FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30, 2021
Contact: Marc Schauber
A COALITION OF VERMONTERS HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE ON SCHOOL FUNDING INEQUITY
Montpelier, Vt., — The Coalition for Vermont Student Equity (CVTSE) today held a press conference to highlight how Vermont is currently failing its moral and constitutional obligations to ensure that all children in Vermont, regardless of where they live, have access to equitable educational opportunities.
In 2019, a study commissioned by the Vermont Legislature and conducted by the University of Vermont and Rutgers University concluded that Vermont does not accurately account for the actual costs of educating children who come from poverty, children who require English language learning services and children who attend rural and small schools. The study also documented exactly how to accurately account for these costs and bring equity across Vermont’s K-12 school system. The Task Force on the Implementation of the Pupil Weighting Factors Report was established this year to meet over the summer and fall months to address the systemic inequity in Vermont’s education funding formula.
“The UVM/Rutgers study provides us with a clear and empirical basis for setting pupil weights,” said Rory Thibault, Chair of the Cabot School Board. “I urge the Task force to adopt the weighting recommendations as this is the only means to truly address the inequity that the majority of Vermont’s districts face.”
The eight-member legislative task force has been considering two options: Correcting the weights as recommended in the UVM/Rutgers report, or using grants known as “categorical aid”. CVTSE strongly opposes the use of categorical aid in place of correcting the flawed funding formula.
“Thank you for taking the time to serve on this important task force,” said Dan Fingas, Vermont State Organizing Director of Rights & Democracy. “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.
“Because the amount of categorical aid would be unknown year to year, staffing would be subject to greater instability, which may discourage teachers from taking positions in high poverty school districts like Winooski,” said Nicole Mace, Winooski School District’s Business Manager. “Categorical aid would also mean a tax increase for everyone. Even underweighted districts like Winooski would have to contribute taxes into categorical aid.”
Recently, the task force held a public hearing to listen to the perspectives and concerns of Vermonters regarding this critical issue. Notably, 100 percent of public commenters, nearly 40 people, urged the task force to reject the categorical aid approach and instead correct the flawed funding formula.
“As an educator of over 30 years and someone who has worked in overweighted districts and who lives in an underweighted district, I have a unique perspective and I have seen firsthand the effects of this inequitable funding formula,” said Martine Gulick, who serves as a Burlington School District Commissioner. “For example, I have seen the ease with which overweighted districts can add staff to their schools and create positions that allow them to meet education quality standards. I have personally experienced working in a library with a budget 10 times that of the library in my local high school. I have seen staff in underweighted districts doing the work of two or three staff members in an overweighted district.”
By December 15, 2021, the task force must submit a written report to the legislature with its action plan and proposed legislation which will then be taken up by the full legislature during the 2022 Legislative Session.
“I am asking that we place our Vermont values first in this conversation: since the Brigham decision in 1997 we have recognized the importance of bringing equitable educational opportunities to all students,” said Thibault. “The Task Force and legislature have the opportunity to align our education finance system with these values.”
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