In the lingering wake of a devastating storm and a protracted recession, Gov. Peter Shumlin used his second inaugural address Thursday to lay out a plan to bolster Vermont’s economy by improving its educational system.
Shortly after taking the oath for his second two-year term, Shumlin said he was diverging from a long-held tradition and using his speech to focus solely on one theme: an education system that he says is crucial to growing Vermont’s economy.
“My goal – and the single objective of my administration – remains to grow jobs and incomes for working Vermonters,” Shumlin said, flanked by members of the Vermont Legislature in a full House chamber. “Our education system, from pre-kindergarten to higher education, is the state’s greatest economic development tool.”
As Vermont continues to recover from Tropical Storm Irene, Shumlin spent most of his speech spelling out a broad, sweeping plan to strengthen schools at all levels – from investing in early childhood education to making college degrees more affordable and accessible. He proposed increasing aid to the University of Vermont and Vermont State Colleges to hold down tuition increases and retain graduates burdened by crushing student debt.
Shumlin admonished lawmakers, business and education leaders that the state can’t afford to fall behind on education reform.
“The rapid change is not optional,” Shumlin said. “It will define our success or deliver our future.”
Even though the state is still recovering from Irene, the governor hardly mentioned the storm or the recovery in his speech.
UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: Lawmakers are weighing in on the governor’s address. Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset, sent this message on Twitter: “The gov’s pre-k funding plan is to take most of our earned income tax credit funds. Basically he wants to rob Peter to pay Peter.”
LISTEN-READ: Gov. Peter Shumlin’s 2013 inaugural address
VPR’s John Dillon will have more details on the speech during All Things Considered.