Who's to blame for soaring school budgets? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Who's to blame for soaring school budgets?

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Is Governor Shumlin throwing local school boards under the bus when it comes to tackling their budgets?

It's a charge from a school board member at the Washington West Supervisory Union who says communities need more help from Montpelier. Many school boards are making budget cuts at a time when property taxes continue to grow. Some say they need more help from the Governor to tackle the challenge.

"So in affect, we feel that Governor Shumlin has really disrespected the people that work around the table to try to delivery fiscally responsible budgets," said Eve Frankel of the Washington West Supervisory Union School Board.

Frankel says balancing a school budget is always tough. And feels the Governor -- is not backing the board.

"The Governor is insisting it is in the power of local school boards to control those costs -- which we feel is a very oversimplified and egregious answer. And, is in fact throwing his local school boards under the bus," said Frankel.

The issue at hand, Frankel says, is finding a way to pay for public education -- while keeping property taxes down. A challenge that some educators say the Governor is leaving up to local school boards to tackle on their own.

"I think by the time the numbers come down from the state, from the Governor's office, from the legislature -- local school boards have to really work hard with numbers that frankly are mostly out of our control," said Rob Williams, Waitsfield School Board Chair.

Williams says his town is stuck making cuts that could include multiple teaching positions and a French program and he knows his community isn't the only one feeling the pinch.

"I think it is a very similar pressure being felt in all of Vermont's public schools. It's a particularly difficult time I think for school boards and schools around the state. So our position is, I think, pretty representative as Vermont as a whole," said Williams.

Frankel says on behalf of her community and local school boards -- she co-wrote a letter to the Governor expressing their frustration that tackling the budget takes solutions rooted in local school boards and the halls of the capitol.

She has not been alone. Monday the Governor responded to a similar letter from a Duxbury school board member.

"Well you know we are all in this together -- but to suggest the school boards don't play a role in helping to reduce property taxes -- I think is missing the point," said Governor Peter Shumlin.

Shumlin says Vermont is spending more money on education per pupil than most of the nation.

"We are all in this together, everybody has a role to play. We are going to look at the funding system in Montpelier. Meanwhile, it's really important that school boards continue to scrutinize their budgets to find savings, to find deficiencies -- because just to say we can keep spending more than anyone else in the country, have higher property taxes than most -- isn't going to be a solution," said Shumlin.

Frankel says she will be sharing her letter with the Governor Tuesday and hopes it will start a larger conversation about how the whole state can fund public education in the future.

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