CVTSE Holds Press Conference in the State Capital on S.287

In attendance behind the podium: Rep. Gabrielle Stebbins, Rep. Mari Cordes, Rep. Caleb Elder, Rep. Lucy Rogers, Rep. Selene Colburn, Rep. Taylor Small, Rep. Laura Sibilia, Rep. Carolyn Patridge, Rep. Curt McCormack, Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale. Also Dan Fingas representing Rights and Democracy, as well as various school board members.

Speakers in order of appearance are:

Rory Thibault (Cabot School Board Chair, Board member of CVTSE) [Statement]

Martine Larocque Gulick (Burlington School Commissioner, Retired Educator) [Statement]

Dr. Alex Yin (Winooski School Board Trustee) [Statement]

Richard Werner (Chair, River Valleys Unified School District and Windham Central SU)

Montpelier, VT., — Today, a coalition of school board members and legislators from across the state came together inside the Vermont Statehouse to call on the House of Representatives to correct Vermont’s inequitable funding of multilingual learners and small, rural and low income schools. The group briefed the press on their support for the Vermont Senate’s proposal, S.287, and explained their deep concerns over the direction being taken by the House Committee on Ways and Means.  

“This is not the time to experiment with new school funding systems”, said Richard Werner, Chair of River Valleys School and Windham Central Supervisory Union in Windham County. “Now is the time to end the unfairness by fixing the pupil weighting system we all know and have worked with for a number of years. In my view, the Senate passed bill is on the right track, with the corrections to the weights.”

Dr. Alex Yin, a School Board Trustee for the Winooski School District in Chittenden County said, “Most alarming is the potentially anti-democratic features of cost equity – this system will undermine the concept of local control and will effectively create two classes of Vermont school districts: those that bear the stigma and inflexibility of being “subsidized” (namely because of their income or demographics) and those who do not. This model does not account for regional variances in cost, and by providing grant amounts equivalent to the “average” additional spending needed for each cost factor virtually assures the cycle of disparity in the existing system will carry on — potentially in new and detrimental ways for some districts.”

“As someone who has worked in Vermont school districts with relatively low needs and lives in a district with high needs, I was baffled by the discrepancies I saw in funding between various districts,” said Martine Larocque Gulick, a Burlington School Commissioner and Retired Educator in from Chittenden County. “I came to realize that there were library budgets 10 times larger than the library budget at Burlington High School, the district where I live. While librarians in Burlington took care of technology integration for their schools, some schools not only had tech integration specialists but also a well-staffed IT department with an IT Director. Burlington has no IT Director and an understaffed IT department. More teachers and administrators, higher pay, more office staff; all of these resources allow a district to run smoothly, create stability and retain employees, ultimately affecting student outcomes.”

“As you know, The Senate recently passed S.287, a bill to fix these disparities,” Rory Thibault, the Chair of the Cabot Schoolboard in Caledonia County and a Board member of the Coalition for Vermont Student Equity. “This legislation uses empirical data to update how student needs are measured across the state for the purpose of distributing education funds to school districts. It’s the culmination of a study conducted by UVM and Rutgers in 2019, which confirmed what many of us on the ground long suspected: Vermont doesn’t accurately account for the costs of educating low-income, rural and multilingual learners, which means that our communities are forced to fill in the gaps off the backs of a typically low-income property tax base. The report’s recommendations are clear: implement the weights.”

Also in attendance to show support for the Senate passed bill were Rep. Gabrielle Stebbins (D-Burlington), Rep. Mari Cordes (D-Lincoln), Rep. Caleb Elder (D-Starksboro), Rep. Lucy Rogers (D-Waterville), Rep. Selene Colburn (P-Burlington), Rep. Taylor Small (P-Winooski), Rep. Laura Sibilia (I-Dover), Rep. Carolyn Patridge (D-Windham), Rep. Curt McCormack (D-Burlington), Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden) and Dan Fingas representing Rights and Democracy Vermont, as well as various other school board members and community members from across the state.