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Dan Fingas – CVTSE Press Conference 9/30/2021

Statement of Dan FingasRights and Democracy

Hello, my name is Dan Fingas and I am the Organizing Director for Rights and

Many people spoke up at a recent public hearing calling for Vermont to adopt a plan that corrects the formula used to distribute education funds to rural and low-income districts – known as “pupil weighting.”

Every single person spoke in favor of making this change and it’s time for the taskforce to put forward a plan that rejects categorical aid and implements equitable pupil weighting.

A truly equitable pupil weighting system will allow struggling districts to make decisions that are best for their students and their communities.

To this end our members have written a letter to the Task Force, which I am going to read for you all now:

Madam Chairs and Members of the Task Force on the Implementation of the Pupil Weighting Factors Report,

Thank you for taking the time to serve on this important task force. As staff, members and supporters of Rights & Democracy, we feel it is imperative to voice our strong support for correcting the pupil weighting systems in Vermont, rather than considering categorical aid. This is the only option that will advance equity in Vermont’s education funding formula and in our overall public education system.

The current formula fails to properly account for the costs of educating children who attend small schools, rural schools, come from low-income households, or require English language learning services. Correcting the formula, rather than imposing a categorical aid system, will do the following:

  • Show struggling districts that you trust them to make the local spending decisions that most benefit their students, as wealthy districts are already able to
  • Use an empirical basis to set pupil weights, unlike alternative proposals
  • Address the inequities that are baked into the current formula
  • Map out students’ needs across districts (similar to what a census does) and therefore accurately reflect the cost of educating different learners
  • Address Vermont’s constitutional obligation to reflect real world costs of educating all children.
  • We urge you to see the many problematic ways in which categorical aid would affect school funding, including:
  • Leaving spending decisions under the control of the Legislature, without direct knowledge of how distribution choices will affect low income, rural and diverse districts
  • Failing to address the inequities that are part of the current formula
  • Leaving most-impacted districts vulnerable to fluctuations in funding, depending on who is in state political office at a given time
  • Preventing districts, especially struggling ones, from making long term plans

As you prepare to make a final decision on this important shift in the way we fund our Vermont schools, we urge you to choose the option that will clearly support greater equity and inclusion. If you value equity in all of our systems, correcting the pupil weighting formula is the only viable option for moving forward.