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Ballon d'essai

In an earnest effort-I'm trying really, really, hard-to stay au courant with, and au milieu de the elevated intellectual climate for which the gentry-left (plural noun) of Norwich, Vt., expect to be known and appreciated, I'll characterize as, a ballon d'essai, the following quote from School Board member Geoffrey Vitt as reported in the Jan. 8 issue of the Norwich-area Valley News. Here it is: "...Cutting too much out of the budget could lead parents to send their children to private school, and... exacerbate school funding problems."

If the trial balloon (ballon d'essai) symbolism dating from the Great Depression years, and the then-new-use of weather balloons, doesn't work for you perhaps the more recent "let's run it up the flagpole to see who salutes it" imagery-supposedly spawned in the Madison Avenue ad agency culture of the 1950s-will.

Either way, it's a new tactic in the please-vote-for-our-tax-increasing- school-budget strategy in the annual campaign on this subject.

Until now, the argument has been couched in terms of "We're doing wonderful and excellent things for the inadequately prepared children you've dumped on us. If you vote against our barely enlarged budget, over which we have little control, it's because you're too cheap and stingy, too intellectually challenged to comprehend and appreciate our efforts. So if you don't vote 'yes' we'll just bring it back iterum iterumque until you finally get it right." Whew!

In Benson, Vt., in the mid-1990s, school officials brought it back a dozen times; it never gained voter acceptance and so the local school board and educrats went to the Vermont Legislature instead for approval. They got it! So much for the old rural Vermont legend of local control.

Unlike Benson, where the arrogant school board demanded, and got, higher-level Golden Dome adult supervision, in the burg of Norwich the tactic is a cost-threat: "Approve our spending or your taxes will go up even more because you've caused our enrollment to go down even more".

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