While the Vermont Legislature has been grappling with Vermont’s shrinking student enrollment with heavy-handed mandates like Act 46, which in some school districts will do more harm than good, the Campaign for Vermont has put a more creative and more promising proposal on the table. Issued March 23 and entitled “Re-Energizing Vermont’s Public Education System: Making Vermont an Education Destination” the proposal calls for Vermont to become more active in recruiting international exchange students.
Vermont currently has one of the best secondary public school systems in the country. Our public high schools however are challenged by high costs and excess capacity. In an increasingly global economy our students are also shortchanged by a lack of ethnic and cultural diversity at many schools. On the other hand the emerging global economy has brought new wealth and prosperity to countries that were once mired in poverty. Many families in these increasingly affluent countries appreciate the importance of education and understand that schools in Vermont have a great deal to offer their children.
The Campaign for Vermont proposal calls for Vermont to initiate a program to reach out to families around the world and bring more tuition students from foreign countries to Vermont. It is an idea that deserves serious attention. In order to work, the proposal requires careful screening of both students and host families. Exchange students need to be screened for maturity and to assure that they have the language skills needed to succeed. Host families or boarding homes need to be able to adapt to the tastes and values of a different culture. But if Vermont secondary schools worked together with the Vermont Agency of Education the prospects for enhancing the educational quality of our schools and reducing our property tax burden are significant. The General Assembly, Vermont’s superintendents, and the Vermont School Boards Association should all give serious attention to this proposal and consider a collective effort to create a statewide Vermont public school foreign student initiative.