How many K-12 teachers does Vermont need?

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) How many teachers does Vermont need? And who should determine that number? That could soon be a burning question for lawmakers and the governor.

"I don't think Vermonters understand the magnitude of the problem and what's causing it," said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

The Scott administration has projected a 9-cent increase next year in the statewide property tax. The governor wants Vermonters to examine school staffing. Here's why. He says the K-12 student population has dropped below 80,000. But total staffing in schools-- everything from teachers to bus drivers to custodians-- has increased. That makes for a ratio of four students per school employee.

"So if we increase that to five to one, we could save $100 million. Now, in comparison, New Hampshire is six to one, and we were, actually, 20 years ago, six to one," Gov Scott said.

The Vermont NEA is the state's largest teachers union. The union's Darren Allen says public education is one of the state's top selling points.

"What he's proposing puts that at risk," Allen said.

Allen says tinkering with staffing levels from Montpelier would harm the public education system.

"The problem is he ignores the thousands of kids who won't get the attention they deserve. He ignores the up to 1,000 middle-class Vermonters that his scheme would lay off," Allen said.

The governor says he's not looking to mandate staff reductions, at least not by himself.

"I'm looking for ways to work together with the Legislature so that we all pull in the same direction on this. This is a problem that we all know exists," Scott said.

The governor says any potential staff reduction should come through attrition.

"As retirements happen, you just wouldn't backfill the positions. You could do it in that way," he said.

The governor is hosting an education summit Dec. 18. He says the ratio issue will be key topic.