Most Vermont school districts balked at the Challenges for Change target reductions for fiscal year 2012.
In the aggregate, Vermont schools will be $15.8 million short of the Challenges goal. The Department cited the target number as $19.9 million; the Legislature asked schools to voluntarily reduce their budgets by 2.3 percent or $23 million.
The Vermont Department of Education released preliminary findings on Friday with 53 of the state’s 63 school districts reporting. In all, 39 school districts did not meet the targeted reductions, according to department figures. The Challenges targets were tailored for each district based on weighted formulas created by the department.
Download a PDF of the preliminary results. Challenges for Change results Dec. 16, 2010
Under Act 146, the Department of Education is required to compile estimated budget amounts from supervisory unions and technical center districts. The reporting deadline was Dec. 15.
The results were released at 4:20 p.m. Friday afternoon. With 53 schools reporting, 39 did not meet the targeted reductions.
Schools in Vermont spend about $989 million a year. Districts across the state identified $4 million in reductions.
A handful of those districts with high target amounts have not budged – their budgets remain static. Here is a listing of supervisory union districts that were asked to eliminate $900,000 or more from their budgets, but did not find the requisite savings: Burlington, Franklin Central, Washington Central, Windham Central, Windham Southeast and Springfield.
Download the spreadsheet of estimated district spending and unmet target reductions. Challenges for Change results by supervisory union Dec. 17, 2010
In an interview Friday night, Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin said he didn’t believe school districts could achieve the $23 million in savings as quickly as originally hoped, that’s why he said he supported using the $19 million the federal government designed to prevent teacher layoffs as “bridge” funding for Vermont schools. He said he’s optimistic about the future of education in Vermont, “but we have a problem to solve as we transition to better times.”
“First of all, hats off to the school board members who were able to make the tough choices,” Shumlin said. “We all have a lot of that ahead. As I walk through options for balancing the $112 million budget shortfall, it’s sobering, and we’re all going to have to pitch in. I’m grateful to those boards that worked to find savings.”
He warned that the federal bridge funding is temporary. “None of us should mistake the bridge with a lack of resolve to find savings,” Shumlin said. “Everyone is going to have to make a common sacrifice until we create jobs and (the economy rebounds).”
“I’m a realist,” Shumlin said. “I never really believed school boards could have gotten there as quickly as we hoped. Let’s redouble our efforts. We have this bridge money, thanks to our congressional delegation. Let’s use it as a bridge, not a security blanket.”