Roper: Act 46 school choice ‘mega-district’ enjoys lower budgets and lower property taxes

By Rob Roper

Act 46, the mandatory school district consolidation bill passed in 2015, was sold with the promise that it would lower the cost public education in Vermont. It has not lived up to that promise (get ready for a massive property tax increase) with one very interesting exception: The Northeast Kingdom School Choice District.

One key provision of Act 46 was that “unlike” school districts (those that offer school choice through tuitioning versus those that don’t) could not be forced to merge. As such, a collection of 10 alike K-12 tuitioning towns in the Kingdom merged into a mega school choice district. And, according to the Caledonian-Record:

Superintendent Karen Conroy, who serves the Essex North Supervisory Union and the NEK School Choice District, said on Monday, “We had a large surplus with the estimates high on tuition from last year that is being used to offset our expenditures. With a better handle on the tuition rate increases and our enrollments, we proposed a budget decrease of $436,098 and with the surplus from the prior year of $696,090 our education spending request from the state has decreased by $1,119,300.”

Conroy said, “Based on our current tuition rates, the average costs to educate a student in an independent school is $15,700.75 per pupil and the average costs for a public school enrollment is $16,330.08.”

As a result, of the 10 towns in the district, six will see decreases in their property tax bill. This at a time when the rest of the state is looking at an average increase in the 4 to 6 percent range. Burlington is looking at a 7.4 percent property tax increase.

So, in conclusion, not only does school choice produce high quality schools such as St. Johnsbury Academy, Thaddeus Stephens School, and The Riverside School, but it is cheaper to educate children in these schools than it is in traditional public schools. And, overall, administering a school choice system is considerably more efficient than administering a traditional public system.

Something to think about when you get open your next property tax bill.

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

Image courtesy of SchoolChoiceWeek.com
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3 thoughts on “Roper: Act 46 school choice ‘mega-district’ enjoys lower budgets and lower property taxes

  1. Jay Eshelman March 11, 2020 at 8:58 am
    On the positive side: We’re about to see the benefits of online education in real time, not only at Middlebury but at many schools, colleges and universities. And the online benefit isn’t just in the facilitation of a health quarantine. The flexibility and versatility of online education will be readily apparent, and these education institutions will vouch for their online efficacy…. if only to keep their tuitions and fees.

    But more importantly, we’ll see, that online education programs not only supplement classroom instruction, online programs can replace them to a significant extent.

    Of course, as soon as the cost savings of online programs to taxpayers becomes apparent, especially in the case of high school education, the same institutions touting online education as an acceptable alternative today, will surely flip-flop when the health crisis passes. But at least we’ll have the opportunity to see one of the many education alternatives available to us in action… if only for this short while.

  2. Sad that the Act 46 folks didn’t exercise due diligence before enacting this feel good, well meaning fiasco. Nothing changes. The unintended consequences of many of these programs keep popping up.

  3. In my local school district, the Bellows Falls Union High School passed a $7.2 Million budget for 306 students enrolled. That’s $23,530 per student. Meanwhile, a student attending the Compass School with the State’s tuition voucher, just across the street, cost taxpayers $16,233.00 per student.

    Not only that, Special Education costs average $3000 per student in our K-6 and 9-12 public school monopoly programs. That’s $3000 per all enrolled students, not just SPED students. But when these very same students attend the school parents choose using the tuition voucher, like Compass, the SPED costs drop to less than $1000 per student because the chosen education program better meets the individual needs of each student.

    This cost differential has been clearly apparent for the last 20 years. Hopefully, taxpayers and parents are finally beginning to pay attention.

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