Campaign Countdown: Where the candidates for Vt. governor stand on education

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 4:46 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Education is always one of the top issues in the race for Vermont governor. But with the pandemic upending public schools and the state college system on the verge of collapse, Vermont’s next governor will have even more to contend with.

Vermont’s next governor will be tasked with stabilizing an education fund $60 million in the red because of COVID-19. Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, the Democratic candidate for governor, says he would consider taking steps to mitigate the cost over time to avoid cuts to schools or steep increases on local property taxes.

“Whether it’s through bonding or borrowing or other measures, to make sure taxes don’t get slammed and we don’t cut our schools and hurt our kids,” Zuckerman said.

Right now, Vermont spends about $1.8 billion on education annually. Roughly 90% goes to K to 12 education, 5% toward pre-K, and another 5% to higher education.

Governor Scott envisions reallocating cash to fund a ‘cradle to career’ model. “We don’t need to spend more money, we just need to spend more money on the front end. Giving kids a good foundation, I think, is going to be very important. Spending more money upfront and more with technical education and higher education on the other end,” Scott said.

Keeping the cash-strapped Vermont State College System running is also taking center stage this election cycle. The Legislature’s budget includes $30 million in bridge funding, but finding a long-term financial solution remains elusive.

Governor Scott says his past budgets would have given more money to the colleges but the Legislature turned down his proposals. He says Vermont’s higher ed system needs fundamental change like introducing more two-year programs. “We have to make sure we’re taking care of the rural aspect of the program and some of the rural parts of the state. If that means moving one of the campuses out of Chittenden County,” he said.

But Zuckerman says Scott has wasted four years where he could have been researching and seeking long term funding solutions. How do we shift this system so it can be long-term functional and work for Vermonters. Our state college system is the one ray of hope for a lot of local, working-class Vermonters to have a better future. We cannot take that away from them," he said.

Mail-in ballots are already in the hands of some Vermonters and should be returned no later than October 24th. The polls will also be open at their normal times on November 3.

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