Many students walked past the Stafford Academic Center on Oct. 5 completely oblivious to the event taking place through the doors of Herrick Auditorium. Although many community members and Castleton College officials were in attendance, only a handful of students attended the Rutland County State Senate Forum to hear candidates for three seats answer the question: “Do you support higher education in Vermont?”
First to answer was democratic candidate, Joseph Tilden. As a native of Rutland and graduate of Castleton State College, class of 1966, Tilden said he believes that “higher education is seriously underfunded.” His main proposal is to decrease the budgets of public schools k-12 from the current $1.2 billion to $700 or $800 million, and then use the extra revenue to increase the Vermont State Colleges budget.
To Tilden’s right, Bill Carris was the second to answer. Carris, a New Hampshire born democrat, said he strongly agrees with his fellow Democrat that “education is a value” and that “every person should get a higher education.”
But in the 10 minutes spoke, he failed to explain how he planned to help every person get a higher education while in office.
The third democratic candidate for Rutland County, Hope Bulcher, was unable to attend the forum.
The Republican incumbents, hoping to retain their seats in November, went next.
Wendy Wilton, born in Burlington, was first Castleton State College President David Wolk’s question: “Do you support higher education in Vermont?”
Wilton expressed the need to “invest” in Vermont by using additional unexpected tobacco monies. This money, equaling $175 million over a 10-year period, would be placed in a scholarship fund, which would allow more than 3,600 Vermont students to receive $5,000 each year.
This program was opposed by legislation last session and funds were given to the Medicaid budget instead. Wilton said if elected, she’ll fight hard to get the scholarship program implemented.
Incumbent Kevin Mullin, the second Republican to speak, started by saying, “the fight continues for higher education.” A Rutland native who worked as a busboy and usher to pay for his college, also promised a scholarship program for Vermont Students.
Connecticut-raised Hull Maynard explained to those in attendance how he “can’t get yanked in one direction” by those with varied ideas on higher education in Vermont. Maynard had no opinion on what should be done to help fund Vermont State Colleges, spending much of his time reiterating past accomplishments like raising VSAC’s budget by 4 percent and putting in effect a law that mandates if any state tax exceeds 125%, the proceeds go to higher education. He did not discuss any new plan for additional funding.
After their statements, one gentleman in attendance asked the panel what they would cut from the existing budget?
Maynard said he would shave the number of superintendents in Rutland County public schools k-12 from the present 63 to about 16. Mullin said he would create more efficiencies and Wilton expressed her desire to decrease the Medicaid budget and use the money saved to invest in Vermont State Colleges.
Carris said he would use the unused money from energy savings, group buying, and sharing of resources between schools to fund Vermont State Colleges.