Plan to fund schools hit by homeschooling losses would cause slight hike in property taxes statewide

By Guy Page

Vermont Secretary of Education Daniel French wants a change in state law to allow funding of school districts this year based on last year’s pre-pandemic enrollment, he said in an Aug. 24 recommendation to the Legislature.

“Ensuring districts receive at least the same ADM [Average Daily Membership] count as last year would promote some measure of stability in the district budgeting process during the emergency period,” French wrote (see full text below).

Friday, the House Education Committee discussed addressing the financial implications of declining public school enrollment due to homeschooling, which is up an estimated 75% this year as parents withdraw children due (mostly) to Covid-19-related concerns. As of mid-July the total number of homeschooling applicants was 1,600. The current number is unknown.

TNR

Vermont Education Secretary Dan French

Private schools also report full enrollment and increased inquiries from Vermont parents. In general, Vermont private schools will follow the same health and safety protocols, but are likely to hold more in-person instruction and are not suffering from staffing shortages.

The exodus from the public schools to homeschooling and private schools is a particular problem for public school finances. State law at present allocates funding to school districts on an “Average Daily Membership (ADM).” Declining ADM means less money for a district, even while fixed costs remain and districts face added costs of adhering to Covid-19 guidelines.

French also urged for the 2020-21 school year that the Legislature subtract five days of student instruction and add five days of teacher in-service, and require all school district voting to be held by Australian ballot.

French’s proposal, meant to provide funding stability, would likely increase the size of “on paper” statewide enrollment for funding purposes. Districts with fewer students than last year would show flat enrollment, while districts with more students could still claim higher enrollment.

Overall, property tax rates would rise slightly in next year’s taxes, legislative analyst Mark Perrault told House committees today. Districts that benefit from the change would see lower rates, and districts that don’t would see slightly higher rates, he said.

“This … is really an effort in my mind to bring as much normalcy to the process of education as possible,” Jeff Francis, executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association told the committees. “We do know that homeschooling families are way up….some students won’t come because families have made other choices.” 80% of superintendents expressed concern about losing funding if the current ADM system is used, he said.

Why act now rather than in January? Enrollment changes may be more dramatic in rural school districts, Francis said. If action is postponed until January, budgeting for next year may be more difficult for rural districts that see a steep decline, he said. “You want to guard against dramatic effect, if people do more homeschooling, especially in the rural districts,” Francis said.

Homeschoolers may participate in some school activities, such as sports, and some classes. School districts are not obligated to provide special education to homeschoolers, the committees were told. There was no specific discussion by Francis or French regarding on added funding for the larger number of homeschoolers, especially first-time parents and students unfamiliar with curriculum, IT needs, available resources, etc.. No homeschooling advocates were on the meeting agenda.

French’s letter, available on the House Education Committee website, appears below:

COVID-19 Near-Term Education Policy Proposals – Secretary of Education Dan French August 24, 2020

I have worked with my team to identify near-term education policy issues that have emerged as a result of our response to the COVID-19 emergency. Due to the urgency of the emergency response, I believe these proposals should be considered before the General Assembly adjourns.

Reduce the Number of Student Days and Increase the Number of Teacher Days Statute (16 V.S.A. § 1071 ) establishes a minimum of 175 student days and 5 teacher in-service days. For the 2020-2021 school year, an adjustment to these minimums would be enacted so there would be a minimum of 170 student days and 10 teacher in-service days. Rationale: Districts need additional planning time with their teachers to make preparations to implement hybrid learning and the required health guidance for in-person instruction.

Adjustment to Average Daily Membership (ADM) Statute (16 V.S.A. § 4010) requires the Secretary of Education to determine the ADM of each school district for the current school year. This language would be modified for the 2020-2021 school year to require the Secretary to determine the ADM for each school district at a count no lesser than the district’s 2019-2020 ADM. Rationale: Ensuring districts receive at least the same ADM count as last year would promote some measure of stability in the district budgeting process during the emergency period. Allowing ADM to be greater than last year’s number will address the concern in some districts where the number of new pupils has increased significantly.

Enact a Waiver of the Online Teaching Endorsement Regulations pertaining to teacher licensure are controlled by the Standards Board for Professional Educators (SBPE) as per 16 V.S.A. § 1694 which describes the powers and duties of the SBPE. The powers and duties of the SBPE would be amended so that during the 2021-2022 school year, no teacher shall be required to hold an endorsement for online teaching in order to teach online or implement remote learning. Rationale: Districts need predictability now in the status of this requirement to plan for the coming year.

Require the Use of Australian Ballot for School District Meetings Under current statutory language (town school district – 17 V.S.A. § 2680 or union school district –16 V.S.A. § 711e), the electorate establishes the voting methodology to be used at district meetings. The statutory language would be modified to require all school district meetings held during the 2020-2021 school year to be conducted through the use of Australian ballot. Rationale: COVID-19 may cause restrictions for voter access to district meetings conducted through a floor vote, and the same restrictions will make it difficult for voters to hold special meetings in advance of district annual meetings to authorize the use of Australian Ballot.

Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.

Images courtesy of Flickr/401kcalculator.org and TNR
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22 thoughts on “Plan to fund schools hit by homeschooling losses would cause slight hike in property taxes statewide

  1. It’s just sooo easy for politicians and bureaucrats to just up the property taxes, or any tax when they come up with more and more reasons to increase school spending or spending in general. “It’s just a little bit more, nothing to see here, move along”. I pay more than $300 per month in property taxes for the old deer camp we live in and a few acres of land. I can’t imagine how much I would have to pay if I has a new house on my land. Right now my wife and I hold our federal and state tax refunds to pay our property taxes. We are in our 60’s now and will be retiring soon. I don’t know how we will be able to afford to pay over $300 a month when we no longer have an income and a tax refund. We can barely afford our utilities and living expenses now. Thanks again (sarc) Montpelier for all the energy regulations that have increased our power bill to as much as $450 per month in the winter. My brother in SC has a power bill around $75 per month and a property tax bill that’s half what we pay and he has a mansion compared to our house and it’s in a gated community. Why such a big discrepancy? Could it be the money grubbing “progressive” Vt legislature? They don’t even seem to notice or care that a majority of Vermonters are hurting because the cost of living here is exceptionally high due to over taxation and over regulation.
    It’s time for these progressive politicians in Montpelier to reduce taxes, not think of even more “creative” taxes to burden us with. People, especially young people, are leaving the state in droves due to the over taxation and burdensome regulations imposed on us by the “progressives” who have complete control of our state government. It has to stop. I say NO NEW TAXES! Not for schools, not for anything. I also think that school taxes for homeowners over 65 should be abolished. We have been paying high school taxes all of our working lives. We need a break after our income stops. Yes I know, it will never happen. That’s one good reason we need term limits. Again, I know, it will never happen. They will never vote themselves out of such a lucrative position.
    Rant over.

  2. It would be best for the state to get out of the Education, Energy and Healthcare sectors.

    It would save oodles of money, the state headcount would be a lot less, and local people would have control over their lives again.

    Take back the Vermont the state has usurped and homogenized

  3. The pandemic has almost nothing to do with why we just pulled our child from the public schools, it’s merely an opportunity.

    I pulled my SIX year old because in KINDERGARTEN, she was being taught about transgender issues and being forced to read and partake in BLM political propoganda and race shaming. No BS, she had to listen to an hour long lecture on race Inequality… She’s freaking SIX! Progressive politics fully infecting an elementary school is not an environment for learning, so I will eat the cost of kisses income and homeschool supplies happily. I will NOT let my child continue to be abused by the Vermont NEA.

    • *missed income.

      Also, I guarantee the increase in homeschool and private school also has to do with the fact that parents were finally able to see the crap their kids are being taught. The schools intentionally keep their curriculum “close to the vest”, and it takes a lot of digging to find out exactly what they are teaching day to day… Digging most parents don’t have time to do (or assume doesn’t need to happen). Well, when your child is at the kitchen table and you are forced to work form home, you can’t miss it. I’m sure it was shocking for a good chunk of parents, likely shocking enough to pull their kids form public school.

      • Here in NH, as a taxpayer, we are entitled to see the curricula.
        We’ve paid for it afterall.
        Is this not the case in Vermont?

        • Of course, in Vermont we can see ‘the curricula’ too. But in a public school monopoly, unless one is wealthy enough to afford an alternative (private school, homeschool), seeing the curricula doesn’t change it.

          As school board directors, my wife and I were able to affect our children’s education program. But the intensity of the process can not be overstated. Our children were subjected to teacher retribution in their classes and we once received a cease and desist order from the local teacher’s union because we cited our children’s education experiences in a school board meeting. Apparently, if one serves on the school board, they aren’t supposed to refer to their personal anecdotal experience.

          Nonetheless, we prevailed. We explained the circumstances to our children as learning opportunities for life in general. Specifically, that we all have to work with people with whom we disagree and find ways to move forward, both for ourselves and for the people with whom we disagree.

          We were lucky enough to live in a district that provided School Choice vouchers for 7th & 8th grade programs. The dichotomy between the monopoly programs and the ‘choice’ programs were invaluable. This is why School Choice is the civil rights issue of our time. Parents and their children should not be subjected to a one-size-fits-all education program because of the zip code in which they live or their economic standing.

          P.S. While this issue is that important, be careful not to obsess too much over it. The time stamp of your post is telling, Laura. Be sure to get some sleep.

          • I understand what you went through.
            I faced non-stop difficulties too at our school. I totally get it.
            When people are talking about how bad things are in the schools now, this is no exaggeration at all.
            And what pains me the most Jay, is that a good many of the parents are themselves victims of the same failed education. They are young, poor and struggling, not equipped at all to navigate this mess and they are victimized right along with their kids.
            I saw this almost daily. And many parents don’t get this because this treatment has become normalized.
            They don’t know what their Rights are or how to navigate the system.

            I know for a fact that a great deal of the stress on families, that causes them to fall apart, comes from simply having your kids in schools today. It’s just another huge layer of stress on them..
            It’s tragic.

  4. The Dems in Montpelier must be jumping with joy over this homes chooling issue as it gives them another opportunity to raise taxes. And the beat goes on!!!!!

    • The unconstitutional authority Chairman Phil has wrested on the basis of the fake pandemic give him the ability to raise taxes without the Legislature. All he has to do is proclaim an emergency.

  5. It’s strange here how you reply to someone and then it doesn’t show up under that comment you replied too.
    I was replying to Jay in that one that’s down at the bottom.

    • I responded below, Laura. The State’s Equalized Enrollment calculations should ‘shock’ everyone.

    • Yeah – its spooky along with the duplicates that are not as frequent due to messaging telling us ‘you just said that’ but I still love TNR quirks and all 😀

  6. People should really make sure to ‘…follow the money…’ this coming school year. The increasing appeals for more money, “Ensuring districts receive at least the same ADM [Average Daily Membership] count as last year would promote some measure of stability in the district budgeting process during the emergency period,” French wrote. Mr. Eshelman is correct, this is BS. And Mr. Johnson’s observations are spot on. Vermont student enrollment has been declining for the last couple of decades, yet the educational portion of our property taxes has continued to disproportionately increase and school spending rise to some of the most expensive per student (or each inflated ‘equalized student enrollment’ number) costs in the United States. This has more to do with Education and Teacher Union prodding than concern for student educational progress. Study your town’s school budgets, and see for yourself where your money is being spent. We should all be standing in a corner with a Dunce cap on for letting this nonsense reach the scale it has…

    • After you’ve digested the ‘equalized student enrollment’ charade, I’ll show you another budgetary slight of hand regarding the Special Education reimbursements districts receive from the State.

      This public education shell game has more permutations than you can imagine. And now Secretary French and Superintendent Association executive director Francis are creating another one using the Covid pandemic and independent parental initiatives in their false narrative.

      Shameless.

    • Something’s got to give. When our student numbers crater where will they hide the millions still gushing into their coffers. Most of the neckties need to go – we only need a skeleton crew and I see they’re eating well.

      I believe its Four More Years our Wrecking-Ball POTUS will set up a seismic paradigm shift that will shake up the educational monopoly.

      Just as the mainstream media is no longer the informational gatekeeper as their deeply corrupt alliance with world and national leaders was disccovered and are now distrusted by landslide numbers nationwide resulting in the loss of thousands of media jobs. Rise of Fox News and Fox Business as the most popular trusted network hollowing out the major news networks. Conservative websites are now the happening place with comment platforms which can number in the lower four figures.

  7. “Vermont Secretary of Education Daniel French wants a change in state law to allow funding of school districts this year based on last year’s pre-pandemic enrollment, he said in an Aug. 24 recommendation to the Legislature.”

    This is BS. Does it matter if enrollments drop because families move out of Vermont, or they have fewer children? For whatever reason, parents and their children have been opting out of Vermont’s public school monopoly for decades. Vermont K-12 enrollments dropped 30% before ‘the pandemic’ ever happened.

    Keep this in mind! …the state already artificially inflates its number of students with the so-called ‘equalized student enrollment’ method of counting each student as more than one person. That’s right. My school district, for example, announces that it has 350 ‘equalized student enrollments’ in its K-6 program when, in reality, there are only 300 students. Now Director French wants to inflate the enrollments even more … because of the ‘pandemic’. Who is he kidding?

    What Director French is saying is that the cost per student is continuing to increase, despite the now infamous Act 46 that was intended to lower per student costs. Sooner or later there won’t be any students in Vermont’s public-school system. What reason will Director French cite then to increase our property taxes?

    • P.S. Does everyone see who is running the show here? It’s not Dan French (Sec. of Education). It’s Jeff Francis, executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association. It was Mr. Francis who said of Act 46:

      “If you believe that a democratic system benefits from citizen participation, the act sets up ample process and plenty of opportunity for public input.

      And while some say voice will be diminished through unification, consider that currently most school board seats go uncontested, resulting in an exercise in self-selection, not a bona fide public election.”

      In other words, our public education monopoly began imploding years ago. Now its death-knell is audible to everyone. Let it go and may it rest in peace. Long live our freedom and liberty with School Choice.

      • Love your comments, they come up with a million reasons to raise our taxes, but one they never admit to is spending too much money!!!

        Our tax bill should be the same if we only educate 12 kids in the entire state, because all the same programs are running, be it twelve kids or 20,000!

        The only reason it goes up is because they are spending, MORE money!

        We could in reality teach double our current population with the same budget…..liars, stinkin liars.

        • I think if someone gave Vermont a truckload of money, they’d want to raise taxes to count it.
          Good Grief. The state is being robbed blind by these criminals.

    • These people seem to be taking lessons from organized crime.
      This is nuts.
      I find your comment about how they count 300 students as 350 students shocking.
      Do they do this with their Ballots too?

      • Everyone should check out the ‘equalized student enrollment’ in their school district’s annual report. Then ask the school board or the school principal how many actual students they have. Hopefully, they’ll give you a straight answer.

        Then divide the number of actual students into your approved district budget. In my district, for example, from the annual report:

        “Shall the assembled voters of the Windham Northeast Union Elementary School District appropriate the sum of $6,792,186.51 (Six million, seven hundred ninety-two thousand, one hundred eighty-six dollars and fifty-one cents) which is the amount that the Board has determined to be necessary for the ensuing year? It is estimated that this proposed budget, if approved, will result in education spending of $18,734 (Eighteen thousand, seven hundred thirty-four dollars) per equalized pupil under the current state formula for calculating this figure.”

        That calculates to 362 students based on the equalized enrollment – “…under the current state formula for calculating this figure”.

        In reality, because there are only 300 actual students in our district, the actual cost per student is $22,640 per student.

        Not only that – the school board requested, and the district voters approved, an additional $124,000 “a precautionary measure”.

        So much for ‘local control’.

      • Crime families indeed. Are few if any leaders who are not institutional sociopaths. There is no way this fully operational snakepit of thieves could be comprised of sane normal ppl.

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