Thank you for visiting my webpage. I am a Vermont State Senator for the Chittenden Central District, which includes Burlington, Winooski, Essex Junction, Essex Town and a small portion of Colchester.

I serve as Vice-Chair of the Senate Education Committee and am Clerk of the Health & Welfare Committee. I also serve on the Judicial Retention Committee, the Green Mountain Care Board Nominating Committee, the School Construction Aid Task Force, the Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Lake Champlain’s Future and the Canvassing Committee. Please visit my official legislative page for a deeper dive on bills I’ve sponsored or co-sponsored, votes and committees.

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My comments to the full Senate regarding Zoie Saunders: 4/30/2024

Mr. President, I also interviewed Ms. Saunders, and as a member of the committee, at a pivotal moment for education in VT, I felt it important to ask challenging questions. I asked questions wearing many hats, that of a former teacher, school board member, Vice Chair of Senate Education and a VT taxpayer. Although Ms. Saunders answered my questions with grace, I generally found the responses lacking in real experience, deep knowledge and simple know-how of education. I, along with my colleague, the Senator from Windham, voted no. I plan to vote no again today. Here’s why:

On the question of whether she has experience implementing federal policy, the answer was no. 

On the question I asked around affordability in Vermont and how she envisioned the financial future of education in Vermont, there was an acknowledgement of high property taxes and high per pupil spending, but no real strategies to address the crisis. I would have loved to hear about the need to rein in health care costs, the possibility of decoupling mental health services from the education fund, a stop to private schools charging publicly tuitioned kids more than privately tuitioned kids, a moratorium on Vermont tax dollars paying for schools out of state, a look at whether we should still be providing early college and dual enrollment to wealthy families and not just to families living in poverty, to name a few. I heard none of these. 

Most troubling, when asked about a vision for education in Vermont, I didn’t hear one. You know, as humans, we crave a story, a narrative, to explain the world to us. With this question, I was asking for a story, a vision that could paint a robust, future education landscape in the State of Vermont. It was a question that invited the imagining of a system with right-sized school districts, new or improved buildings free of toxins, full of natural light, every classroom without an empty seat and bustling with our VT children eager to learn. No cell phones, locally grown food and skilled teachers doing what they love. I imagined a vision where everyone believed education to be a common good, with a teachers union ready for change and innovation, where folks saw schools as community hubs with shared spaces and resources for the elderly. Instead I heard words like continuum, alignment, indicators. There was no vision. 

This moment is being called a crossroads, an inflection point, a reckoning, a crisis for education in Vermont. We have difficult decisions to make, and although we may not be able to achieve my vision for the future of education in Vermont, with the strong, experienced, knowledgeable leadership at the helm of the Agency of Education, we have a much better chance of achieving an education system that is financially sustainable, innovative and that provides our kids with the tools they need to face the future. 

Thank you Mr. President.