Spending policies should address the future

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The governor has been pushing a story of high taxes and bloated schools with his talking points about "affordability," but isn't it the job of a leader to look to the future? I've been knocking on my neighbors' doors for the last month, talking about what matters: taxes, education, healthcare, families, and why I think we need new representation in Montpelier. These conversations inevitably circle back to the questions we need to be asking of any of our policies: Who is most affected? What might be the unintended consequences?

When we tear down our capacity and decimate our services today, it doesn't just cause suffering—it also makes tomorrow more expensive. When we focus on the needs and the scarcity immediately in front of us, we can't plan effectively to dig out of the hole, and with each year's leaks, with each year's erosion, the hole gets deeper. When we have a fully funded public sector, we stabilize our economy and our effectiveness. When we invest in our economy—through schools, mental health, paid family leave, living wage jobs, obtainable healthcare—we grow our collective capacity to invest in ourselves: to work, to spend, and to thrive.

When I ask who is most affected, I don't mean thirty years from now: I mean today's kindergarten class becomes tomorrow's first grade, and the earlier kids get the support they need, the better they'll do. Good education helps families cope with daily stressors, reduces our prison population, creates a robust pool of workers, and, most importantly, creates citizens prepared to participate thoughtfully in the life of a democracy—not just a marketplace.

As facilitator of Windham Southeast Supervisory Union's attendance council, I hear from our school counselors and administrators about the gulf between the need they see and the time they have to meet it. I see how complicated our neighbors' lives have become—how children's health, parents' income, families' histories, and children's capacities to learn are so intimately tied up. So many of our kids are struggling every day to even make it into the classroom, let alone be prepared to learn there. And I know how hard each person in the school works to support that effort—from the guardian at the front desk, to the bus monitor, to the teachers and administrators. We must do better for the kids for our future, and we must do better for the parents and school folks who are pouring their hearts into this work and often feel they're swimming upstream in a leaky boat. We have to invest in capacity to bail, while sealing the holes—and building a new canal.

Keep in mind that this issue of investment vs. scarcity isn't limited to education—it cuts across all of our lives, from infrastructure to prisons. Governor Scott knows that in the construction industry, we regularly spend now to save later—using quality materials for our roofs so our foundations will last ... what roof will be left to protect the floors of our communities when we've thought short-term for so long? True leadership looks beyond the two year political cycle. It asks: What do we need? When do we need it? And at what cost, to whom? Scarcity serves only those who already have enough.

Emilie Kornheiser lives in Brattleboro and is a Democratic candidate for the Vermont House of Representative Windham 2-1. She can be reached at EmilieKornheiser.org. The opinions expressed by columnists do not

necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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