Dialogues with Meg Hansen: Act 60 is Vermont’s Titanic

Act 60 is an education financing law that has been called Vermont’s Titanic. It is slowly but surely sinking the state into icy waters of unanchored education spending. Rob Roper, president of the Ethan Allen Institute, has years of experience with this complex issue and joins us to explain this financial debacle.

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6 thoughts on “Dialogues with Meg Hansen: Act 60 is Vermont’s Titanic

  1. So in the Brigham decision, they said certain towns were not keeping up with funding so they needed more money.

    Now they are closing the school in the town, how is that better? For two hundred years we’ve had town schools, suddenly, with all the education, money and tools, we can’t do it?

  2. There was a mechanism prior to act 60 that helped the poor towns. Once again the people in Montpelier misspent the money on other things…..can you see the pattern? They misspend move money around on a continual basis.

  3. Imagine if Vermont chose School Choice in 1997; after the Brigham decision (think about the breakup of Ma-Bell in 1982–the resulting free market explosion of technology and the lowering of cost). Centralizing spending and curricula has not been effective. Time to right that wrong for the current generation of students. Give them choice and they will come back.

  4. There are only two ways the never ending school taxes are going to be brought under control; First, we need to exempt everyone over 65 from paying school taxes. They have paid their way in life, have no kids in school and live on a fixed income. Second, we need to fund schools by an income tax, and not be property taxes. That will make everyone pay and make them think when they vote on school budgets. — Nothing else will ever fix this.

    • Unfortunately, there is nothing inherent in changing the revenue sources that changes the spending mentality of the education monopoly or the curriculum it controls. Free markets, on the other hand, willing buyers and sellers, will fix the problem by increasing performance and lower costs, regardless of the funding source.

      One way or the other, free markets work and we’re witnessing the ultimate fix in response to our embedded legislative cronyism – as Rob pointed out, Vermont has already lost 30% of its students. It’s only a matter of time until it loses more of them.

  5. I’d like to expand on Rob’s remarks regarding public school funding and accountability.

    With regard to School Choice, it is the case that only those districts that do not maintain an elementary school may grant general authority to the school board to pay tuition for an elementary student at an approved independent elementary school or an independent school meeting education quality standards. But this applies only to grades PK-6.

    In grades 7 thru 12, according to 16 V.S.A. § 822 (c)(1) A school district may BOTH maintain a high school and furnish high school education by paying tuition to an independent school. And, Importantly, according to 16 V.S.A. § 822 (c)(2) the judgment of the board shall be final in regard to the institution the students may attend at public cost. This is Vermont’s last remaining bastion of local education control.

    Act 46 doesn’t change Vermont’s public school governance, it simply consolidates its failures. Recent Superior Court Rulings have exposed just how Vermont’s education governance has been, for years, circumventing local education control in two tangible, easily understandable terms that Vermonters are finally beginning to understand.

    Local school districts, governed and funded by local school district electorates, have been systematically disenfranchised in two primary ways.

    First – “As a matter of law, school district assets lawfully belong to the State;”
    Athens School District v. VT State Board of Education Pg. 16

    Under this ruling, the State owns all public school district assets, from school buildings and buses, to textbooks and computers, to pencils and paper.

    Second – “The Vermont Supreme Court has explicitly held that in Vermont, the obligation to provide a public education is a State, not a local, obligation.”
    Elmore-Morristown Unified Union School District, Stowe School District, and Lamoille South Supervisory Union v. VT State Board of Education. Pg. 26

    In other words, the State Board of Education, not a local school district board, controls all public school curriculum; what is taught, how it’s taught, and, importantly, what isn’t taught – including the assessments it uses to measure educational effectiveness.

    Allowing all parents to use the State’s Announced Annual Tuition to send their children to the school that best meets the needs of their individual children, public or independent, will save approximately 20% in regular education costs, thereby lowering property taxes. Special Education labeling and costs also decline. And the education outcomes of students attending independent schools typical exceeds the performance of students confined to local district public schools.

    Technically, the only governance change required to provide all parents School Choice alternatives is for the legislature to modify 16 V.S.A. § 821 governing elementary school students to include the same provisions 16 V.S.A. § 822 (c)(1) provides secondary school students.

    Without doubt, School Choice is the single most important social construct to Vermont’s success.

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