Editorial: What's Behind The Quackenbush? - The Caledonian-Record - St. Johnsbury, VT
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home : opinion : editorial October 6, 2015

Editorial: What's Behind The Quackenbush?

At a March 25 board of education meeting, Vermont Agency of Education official Deborah Quackenbush said the state might stop accepting third-party accreditation of independent schools. Quackenbush questions the quality of the process and said her bureaucracy can do a better job.

Local schools, like St. Johnsbury Academy, Lyndon Institute, Lyndon State College and Thaddeus Stevens are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges - the nation's oldest regional agency (founded 1885). NEASC also serves more than 2,000 public and independent schools and universities, including places you may have heard of like Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown, MIT, Amherst, Boston College, Middlebury, and UVM.

Good enough for the Ivy League but not good enough for Quackenbush... a lifetime bureaucrat, with an education degree from LSC who hit the lottery with a $90,000 a year state job?

Clearly this is ridiculous. But then, the issue isn't about the quality of accreditation. It's about the terror the public school bureaucracy feels at losing its choke-hold monopoly on education. Which is why, in the face of mounting taxpayer angst over the exploding cost of education, so many frontal attacks on independent schools are coming out of Montpelier.

But if it wants to maintain its death grip on families, the BLOB would be wiser to focus on disorder in its own house before wasting energy casting stones at those schools making it look so foolish and inept.

After all, Vermont ranks last in the country for public education policy, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. The ALEC annual report says Vermont rejects charter schools, online learning, innovation and school choice. It also says Vermont protects bad teachers and resists changes to standards.

On the bright side, the report also ranks Vermont highest in the country for low-income student achievement. That sounds pretty good, until you consider a couple of key variables. First, we don't have minority (non-native English speaking) populations that tend to drive down scores elsewhere. Second, we spend more money than anyone else does.

Certainly some people applaud the fact that we lead the nation in per-pupil spending, that we spend 85 percent more on public education now than we did in 2000 (for 20 percent fewer students), that our student/teacher and student/staff ratios are the lowest in the country, and that every imaginable human service is available in our schools.

For all that money we get a high grade for secondary school graduation. Unfortunately we get exceedingly low marks for the number of our kids who then go to college.

None of this is the case at our independent schools, however. In all instances you will find higher achievement for far less money. No good, says Quackenbush. She wants the state to take on the added expense of auditing independent schools (that currently pay for their own accreditation) so that she can teach them how to stop focusing on students, learning and innovation. The BLOB is right behind the Quackenbush, eager to drive up education costs and drive down education quality.

Instead of independent schools becoming subject to the state, the state should be subject to the NEASC.

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