Task force works to rethink education funding in Vermont

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Spending smarter-- that’s the goal of a new law forcing Vermont to reconsider how it distributes tax dollars to schools.

Right now, the state spends about the same amount of money on every student in Vermont regardless of where they go to school.

But now a task force will look at weighing kids differently by spending more on some students and less on others. For example, more on districts with higher poverty rates and less on wealthier ones.

The governor signed the bill into law this week, creating a task force to determine how to do that.

“What we need to do is like any good Vermonter, we roll up our sleeves now and get to work,” said Alexander Yin, a member of the Winooski School Board.

Yin is also part of the Coalition for Vermont Student Equity which helped create this pupil weighting study done by UVM researchers.

Yin says the coalition has members from around the state working to hold the Senate and House accountable.

“We were actually hoping that they would implement the weights, this is a plan to implement,” Yin said.

“It’s a very important study and I’m pleased to see the Legislature set up a task force,” Vermont Education Secretary Dan French said.

That task force will determine how to apply the study’s recommendations, which include spending more on rural districts, those with more students who are economically disadvantaged and English language learners, and how local economies are impacted by the pandemic may play a factor.

Gov. Phil Scott says Vermont has one of the highest costs per pupil in the country and he’s not in favor of raising the tax rate further.

“We’re spending enough, we’re investing enough in education now, I just think that we need to think about how to do it better,” said Scott, R-Vermont.

Yin says he knows people will not be happy if this causes an increase in their property taxes but he says it is worth it.

“That’s an investment in our future that benefits me in the long run. That’s an investment that I would take any day because I believe in our education system,” Yin said.

Lawmakers were not able to roll out education finance reform in full this year because of the nature of the remote legislative session. Many say it’s a top priority next year.

The task force will begin its work in the weeks ahead and into the all.

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