Legislators are not to blame

In early August 2005, Libby Sternberg, executive director of Vermonters for Better Education, declared in her weekly newsletter, “Wanda Haynes of Middletown Springs is closing her child care business in two weeks as a direct result of her local public school expanding into the pre-K business.” Since that date, Ms Sternberg, Rob Roper, state director of FreedomWorks, and others have cleverly tried to connect the closing of this child care business with the enactment of a small paragraph in the budget bill passed by the Legislature in its final days and signed into law by Gov. Douglas. As that old commentator says, “And now the rest of the story.”

On March 2, 2004, the voters of Middletown Springs approved the following petitioned warrant article:

“Do the voters of the town of Middletown Springs concur with the school board’s decision to run a pre-kindergarten program at the Middletown Springs Elementary School beginning in 2004-2005 for 3- and 4-year-olds?”

The vote was 180 yes to 108 no. Thus, this new program that began in September 2004 was approved by more than 60 percent of the voters. That is strong support for a new educational program in anyone’s book.

Checking the chronology again, March 2004, the voters of Middletown Springs approve a preschool program by a 20 percent margin. September 2004, the new pre-kindergarten program begins. May 2005, the Legislature codifies in the budget bill the state Board of Education rule related to public school early education and Gov. Douglas signs the budget bill. And August 2005, Ms. Sternberg begins a cleverly designed campaign to blame the closing of a child care business in Middletown Springs on a few selected legislators.

What else is Ms. Sternberg and her fellow anti-public school comrades not telling us? Here are a couple of items. This new, publicly funded, pre-kindergarten program in Middletown Springs is voluntary on the part of the parents and is currently serving 10 children. The program only runs on regular school days. Children attend the half-day program for a varying number of days as determined by each family. Other private childcare programs continue to provide services to Middletown Springs families and children.

It would appear that Sternberg, Roper and company either did not fully research this matter or they have simply chosen to provide incomplete information so as to promote a specific point of view. Readers will need to decide for themselves whether these anti-public school groups are poor researchers or devious writers.