Education workers rally to ‘defend Vermont education’

Vermont Business Magazine United around the slogans “Education is a Right,” “Fund our Future,” and “Put People First,” a coalition of faculty, staff, students and community members from across Vermont will hold a virtual press conference Thursday at noon. The coalition is protesting austerity measures in education at every level.


The press conference is organized by UVM United Against Cuts, a group that formed in response to budget measures at the University of Vermont that they see as regressive and harmful to staff, faculty, students and programs.


Speakers include Middle School teacher and NEA member Isaac Kreisman; Brad Bauerly, UVM lecturer and member of United Academics; Northern Vermont University professor and AFT member Ben Luce; Middlebury professor and AAUP president Laurie Essig; Natalie Stroud of the

Early Childhood Coalition; and Dwight Brown, Burlington Schools AFSCME Local 1343 Chapter Chair.


While current budget cuts are provoked by COVID-19, the speakers see them as part of long standing patterns.


Laurie Essig explained the ongoing problems in higher education: “Tuition has been growing eight times faster than wages, even as professor salaries have remained flat for years. The reasons are clear: administration salaries, endowment hoarding, and expanding the physical plant on campus and to other locations.”


UVM student Finlay Buchanan-Jacobs said that the administration’s approach to budget uncertainty is counterproductive because it will hurt academic quality, and noted that he is “utterly dismayed that despite some of the nation’s highest out of state tuition costs, only a small portion of tuition is allocated towards furthering the university’s educational mission.”


Cutting funding for K-12 education was on the agenda of the Scott administration long before the pandemic, according to Isaac Kreisman, and it is “more important now than ever that we insist that quality public education is a right for all, and that this moment of crisis cannot be used to attack educators and degrade the educational opportunities for students.”


While opposing austerity, layoffs and pay cuts, educators such as Natalie Stroud offer an alternative model: “The early childhood education system has always been in survival mode but the response to this pandemic, if handled with care, can help programs thrive for the first time in history.” 


The voices of the workers who make schools and colleges run must be central to this rethinking, Laurie Essig added: “In order to solve this problem, we need to center education and listen to the people who make it happen.”


Kreisman concluded that we need a “peoples’ bailout:” “With trillions of dollars flowing to bail out corporate America, we need to demand full funding for the schools Vermont students deserve.”

Source: Burlington, VT—Peace & Justice Center 5.27.2020

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