Winooski Superintendent McMannon Statement on ‘Discriminatory’ ELL Funding Proposal


Superintendent Sean McMannon, Winooski School District

“By choosing to separate/segregate ELL funding from the rest of the formula, and intentionally setting the amount at substantially less than empirical analysis says it should be, I believe this proposal results in discrimination against ELL students on the basis of national origin and language.  As the court in Brown vs Board of Education said:  “To separate students from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”  Brown, 347 U.S. at 494.  This is as true for funding schemes as it is for where students are physically educated.

Thanks to the thorough research conducted by the University of Vermont and Rutgers University in the Pupil Weighting Factors Report of 2019, we now know that we have an inequitable school funding system that causes harm to students and families who reside in districts with high percentages of poverty and with multilingual or English language learning needs. As the Pupil Weighting Factors Report clearly indicates, the current funding weights are not keeping up with the needs of our students, and do not reflect the actual costs we incorporate into our school budget.  As a result, Winooski and many other districts do not have the same opportunities as students in wealthier, more homogenous districts.

In 1997, in Brigham v. State, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the State constitution requires the provision of substantially equal educational opportunity to all students. The court declared the state’s education funding system unconstitutional because it resulted in wide disparities in per-pupil expenditures. 

I am asking the legislative task force charged with addressing this issue to get back in the lane of which they were charged and to create a plan to implement the report’s recommendations to correct the pupil weights. Should you continue to favor your model of categorical aid and weights over the empirically-based recommendations of the report authors, I fear your current position is not in compliance with current law and could represent continued harm to our most vulnerable students and families.”