Gov. Shumlin inaugural speech focuses on education - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Gov. Shumlin inaugural speech focuses on education

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Gov. Peter Shumlin delivered his inaugural speech-- diverging from tradition and choosing to focus on one topic: education. Shumlin said it's ultimately about growing jobs and making sure the state has a skilled workforce to fill those jobs. The governor listed several companies that want to grow, like GS Precision, IBM and MyWebGrocer, but are having a difficult time finding workers with the right educational skills.

"Our education system, from pre-kindergarten to higher education, is the state's greatest economic development tool," Shumlin said.

The governor wants to start making changes with Vermont's youngest residents, creating a universal early childhood education system. He called for making the largest single investment in early childhood education in the state's history-- redirecting $17 million from the state's Earned Income Tax Credit toward helping low-income Vermonters afford quality child care.

Shumlin also ensured financial support to communities that start a publicly funded preschool program. He said his budget will include money for first year startup costs, after which communities will be eligible for reimbursement through the education fund.

The governor also said kids can't learn when they are hungry. He proposed the state make free lunches available for all low-income students. And he wants all Vermont schools to develop Personal Learning Plans that will follow students from elementary school to high school.

"These plans would help guide each student's education and also tie educational goals to career opportunities, making school more relevant," the governor said.

And the governor targeted the state's poor performance on standardized tests in math. Currently, Algebra is required in 47 percent of Vermont schools and geometry is required in 32 percent of schools. Governor Shumlin said algebra should be mandatory for ninth-graders and geometry should be mandatory for 10th-graders.

Shumlin also focused on higher education, calling for the creation of a Vermont Strong Scholars Program. He proposed that if a student goes to a Vermont college and graduates with a degree in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Math, Engineering) and stays to work in Vermont, the state would pay back the student's final year of tuition over five years.

The governor also pledged to increase the state's appropriation to UVM by 3 percent. The goal-- stop UVM's 3 percent tuition increase from going into effect, so students won't see their bills go up.

The governor did not talk about changing how the state funds education, saying the current funding mechanism is working.

More details about what his plans will cost and how he will pay for it will come later this month when the governor delivers his budget speech Jan. 24.

Click here to read the full text of the governor's speech.

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