Process drive convenes to assessment schooling funding | Native Information
A new joint legislative task force is exploring how the government education funding formula can be updated.
The eight-member group known as the Task Force on the Implementation of the Pupill Weighting Factor Report is tasked with proposing a fairer way of distributing money to school districts across the state.
Currently in Vermont, school budgets are being developed locally by school authorities and approved by voters. However, it is financed through the state education fund, which is partly financed by property taxes.
These local tax rates are determined by the expenses per balanced student. A higher balanced number per student means lower tax rates for a district.
To calculate spending per student, the state applies a weighted formula that reflects the resources a district needs to train students based on certain characteristics, including students living in rural areas, low-income students, students with different learning needs and students for whom English is not their main language.
However, a 2019 legislative-commissioned report found the existing formula “out of date” with weights “showing weak, if any, connections, with evidence showing the differences in the cost of educating students with different levels Describe the needs or operation of schools in different contexts ”.
The task force met for the first time late last month and elected MP Emilie Kornheiser, D-Brattleboro, and Senator Ruth Hardy, D-Addison, as their co-chairs.
Other members of the task force include: Rep. Scott Beck, R-St. Johnsbury; Representative Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall; Representative Kathleen James, D-Manchester; Senator Randy Brock, R-Franklin; Sen. Cheryl Hooker, D / P-Rutland; and Senator Andrew Perchlik, D / P-Washington.
At its inaugural meeting, the group of analysts received an introduction to the current status quo of the state funding system for education and an overview of the results of the 2019 report.
In his presentation, Mark Perrault, chief financial analyst for the Legislature, cited an Education Week report that said Vermont ranks first in the country for spending per student, taking into account regional costs. Additionally, the state was found to have the second largest gap between the highest and lowest spending school districts, at $ 12,865 per student.
Perrault noted that the report was based on 2017 school financial data and did not reflect the full impact of the reorganization of the school district under Law 46, which he believes has helped close this spending gap somewhat.
Conclusion: Despite high spending, resources do not necessarily flow into the districts that need them most.
Alison Notte, commissioner for the Rutland City Public Schools Committee, said her district’s needs have “increased significantly” in recent years.
“We saw our first real surge when children born into the initial opioid epidemic reached school age. And as these children grew, so did the challenges of meeting their needs, ”she said.
As student needs have increased, Notte explained that the RCPS has been forced to reallocate resources, resulting in fewer staff, larger class sizes, and fewer opportunities for enrichment.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is the preparedness gap. Children who come to school from economically difficult families did not have the same early learning and development opportunities and are often not as prepared as their peers, ”she said.
Notte argued that increasing resources would allow the district to expand the program and increase student engagement and ultimately increase graduation rates.
Burlington School District Commissioner Martine Gulick has seen firsthand the inequality in funding between school districts as she works in an overweight district but lives in an underweight one.
“For years I was really amazed at the discrepancies I saw in funding between the two districts – the one I lived in and the one I worked,” she said. “I realized that my library budget I was working on was ten times the library budget at Burlington High School.”
She said Burlington’s needs were “great,” noting that a number of English learners and more than 50% of students are eligible for free and discounted lunches – with some schools up to 71%.
Mark Schauber, executive director of the Coalition for Vermont Student Equity, which represents 21 mostly underweight school districts, felt that the formula needed to be revised.
Notte and Gulick are members of the coalition.
Schauber gave examples from districts that are understaffed, cannot afford adequate bus services, and do not have adequate HVAC systems.
“We say that it is high time to correct the erroneous formula by implementing the report’s recommendations,” he said.
Schauber rejected the idea that categorical aid – that is, federal or state funding given to the districts for specific purposes such as transport or special school programs – was the solution, arguing that it “does not provide security for districts in trouble”.
“The use of categorical aids also does not get to the root of the problem, making it difficult, if not impossible, to measure differences and student needs across the state,” he said. “We use the weights to depict our students. Put simply: categorical subsidies are not equities. “
The task force meets in summer and autumn. Public hearings are provisionally planned for the autumn. A detailed report is due in December.
jim.sabataso @ rutlandherald.com