ health insurance plans – they did offer compromises. The governor balked at all of them. Instead of accepting the defeat of his idea, he vetoed the state budget, even though only one lawmaker voted against it when it was originally passed. He also vetoed the education funding bill.
The result of those actions? In 11 days, the state government will shut down and local schools will face a $400 million shortfall.
The vetoes gave Amy Emerson, an early childhood special educator and preschool teacher at Blue Mountain Union School, pause. “I voted for Phil Scott, and I voted for him for a few reasons,” she said, noting that after watching the Vermont-NEA Gubernatorial Debate she found that “he was a stronger candidate with a more comprehensive background in education.” She noted that the timing of his proposal to gut collective bargaining – and his earlier calls on school boards to rewrite their budgets – was “very calculated” to cause disruptions in local contract talks between local school boards and local educators.
“His constant attack on schools and teachers is very disheartening,” Emerson said. “He says he has the communities’ best interests at heart. Is it good for a community to constantly and in a very calculated manner pit communities against their schools? I don’t believe it is.”
Fran Brock, a history teacher at Burlington High School, is an independent voter who doesn’t vote along party lines of any kind; indeed, she doesn’t automatically vote for candidates endorsed by Vermont-NEA or any other organization. “I also have a great deal of respect for some of Vermont’s previous Republican leadership, folks like Robert Stafford who helped author the low-interest student loans for college-bound students as well as the Clean Water Act; and Jim Jeffords, another strong supporter of education. I really thought, based on Mr. Scott’s record as lieutenant governor, that he was cut from the same Yankee Republican cloth as those men,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, I was wrong.”
She now regrets voting for Scott. “Because I am a public-school teacher and a proud member of Vermont-NEA, he probably assumed I didn’t vote for him,” she said. “He assumed wrong but now I can assure him that I won’t vote for him again.”
(Note: Five years ago, Scott received the backing of Vermont-NEA’s board of directors in his reelection bid as lieutenant governor.)