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Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Vermont education debate comes to Georgia

The turnout Tuesday night at the George Middle School gym was impressive. More than they get for town meeting, on par perhaps with the crowd you might see for a school concert, when grandma, grandpa and aunt milly bring the video camera and capture footage for the ages.

This crowd _ I estimated about 400 _ was there for a discussion that reverberates around the state. They were deciding whether, in the face of mounting costs, they were willing to change their educational setup. They answered with a resounding no. They love their K-8 school like Boston fans used to love Manny. They love their school choice for high school at least as much. You've never seen a group of people more happy with the way things are.

In Georgia's case, the question was whether they should think about giving up school choice for high school and consider pairing permanently with a district that charges less than others. The hope would be to save money.

Around the state, whether a town has a school of its own or not, this debate about whether Vermont can afford to continue its small-sized, uncentralized, local-local- local system of educating kids has been lurking under the surface. Gov. Jim Douglas

Georgia is not what I would consider a hot-bed of liberalism. It is in Franklin County, sends one Democrat and one Republican to the state House and along with the rest of the county does the same in the Senate. Yet, the residents Tuesday night cheered when, on several occasions, their neighbors said cost wasn't the driving factor for them in education.

Superintendent Bruce Chattman, a veteran of Vermont schools, was trying to warn them that the rising costs are unsustainable and that as a result, change is on the horizon whether they like it or not. They would have none of it.

That, in a microcosm, is the education debate in Vermont.

- Terri Hallenbeck

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