Roper: Lies, damn lies, and property taxes

By Rob Roper

One of the most anticipated bills of any legislative session is the “yield bill,” which sets the property tax rate to pay for public education. This year we learn, as our representatives scramble out the Statehouse door for the year, the property tax rate will increase by a penny ($1.51 from $1.50 per $100 of assessed value for homesteads, and $1.59 as opposed to $1.58 for non-residential properties). This is necessary to fund an additional $70.5 million in new spending this year — an increase of 4.5% — for a system that continues to lose student population. K-12 enrollment dropped from 76,220 to 75,510 between the 2016-17 school year and the 2017-18 school year, continuing a 20-year trend that shows no signs of slowing.

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Legislators did not record a roll call vote in either the House or Senate to chronicle who voted for this. (Pitch here for electronic, digitally recorded voting for every vote.)

This is the same Legislature that failed to fix Act 46, the forced school district merger law, which was passed in 2015 to “lower the cost of delivering K-12 education” and, therefore, property taxes. We spent $1,514,000,000 on public education in 2015, and the projection for 2019 is $1,681,000,000, according to the Agency of Education  Budget Book, 2019. So, I guess we can mark this down as a failure to deliver on so many levels.

So, what’s driving these cost increases? In large part a growing number of students identified as special needs. But wait a minute: When we passed publicly funded pre-k programs back in 2007 (Act 62) and made them mandatory in 2015 (Act 166), one of the big promises made was that “investing” in these programs would cause a reduction in the need for special needs students. Remember? For every dollar spent we would save $3, $7, or $16, depending upon which bogus study you chose to believe.

The number of pre-k students in Vermont is actually growing (from 6,999 in 2017/17 to 7,685 in 2017/18). This is, of course, a cost driver in and of itself. But it appears that this “investment” (increased costs) is actually driving up increased costs elsewhere in the system rather than reducing them. Another promise broken,

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr/

9 thoughts on “Roper: Lies, damn lies, and property taxes

  1. Lies, damn lies,would one expect anything less of politicians,especially the Leftist’s of both parties.

    Take a moment to read the definition of “educate” and the motivation for all this nonsense will maybe pop into focus.

    The state is dipping incrementally deeper into our pockets to fund the further intrusion into, and control of, the minds of our young people. Rather than being provided with the needed skills to begin a life of further learning or of productivity, the hours the kids spend each day are taken up with instruction in politically correct mode of thinking.

    Getting behind Mr. Roper’s suggestion for an accurate researchable record of voting would be a great beginning for holding the Legislature responsible and accountable. The Legislature will, of course, resist and provide few if any valid reasons for doing so.

  3. This is how Vermont’s Special Education racket works.

    “Vermont’s existing funding policy may also incentivize local educators to identify students for
    special education.”

    “Disabilities that manifest as behavioral issues that impact students’ abilities to
    learn typically fall under the category of emotional disturbance.”

    “Vermont’s special education population has the largest share of students with emotional
    disturbance of any state in the nation…”

    “…it cost an average of 2.2 times more to serve a student identified with an emotional disturbance than to educate an average general education student.”

    “It also is difficult to ignore the fact that Vermont spends substantially more per student with an IEP
    than the national average or other peer states.”

    Clearly, student dysfunction is a growth industry for the education monopoly and the special interest groups profiting from it. Because successful interventions are antithetic to that growth, the education cabal will not change course voluntarily.

    I’ll state the obvious yet again: the single most important social and economic policy change in Vermont, and America for that matter, is for legislatures to provide comprehensive school choice vouchers…period! School Choice support should be the primary litmus test for all political candidates. The only reason any politician would oppose School Choice is because they profit in one way or another from incentivized student dysfunction.

  4. Rob, what has happened to the pennies off the education tax rate we were “promised” if the district voted for Act 46? Also, still waiting for the spending reductions spoken about during push for consolidation? Don’t tell me that the rate of increase is lower because of Act 46. Didn’t buy it then and certainly don’t now.

    Education costs continue to rise, while it appears that student performance doesn’t.

  5. It is all about the money for the teachers…………once they label children as “special needs” they do not have the responsibility of helping them thrive with this so called money grab. They tried this on us when our daughter was in grade 2 in public school, we denied them testing and labeling her and they threatened to have us arrested, yes arrested. Moved her to Catholic school and she did well ever since. Cum laude at college and holds a very specialized job in healthcare and makes over $75,000.00 a year. I shudder to think of where she would be today if we had allowed her to be “labeled” and “victimized ” by our public school system. It is never in the best interest of the children when money is involved……….parents beware!

    • Diane, please contact me, I would love to hear your story and share ours. I’m glad your daughter won the battle against the big public education monopoly, Something needs to be done about this disgusting public education arrangement. Hope to hear from you. .

  6. Did I misunderstand the story on the news that the state has a $50,000,000.00 surplus?

  7. Rob, Are you really surprised? These folks never passed up an opportunity to “invest” our money regardless of outcome. Doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  8. Great piece Rob. The big public education monopoly aggressively categorizes and labels children as “special needs”. Many of these kids would thrive in a small independent school with an alternative setting, staff and methods. (Often times for much less money) Once a child is labeled my the big public factory school, there is no escape. The costs continue to rise because the money thirsty public education monopoly forces labels on kids, then they make them attend union staffed schools. Vermont democrats turn a blind eye to this, they must love the promised votes and campaign cash from the teachers union.

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