Education

Education and education tax reporting.

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House convenes midnight session to address spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers burned the midnight oil early Saturday morning to approve a bill that softens the impact of school district spending thresholds. In the sort of move normally reserved for the final days of the legislative session in May, House members convened a special session shortly after midnight Saturday morning, after reaching a deadlock the day before on a bill that would raise school district spending thresholds and lower the tax penalties for exceeding them. It was more than one week ago when House lawmakers passed a bill that would raise every spending threshold — which vary from district to district — by 0.9 percent, and lower the tax penalty for exceeding them from 1 dollar for every dollar over the threshold to 25 cents for every dollar over. The thresholds themselves are a provision of Act 46, the school district merger bill passed by lawmakers in 2015, which seeks to create larger districts to both promote equity for students and contain costs. The thresholds were intended as a two-year stop-gap measure to give relief to property tax owners while the mergers take place. Continue Reading →

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Senate lawmakers address school district spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers are taking their own stab at revamping school district spending thresholds, setting up debate Friday on the House floor. With a voice vote, the Senate approved a proposal that would exempt school districts from spending thresholds if they are spending below the statewide per-pupil average for fiscal year 2017, and would repeal the thresholds altogether for 2018. The Senate proposal comes in response to action taken by House lawmakers Wednesday that would increase every district’s threshold by 0.9 percent and lower the penalty for exceeding the threshold from 1 dollar for every dollar over the threshold to 25 cents for every dollar over. The Senate proposal keeps the House plan to raise all thresholds by 0.9 percent, but raises the penalty to 40 cents for every dollar over the threshold, to make up for the districts who would be exempt from the thresholds because they are spending less than the statewide per-pupil average. The House proposal would bring in $1.8 million in penalty revenue; the Senate proposal would bring in $1.9 million. Continue Reading →

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House lawmakers approve change to school spending thresholds

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, chairman of the House Education Committee, speaks on the floor of the House on Wednesday about school district spending thresholds.

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have given their approval to changes in school spending thresholds that are expected to both give local school boards some breathing room and raise property tax rates. For more than a month, House lawmakers have wrestled with the school spending thresholds imposed by Act 46 of 2015, which calls for the creation of larger school districts to both save money and improve educational opportunities for students. The thresholds themselves, which vary from district to district, were intended as a two-year stop-gap effort to offer property tax relief while districts made plans to merge. However, a number of factors, such as the 2016 roll out of universal Pre-K education and a projected 7.9-percent increase in health insurance costs found many districts struggling to meet those thresholds. Thursday afternoon, House lawmakers approved a bill that would raise every school district’s threshold by 0.9 percent, and reduces the financial penalties a school district would face for exceeding its threshold by 75 percent. Continue Reading →

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Education officials seek additional staff

(from left) State Board of Education members Krista Huling, William Mathis and Mark Perrin discuss the need for additional staff for both the board and the Agency of Education.

MONTPELIER — Education officials are calling on lawmakers to support the mandates they impose by adding additional staff to the Agency of Education and the State Board of Education. Members of the State Board of Education offered testimony before the House Education Committee on Monday calling for staff members to support the many educational initiatives imposed by the General Assembly, from school district mergers and universal Pre-K education to dual enrollment and personalized learning plans. “In our opinion, the Agency (of Education) is suffering with inadequate staff,” said Stephan Morse, chairman of the State Board of Education, who discussed the staff reductions the agency has faced during the past eight years. Since fiscal year 2008, the agency has lost 43 positions, falling from 213 to the current staffing level of 170. At the same time, 70 percent of agency staff are paid for with federal funds, which limits the scope of work they may perform, Morse said. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Replace the Education Funding Formula

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ermont’s property tax burden will continue to dominate conversation around the state, and in the State House, until the Legislature has the political will to address the problem in its entirety. That problem is composed of three primary parts: An inefficient education system built to serve tens-of-thousands more students than we have today, an outdated human service system that is failing families and children and shifting the burden on to schools, and a supercharged education funding formula created in Act 60, modified in Act 68 and further tweaked over the years that lacks real cost containment incentives. We simply cannot afford what we have and because we can’t afford to make improvements kids are getting short changed. Act 46, while imperfect and in need of improvement, jumpstarted the difficult but necessary discussion on school consolidation. Reforming our human service system from one that measures inputs (how many people we’re enrolling) to one that measures outputs (how many people we’re helping to achieve financial independence) is a complex discussion our Democrat colleagues have so far refused to have. Continue Reading →

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School spending thresholds up in the air

Members of the House held a news conference to call for a repeal of the spending thresholds in Act 46. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers have taken one more step toward repealing school spending thresholds, while House lawmakers have taken a step backwards. For the past week, lawmakers on both sides of the General Assembly have explored parallel but differing approaches to dealing with spending thresholds and financial penalties associated with Act 46, the school district merger plan signed into law in May 2015. With a unanimous vote Tuesday, Senate lawmakers gave their preliminary approval to a bill to repeal the thresholds, which under Act 46, are in effect for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 and were intended as a means to provide immediate tax relief. “I think we have the opportunity to get the best of both worlds, where schools really scrutinized their budgets, and yet, we’re not going to penalize districts that don’t deserve to be penalized,” said Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, who drafted the repeal bill in October. Meanwhile, a bill offered by the House Education Committee to retain the thresholds but raise them by 0.9 percent was recommitted to the committee, meaning it will take another affirmative vote among those committee members to return the bill to the floor. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capitol Beat, Week 2 from the State House

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Capitol Beat — From the Vermont Press Bureau and Orca Media

Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and VPB reporter Josh O’Gorman sit down with House Education Committee Chairman Rep. David Sharpe, Sen. Brian Campion and Rep. Patti Komline to discuss potential changes to Act 46. Sen. David Zuckerman also joins the program to discuss the legalization of marijuana. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capitol Beat with the Governor 1.15.16

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin discuss his trip to Iowa this week to stump for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the use of the Enterprise Fund and potential changes to Act 46, the education reform bill passed last year. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers heading in different directions on school spending thresholds

Rep. Janet Ancel

MONTPELIER — As House and Senate lawmakers continue to move in different directions in the hopes of enacting swift change regarding school district spending thresholds, revised threshold numbers create additional uncertainty. Lawmakers on either side of the General Assembly are no closer to reaching consensus on what changes, if any, should be made regarding spending thresholds that are estimated to result in more than 120 school districts facing property tax penalties. If anything, lawmakers on both sides are doubling down on their parallel, but differing, proposals. Earlier this week, House Education Committee members passed a bill that would raise each district’s threshold by 0.9 percent. On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill that would repeal the thresholds altogether. Continue Reading →

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House lawmakers vote to raise school spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have taken a step to address school district spending thresholds, but Senate lawmakers are looking at repealing the thresholds altogether. On Tuesday, by a unanimous vote, the House Education Committee approved a bill to raise every individual school district’s spending threshold by 0.9 percent for fiscal year 2017. “We have heard quite a bit of testimony and have heard from a lot of people back home who want to protect the cost control that was put into effect last session while recognizing every district is unique,” said Rep. Tim Jerman, D-Essex Junction. “This is a good compromise.” (more…) Continue Reading →

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