New report: Vermont’s school spending increases unsustainable

The Vermont Realtors released a study on Tuesday that shows overall spending for education has increased dramatically over the last 15 years, and during that same period school enrollments statewide have dropped by 1,000 students a year.

Isaac Chavez, the CEO of the Vermont Realtors, called on Statehouse leaders to begin reforming the state’s education delivery and finance systems this legislative session.

The realtors association says the rising cost of education is hurting the economy. Lowering property taxes, realtors say, would make Vermont a more attractive place for business and more affordable for young people who want to live and work in Vermont.

The report, conducted by Art Woolf and Dick Heaps of Northern Economic Consulting, looks at Vermont’s education spending trends.

Woolf and Heaps say that Vermont’s overall school spending was 20 percent above the national average 15 years ago; now it is 70 percent above the average. The two consultants compared education spending and health care expenditures to median family income growth. Total spending on education in 2011 was $1.5 billion; health care cost the state $5 billion that year. The gross state product was $26 billion in 2011.

“Vermont spends a lot more than other states in the U.S., and the gap has been growing since the late 1990s,” Woolf said.

Vermont’s low student to teacher ratio (9.4 students per teacher) is the biggest cost driver, Woolf said. The national average is 16 to 1. Though Vermont school boards pay below average salaries to teachers, the state’s per pupil spending was about $18,571 — the second highest level in the nation, according to a 2013 National Education Association report. The national average was about $11,068.

Heaps said taxes are based on total spending, and “because we’ve spent so much our spending has gone up so much our taxes are going to be high.” Leadership is needed to “change the course of what’s going on with education spending.

“This isn’t a new problem, this is something that has developed over the last 15 years,” Heaps said. “We’ve had good economic times, a housing boom that increased the tax base for schools, a recession early in the decade, the Great Recession, a whole mix of economic times. What has happened is spending marches ahead.

“In order to change that, someone has to step forward,” Heaps said. “If we don’t do something we’ll see more of the same.”

Woolf and Heaps say the state has several options for reducing spending and property taxes. They say that the state could “capture savings” from falling enrollments. Schools can also save an average of $15,000 a year, they said, by replacing older retiring staff with less experienced teachers. They also suggest expanding the two vote provision for local school budget approvals, which penalizes high spending school districts.

Reducing the income sensitivity tax break would put downward pressure on property taxes, Woolf and Heaps say. The current income cutoff is $90,000. Lowering the cutoff would reduce the state’s tax expenditure for income sensitivity, which currently reduces the Education Fund by roughly $150 million per year or 15 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

The Vermont Realtors blame the growth in school spending on the state’s income sensitivity program, which gives property taxpayers who qualify a tax break. More than 60 percent of households participate in the program, and the realtors say the program “de-sensitizes” voters who approve local school budgets to the real cost of education.

The Vermont Realtors also want to see cuts to the small school grant program. The state spends $7 million a year to support schools with fewer than 100 students. The realtors say the program should reduce overall support for the program and award grants competitively to schools based on geography and need.

House Speaker Shap Smith says it would be imprudent to make changes to the education finance system without addressing cost drivers, such as student to teacher ratios first.

“We ought to look at small schools and ask is the quality what we might hope for in the education system … and think about it in terms of the quality not necessarily the ratio,” Smith said.

The Legislature will consider a proposal for a new school governance model, he says, that would phase in the elimination of supervisory unions and the state’s roughly 285 local school districts. The unions would be replaced by larger districts governed by one board that would oversee a large pool of students and a number of facilities. The Burlington School District has been cited as an example by lawmakers. The district has 4,000 students, eight buildings and one board.

“I don’t think it’s the model because it’s Burlington,” Smith said.

He says a different organizational structure could streamline governance and continue to allow communities to have a say in how schools operate.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:32 a.m. on Jan. 29.

Follow Anne on Twitter @GallowayVTD

Anne GallowayAnne Galloway

Comments

  1. Dave Bellini :

    Less and less students + more and more spending: “the Vermont way”. This confirms what many said Act 60/68 would do. The Governor has made it clear he plans to do nothing about it.
    .
    A good example of this cost be damned attitude is the city of Montpelier school system. Any amount of money is too little. No class is too small. Nothing is too frivolous.
    .
    We’re still a several years away from any legislative solution. First they have to focus on the major tax increase associated with a universal healthcare system. Then the middle class gets walloped because it will cost more than some folks are saying. It will take until about year 2020 before there is enough mass to say “enough.”

  2. Wendy Wilton :

    I agree with Speaker Smith on his assessment that education tax reform must involve addressing the underlying cost drivers to be successful. It will mean reducing the tax subsidies, changing governance and reducing sturdent:teacher and student:staff ratios. Does the legislature have the political will to do it?

  3. Janice Prindle :

    Surprise, surprise, a conservative business interest group comes up with a study claiming our system is broke and they can fix it with their conservative policies: consolidating schools and classrooms, eliminating teachers.

    Our smaller schools, smaller classes, higher teacher to student ratios, all pay off when it comes to those expensive (and mostly unnecessary) annual standardized tests that the conservatives put in place when they ran the country, and which are only a boon for big business. It’s not only the evidence of standardized testing, but decades of educational research have demonstrated that apart from the correlation of “zip code” (family economic status ), with student achievement, the only thing that makes a difference is teacher to student ratio.

    Not a surprise: learning is a function of human relationships. Students are not factory models.

    Essentially what these realtors are calling for is to take the money we spend on teachers and student achievement, and redirect it to a new kind of bureaucracy, beyond significant local control, along with all the money we spend on testing and now a new, business-oriented national curriculum. When is the last time any of us saw a new bureaucracy saving money? What CEOs, in schools or anywhere, don’t take home the lion’s share of the pot?

    What the realtors are really whining about is that their conservative friends at the national level ran the economy into the ground for big business, and the housing market along with it.

    If they are concerned about sustainability, they might better be concerned about what global warming will do, sooner than later, to our economy.

    Sure schools cost money. But you get what you pay for.

    • Peter Washburn :

      Says who? A review of all the standardized test scores across the state of Vermont would prove otherwise Ms. Prindle. We have a very serious situation when homeowners are being forced to sell their homes and move to rental property or who seek either similar jobs in other states or a different vocation in this state because they find themselves unable to pay the ever increasing taxes brought on by the greedy VT NEA and it’s union stranglehold of all VT taxpayers. This is irrefutable and there is no defense of or for it. It is a very sad and a very selfish situation that teachers, through their union contracts, are putting all citizens of VT into.

      • Jay Davis :

        VT NEA stranglehold? What? The electorate votes on school budgets don’t they? The electorate votes to consoilidate schools dont they? So far I’ve heard the Governor, the legislature and now the VT NEA blamed for out of control school funding. When does someone, anyone, blame the electorate. Its pretty simple, if you want lower school taxes stop voting for irresponsible school budgets. Am I just missing something here?

        • Peter Washburn :

          You bet you are Jay and you know it. Towns can vote down school budgets over and over and over again but it will, sooner or later get to limit where it can not go any lower and once it gets there it will include the NEA mandated teacher increases in salary. No way around that. You need to better know what you are voting for when you vote for your local school’s budget but, 10 to 1 says either you are a teacher or dependent upon a teachers salary in your household.

    • Carol Frenier :

      If you are referring to the Common Core as the “new business-oriented national curriculum,” you ought to take a second look. Check out the actual textbooks from Pearson/Prentice Hall. The curriculum is appalling from both liberal and conservative perspectives. In fact, this is one area that I think we would actually be in substantial agreement.

  4. Ron Jacobs :

    Jeez. The same old greedy GOP type guys with another report telling us that we should lower their taxes and give business more breaks because business won’t come here unless we do. Yet, business is just fine in the Green MOuntain State, it’s educational system is near the top in national rankings and people still keep coming here to live. There are a couple problems with the school funding situation, but giving more tax breaks to business is not going to solve them. Art Woolf needs to quit pretending he has the best interests of Vermont’s public in his interest when the only interests he serves are those who want high profits, low taxes and whose policies, if enacted, would send vermont into a downward spiral like that currently occurring in North Carolina.

  5. Bob Stannard :

    Sure let’s increase student ratio up to 16:1. Why stop there? We could save even more if we went to 25:1, don’t you think? Or think of how much we could save if we jumped it up to 30:1. That would even be better! Then those lazy, over-paid teachers would finally be earning their keep. We could cut back on teachers eliminating about half of the workforce.

    Now, little Johnny’s day may not be quite so filled with knowledge as it might be with oversight. Think of it like a prison where the teacher (guard) would simply look over the classroom (cell block) to make sure there are no fights (there are seldom any fights in prison).

    Perhaps Mr. Heaps & Wolfe might do a study on the benefits of education verses consolidation. Thinking about it maybe going to 35:1 makes more sense. The little buggers wouldn’t be learning all that much and maybe we could reduce the teaching staff even more by having one teacher just walking around checking in on the various classrooms to see who’s still left standing.

    Think of the money we’ll save!

    • Dave Bellini :

      When you were in school how large were the classes?

  6. David Schoales :

    The self interest of the realtor “experts” quoted in the article (keeping taxes down so they can sell more properties and collect their 6%) may have caused them to be highly selective in their choice of facts. They left out a couple important ones, most notably that Vermont students are consistently at the top on nationwide tests, and compare favorably with student around the world. In other words, we are getting a lot for our money!
    They also fail to mention that average teacher pay in Vermont is below the national average, so despite having a better ratio of teachers to students, our average costs are comparable with the rest of the country. It is disappointing that this self interest seems to have prevented them from seeing the cost savings that will result from the effort and progress being made in the addressing the learning needs of disadvantaged children- those most likely to consume human services if they are not adequately prepared for a role in the 21st Century economy. Politics rules, not reality.

    • Robert Joseph :

      “Though Vermont school boards pay below average salaries to teachers, the state’s per pupil spending was about $18,571 — the second highest level in the nation, according to a 2013 National Education Association report. The national average was about $11,068.”

  7. walt amses :

    “the realtors say the program “de-sensitizes” voters who approve local school budgets to the real cost of education”…..

    So, presumably, the way to “sensitize” voters is to somehow make it hurt. The same way the right is bent on “sensitizing” the hungry by cutting their food stamps; “sensitizing” the jobless by cutting off their unemployment; and “sensitizing” the elderly by destroying Medicare. When both educational and life achievement can be measured simply and unequivocally by socio economic level, income inequality should be our first priority. Solving our school funding woes as suggested by the realtors flies in the face of this reality.

  8. “In order to change that, someone has to step forward,” Heaps said. “If we don’t do something we’ll see more of the same.”

    Yes, and in order to get change we have to change the faces in Montpelier! We have had enough and it’s time for the people to speak up at the poles. The same people who have created this problem cannot be counted on to solve it. Our leaders like what they have done and like the total control. If ‘we the people’ are concerned, we need to change the people who cause the problem. And it is a problem for property owners that are retired and on a fixed income.

  9. Scott Thompson :

    Great. Another “study” that manipulates the numbers to confirm its sponsor’s preconceptions.

    Median income is a dubious yardstick. It has been declining lately even as the state’s economy has grown — which is a problem itself worth investigating. Measure anything with a shrinking ruler and you’ll make it seem bigger than it is.

    The attack on income sensitivity as the root of all evil is especially puzzling. It’s so off-base, so detached from the reality that most of us live, yet so insistent, that it can only mean one thing: the Talking Points of the season are out, and this one is up there on the list.

    Going after income sensitivity might make sense in a Machiavellian way if changes in property tax rates were closely correlated to changes in school budgets. But they’re not. The flagrant disconnect between these two was a major theme of last week’s Frankel-Spear letter to the Governor.

    Case in point: my town, Calais. Next year’s school budget is up by less than 2%, but enrollment is up too. Changes in the school budget lower our property tax rate by two cents. Three cheers — board and administrators do a responsible job.

    But the proposed statewide increase would raise our tax rate by almost 12 cents. Not to be outdone, the wild card of our Common Level of Appraisal will raise our tax rate by another 10 cents.

    The Calais education tax could in theory be held constant at its 2013 level, which everyone (including the income sensitized) felt was unbearably high. But the school could only overcome the state and CLA increases by cutting its budget by about 20% BELOW its 2013 level. Twenty percent is equivalent to shutting down the school completely one school day each week.

    This, I’m sure even the most unsympathetic reader will agree, is nuts.

    Screwy as it is in its operation, the present system has one shining virtue. Since a school board can only influence the tax rate at the margin, it is free to concentrate on what it can actually do something about: providing the kids a decent education and ensuring taxpayers the best value for their money.

    The basic problem here is over-reliance on property tax to fund education. This is an issue of tax structure that the state can and very much should address. Other questions about student-adult ratios, the rate of budget increases, consolidation, etc., have a bearing, but they’re not the basic problem.

  10. Bill Dunnington :

    This is a deeply systemic problem – and closely tied to a larger set of economic and cultural challenges.

    Schools are much of the identity of small towns, and school jobs are among the best around in small towns. Local town budget decisions only nibble at the margins of total spending. Things do add up, but it’s unrealistic to expect that district consolidation – clearly in the cards as part of the fix – will happen in a voluntary way. It will take continued fiscal pressures to keep the heat on and not duck this any more – and substantive leadership to get after the solutions – and press the issue at the pace needed. A freeze on property tax increases, and moving to consolidate districts could get the ball rolling. This year, Shap.

    Quality and effectiveness really count. We appear to graduate a very high percentage of students from high school – but evidently only about 40% of them go on to further 2 or 4 year programs to prepare themselves to earn a living. We don’t seem to know what happens to almost half the potential workforce after high school….so we need to dig out the data about this and not just try to cost cut our way to the future. Maybe the key is greater investment in the guidance system….or better learn and earn internships, etc and not just a narrow look at student – teacher ratios.

    Clearly the underlying financial system needs a top-to-bottom reengineering. I seriously doubt whether the Legislature has the political will, the resources and analytical skills to figure this out. It proved incapable of an exercise like Challenge of Change and rejected it like a body relects a foreign substance. Nobody likes being forced to change.

    Maybe it’s time to try a public private partnership approach, a team charted to act, not just study, informed by robust and objective analytics and scenario-based consulting support….. and some real citizen leadership. This is too important to be left to any one stakeholder or constituency. And too important to ignore any more.

    This is a really important challenge for VT – time to step up.

  11. Ed Deegan :

    Why would Mr. Woolf use the NEA data and not the department of education. Maybe he wants to tilt his report to meet his predetermined agenda. Thats what he usually does. I have tracked education data since my babies were born and most of them are through college. We have always had the lowest pupil teacher ratio. Thats a good thing. As enrollments have declined the ratio, although slightly lower, has remained steady. U-32 district as many others are reducing staff substanially this year. The ratio will probably adjust to its levels of 5 – 10 and 15 years ago. School boards do not need mandates to run schools. Its also interesting that Mr. Woolf dosn’t reference data Tom Kavet has provided on education. Kavets work is well done and should be used in figuring this stuff out.

  12. Here is the evidence that it is NOT district size or governance structure that drives educational costs in Vermont: education.vermont.gov/documents/EDU-Data_2014_Per_Pupil_Spending_by_School_Type.xlsx

    Now provide the evidence that it IS …

  13. Tony Redington :

    There does seem some common ground here: (1)reducing the number of school districts reduces the number of high salary superintendents, staffs and governance costs and still be below the size of Burlington (note the City of Montpelier probably poorer for not joining at the time the surrounding towns split off to form U 32 and the two now need each other more than ever so that is a good set of two districts to merge); (2) force districts to reduce class sizes through joint districts arrangement for certain courses using media approaches; (3) address teacher competence not by firing but giving the opportunity and rights to teacher aide/other positions within the same and adjacent districts; (3) reduce emphasis 0n interscholastic sports by shifting to intramural sports to increase participation.

  14. Lance Hagen :

    Wow …… the defenders of the status quo education system are out in full force on this article. There are claims the writers of the report are from the ‘evil empire’ (conservative business). One even started to say ‘bad things’ about Art Woolf’s mother.

    All those states that don’t have this ‘personalized’ education system, as we have in Vermont, must be turning out an army of uneducated Neanderthals. Funny how our neighbor to the east manages to achieve the same, if not better, educational metrics and only spends 60 cents for every 1 dollar Vermont spends.

    But not to worry, after providing our students with the finest education, through our ‘personalized’ education system, they jump on the entrance ramp of interstate 89 and 91 and head for the ‘green pastures’ where they will see benefits from this education. All those Neanderthals producing states thank us for sending them our fine educated children.

    But let’s not change the system to look like other states since we may end up releasing uneducated Neanderthals, who will stay, since they can’t find the entrance ramp to the interstate.

    • Ed Deegan :

      Actually you hit it right on the nose. Nationally are system of education is failing, we lose almost a quarter of our students to dropping out of high school. So yes the rest of the states are turning out an uneducated population. I have nothing against Mr. Woolf but he clearly needs to base his opinions on data and facts. Its a legit question Why is he not using the dept of ed data? It is a better apples to apples approach. If we develop the wrong premise, and this does, you will never get the right answers. Also, I can assure you I am not for the status quo on education I’m for what works. Vermont achieved the highest graduation rates in the nation. No I don’t want to benchmark (copy) other states in education they should be copying us.

      • Lance Hagen :

        Ed, before you hurt your arm patting yourself on the back on Vermont dropout rates, let’s look at a few facts. According to data published by the U.S. Department of Education:

        https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16

        There are 13 states that have a lower overall dropout rate as compared to Vermont. It can also be seen from this data that the dropout rate for Blacks and Hispanics is better than 2X larger versus dropout rate for Whites. Since Vermont is predominately White there is little influence from higher rates for Blacks and Hispanics. So looking at the data again, there are an additional 9 states that have an overall dropout rates worse than Vermont, but have a lower dropout rates for Whites. So there are 22 states with lower dropout rates than Vermont for Whites. Puts Vermont in the middle of the pack.

        Second, since I am a father of some recent high school graduates I know of quite a few student that were ‘Passed along’ and graduated. Not that they were incapable. These students just realized they could do nothing and it would not influence their graduation (one student even told me that). The only explanation I can see is that the schools allowed this, to pad their graduation rate numbers. I remember asking one of my children why they were taking an AP course on a subject they would not be taking in college. The answer was “The ‘do-nothings’ don’t take AP course, so we may be able to learn something and not have to deal with the disturbance they cause in classes”.

  15. walter moses :

    To Heaps, Woolf, and the realtors: OMG, I never would have guessed! Great Study! I sure am glad I didn’t have to pay for this one!

  16. John McClaughry :

    The Woolf-Heaps-Realtors report is of course quite right on the facts, just as Woolf was in the Ethan Allen Institute’s Better Value, Fewer Taxpayer Dollars report of 2009 (at http://www.ethanallen.org/pdf/educationreport_2009.pdf).
    As to the solution, sure, there are a number of “mechanical” fixes that might slow education spending, but we really need to discuss the fundamental solution in the EAI report: parental choice and provider competition. As parents choose independent options for their children, almost always at lower cost than the present inflated government school costs, total education spending will start to decrease.

    • krister adams :

      Mr. McClaughry: Your lack of compassion on almost all topics is stunning. But on this most important one, education, how do you suggest a single Mom with Section 8 Housing Voucher could afford an “independent option” as you put it?

    • Tom Haviland :

      In a rural state like Vermont school choice is meaningless without a transportation option. If the school bus doesn’t go there, most kids can’t go there.

  17. Jason Farrell :

    No wonder the solutions sound familiar.
    “The Vermont Realtors commissioned a study by local economists Art Woolf and Richard Heaps to look at rising costs amid declining student enrollment.”
    The re-hashed solutions presented by this “commissioned study”:
    1. Force small schools to close but call it “consolidation” because that’s less scary. Then, move kids served by those schools into larger classrooms and fire more educators and administrators. No mention or analysis of the effect on the vast numbers of newly unemployed as a result of such action.
    2. Change the income sensitivity portion of our current education funding laws to increase the tax burden on middle-, and lower-income Vermonters. Often called “skin in the game”, this appears to be nothing more than a cost shift aimed at benefitting the more affluent among us in hopes that if we all feel the pain, we’ll arbitrarily decrease funding in our schools because those who currently receive a subsidy through the home owner rebate are causing the problem with their votes to adequately fund our schools.

    No thanks, Mr. Woolf and Vermont Realtors.

  18. Terrence Sehr :

    Not surprising a vested interest wants to cut spending to “improve the economy” (translation: improve their income). No mention of the actual quality of education in VT.
    But look at this: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/studies/pdf/2013460.pdf
    Vermont eighth graders rank second in the nation in math and also in science.
    Hmmm, second highest spending per pupil; second highest math and science scores…

  19. Tom Kearney :

    Costs are high because there are no economies of scale. There are 50 more school districts than there are municipalities in the state. That means lots of tiny districts, where logistics prevent the kind of efficiencies that are possible when there are more pieces to move around and juggle. That also means duplication of administrative functions and services. However, schools are also at the center of Vermont community life, and so far not many people are interested in compromising that role for the efficiencies that could occur with consolidation and larger, fewer school districts.

  20. Will Adams :

    I suspect very few of you who advocate for higher student/teacher ratios have spent any time teaching in a Vermont classroom recently.

  21. josh coursen :

    Let’s start graduating students a year early. Senior year is mostly a waste of time anyways. I was more prepared academically for college after 8th grade than 12th. Provide large online and cross district college prep classes for those who are motivated. You can stick a 100 kids in a classroom if they all want to be there.

    • Will Adams :

      “You can stick a 100 kids in a classroom if they all want to be there.” This ignores the fact that schools have the legal obligation to instruct all students regardless of their desire to be there. Let me know when you intend to teach 100 third graders in the same classroom. I’m eager to see that.

      • josh coursen :

        “Let me know when you intend to teach 100 third graders in the same classroom.”

        Interesting thought process. I wonder what I would teach them. Can you actually find 100 3rd graders who “want” to be in a classroom? What’s your definition of a classroom?

        I’m glad you are eager to be there because I gaurentee it would be a lot of fun. In fact, I would rather be in a classroom with 100 kids who want to be there than to be in a classroom with 5 kids who don’t.

        Although any group of 100 motivated kids of any age would be fun, I was more referring to older students who will soon be transitioning into the adult world.

        Interestingly, I just saw my niece who is a senior at a southern vermont school and she says she has 1 1/2 hours of class a day. She’s totally bored and is getting a whole lot of nothing out of it. It is a total waste of the dynamism and energy of a 17 year old.

        Let’s quit wasting their time and wasting our money.

        • Will Adams :

          So what is your solution for the children that “don’t want to be there”? I think first we’d need to understand why they don’t want to be there in the first place. All of that notwithstanding, schools have a legal obligation to educate them. Increasing class sizes certainly won’t help.

        • krister adams :

          Josh buddy, she’s a teenager! Of course she doesn’t want to be in school! Of course she tells you she only has minimal schooling that’s worthwhile! Remember…I presume you were once 17?

  22. chris lang :

    Small towns, small schools and small classes are part of Vermont’s history. If we can no longer afford our rural way of life while providing the best opportunity for our kids, then we have to get creative and do things differently.

    Consolidation is not practical if it means busing kids farther. Many already travel far to get to school. Packing students in a single classroom isn’t great either especially if a class has several kids with special needs.

    Given these constraints, perhaps we should look at the day itself and switch to a block program instead of offering multiple subjects each day. In theory, you could then coordinate blocks with neighboring towns so our best teachers could teach kids in multiple towns. For example, Monday could be math day in Norwich. Tuesday in Hartford, Wednesday in Thetford, Thursday in Bradford and Friday in Hartland. Maybe 2-day blocks or blocks by the week are better. I don’t know but suspect there are examples to turn to for answers.

    The point is if towns came together, they could create teams of professionals to teach a common curriculum across all towns with out compromising school size and class size. This would also ensure better equality across districts compared to equal spending alone.

    Maybe there are other ways to do more with less so we can afford to keep our small schools and small class sizes. This is just one idea.

  23. Robert Maynard :

    The problem with the drive for smaller class sizes is that the evidence does not confirm that they improve educational sesults, as Hoover Institute Senior Fellw Eric A. Hanushek has points out in his book “The Evidence on Class Size.” http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/evidence-class-size

  24. Ruth Uphold :

    We spend too much on elementary education. More should be spent on allowing HS graduates to go to college. The teacher: pupil ratio is unbelievably low. We need consolidation, increased efficiency, and $90,000 seems way too high for tax relief. Ratchet that down gradually to $60,000 or so.

  25. Wayne Andrews :

    How about some cuts in teachers benefits? An earlier Digger post claims the teachers retirement/heath fund is under funded. More money into the teachers blood thirsty pockets Ever ask yourself what a teacher does when the a “specials” teacher comes and takes the class away be it PE, music, guidance etc?
    Retire at 55 years old with bulging pockets due to double or triple pay raises disguised at step increases, lateral moves and COLA,s.

  26. Rob Bast :

    The average classroom size comparison at the start of this article, 9.6:16 Vermont to national, doesn’t seem like a useful metric. Rural states have different considerations in transportation particularly. What would be an optimistic ratio target if we compared to states with similar density? If we consider what it might cost to transport here in 20 years, do we benefit by keeping our established edu. infrastructure? There should be a long term consideration here, not a short term one.

  27. Richard L Kempe :

    Without discipline, there is nothing to be proud of.

  28. Frank Davis :

    There is always a $imple $olution when it comes to reducing co$t$. Vermont is small state with few students. If we had only eight high schools with 30 students per class, we could hire fewer teachers ,staff and administrators, heat and maintain fewer buildings and probably even spend less on transportation because fewer buses traveling two or more hours each way are likely to be more efficient than many more buses making short runs. As for middle schools, no more than 5 regional should feed each high school and the ratio for elementary school to middle school could be 7:1. Obviously this would encourage any parents to opt for nearby private schooling and just about every town that would have closed a school under this plan would open a private school. If state funding could follow the student to the private schools then the state would be funding town schools once again through vouchers and, BY GOLLY, the system would be in place again, because, you know, it’s a $imple $olution based on cost, not on educational principles.

  29. Gary Gale :

    Teacher’s Union organizers are on call whenever a school budget votes take place. Job protection racket that mobilizes laborers to out number the few who vote in opposition is the name of the game.

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