Education agency losing longtime financial guru

William Talbott
William Talbott. File photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger
For two decades, Bill Talbott has been a key figure in Vermont’s school funding system as the chief financial officer for the Education Agency. At the end of June, he will retire.

“He leaves huge gigantic boots to fill,” said Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe at the State Board of Education meeting Tuesday. “We are all very sorry to see him go.”

Talbott came to the agency in 1997 to lead a team implementing Act 60. Vermont’s unique way of paying for schools was embedded in the law after the state Supreme Court ruled the previous funding system unconstitutional.

Putting the new law into practice was a huge challenge, according to Talbott. He said his team was successful because of “the amazing people who work at the agency.”

Holcombe said Talbott is the only person she knows who has the Green Book — a thick tome that is Vermont’s education law — memorized. The breadth and depth of his knowledge is extraordinary, she said.

Talbott said it will be hard to leave the people he has worked shoulder to shoulder with through many challenges. He also praised Holcombe’s leadership.

“I believe that education is the single most important endeavor a state can undertake, given that as individuals we can’t make the incredible achievements that we make until we are educated,” he said. “These years have been a fabulous time, and I have loved every minute of it (nearly).”

During his time at the agency Talbott also served as acting commissioner after Richard Cate stepped down, in the time before the education chief became a Cabinet-level position. Before that he represented Monkton in the Statehouse for four terms.

In his earlier life, Talbott taught industrial arts and ran an alternative education program in Hinesburg.

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Tiffany Danitz Pache

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  • Guru? Don’t we have one of the highest cost per pupils in the nation? How are the states without Gurus performing on a cost per student basis?

    • Mark Tucker

      Cheap shot on a man who you obviously don’t know, who does a job you clearly do not understand. The Agency of Education CFO does not set education policy in Vermont, s/he figures out how to help districts pay for it. A better question/comment would be, “How much more would education administration have cost without the skilled leadership that Bill Talbot brought to Vermont for the past twenty years?” Shame on you.

      • Vermont’s average cost per pupil is among the highest in the country. This is a fact. How much more would the average cost per pupil be if Bill wasn’t running the show is unknown and can’t be answered except by opinion.

  • Peter Chick

    A bit scary to know there is only one person that actually knows our education law, and he is leaving.

    • Mark Tucker

      He’s not the only one who understands Ed Law. He is the resident expert on Ed Financing.