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No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was one of the earliest examples of the Bush administration's genius for naming acts in a fashion that betray their impact. The patriot act is another such gem. At any rate, there is now a bill in the Legislature (S.16 introduced by Sens. Ayer, Giard and Lyons) that asks Vermont to forgo participation in the No Child Left Behind program. Doing so would mean forfeiting federal money - not something we should take lightly. But, there are many who believe participating in the testing that comes with NCLB costs us more than we get from the feds. Some teachers estimate the tests gobble up a minimum of 5 weeks of class time between tests and teaching to the test. Progressives are circling in favor of withdrawing participation from NCLB. The National NEA seems to support NCLB, but certainly many teachers do not share this view. What do folks think?

The Little Party that Could

As the session gets underway it's clear that while our numbers are small we are treated with respect and appreciation by members across the spectrum. We have come a long way since 1990 and today represent seven counties with our six members (half the counties in Vermont). Now serious discussion about bills and issues will get underway and we are well positioned to have influence. Rep. Sarah Edwards is again assigned to the Natural Resources and Energy committee. This year, perhaps more than ever, there is a growing recognition that we must begin to curb our carbon emmissions. Further, re-licensing of VT Yankee (our nuclear power plant) will come before her committee. With her past experience, Sarah's in a good position to push a sustainable agenda. Rep. David Zuckerman is again chair of House Ag. As farmers continue to struggle with low prices and the impacts of weather they can rest assurred they have a friend and ally in the chair. Rep. Susan Davis will serve on the Commerce committee. This year I've heard more noise about investing in our rural economy. Let's see if Susan can help move this discussion forward. Rep. Sandy Haas returns to Human Services where she can continue the work she's started on Death with Dignity and other efforts. Rep. Dexter Randall will again sit on the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources committee. Despite our reputation for a pristine environment we have a lot of waterways around the state that are unfit for swimming, drinking and eating fish. We need to get serious about reversing this trend. And I am pleased to be assigned to Government Operations. We will be looking at a whole range of issues including campaign finance reform, election laws, charter changes, the state employees contract, and more.

Blog Beginnings

I haven't spent much time on - or is it in - blogs. I have spent plenty of time in living rooms, town halls and other spaces talking with and listening to Vermonters. It's time consuming, but always interesting and usually rewarding and important. The kind of conversations that build trust and create the foundation for citizen action that brings about change – whether it's farmers, kids, construction workers, the rotary club or church group. I can remember many times walking into a room and not knowing quite what - or who to expect. I suppose this blog is a little like that. There are unknowns but I expect it will be interesting, suppose it can be rewarding and hope it can help us move towards citizen action and social change. It is also a chance to better understand who we are and where we want to go, as opposed to leaving it up to the mainstream media and political opposition. Lets start at the beginning and consider how the media has gotten to redefine "progressive." It used to be reserved for what they considered the fringe. Now it is Howard Dean and the new Democratic congress. Remember when that small progressive fringe movement called for "radical" things - like health care for all, moving away from property to fund education and replacing nuclear power with "real" renewable energy (in fact they used to call it "alternative" energy). So where is the mainstream now? We can't hold it against 'em. People are slow to accept change and it just takes awhile for the mainstream to catch up with what we are doing, saying and advocating. The thing is - for the most part – Progressives haven't changed when it comes to priorities. The world around us has. The issues have become better defined for many people and the things that were seen as "radical" have come to be seen as what they always were - good ole Vermont common sense. Vermonters are populist by nature. They may not want government pushing them around, but they also sure don't want big corporations and big money pushing them - or even their government around. But we can leave that conversation (or is it a blog "post") for another day. Anyway, this thing called a blog will hopefully give us one more tool to use to build communication, gain some understanding and move things along. We look forward to the conversation.
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