The governor made a provocative point in his inaugural address this month: the system of paying for schools is broken and needs to be replaced. The Act 60 education funding law was controversial from the beginning, but backers say it works to provide equal educational opportunities among all towns. Former Hardwick representative Paul Cillo, one of the architects of the law, and Tax Commissioner Tom Pelham debate the merits of Act 60 and whether it should be replaced. (Listen)
Plus, a listen back to some of the voices in the news this week. (Listen)
Megs in Huntington:
We all benefit when ALL our Vermont children are well educated. Our future
depends not just on the children who grow up in our own towns, but on the
future adults in all our towns. Chidlren grow up to be our future caregivers,
mechanics, legislators, nurses, teachers, and so on. We all need to take
responsibility to educate all our children.
Dick in Stowe:
What proportion of the Ed fund is supported by the state-wide propertytax, and within the property tax segment what proportions are paid by
the following sources: the second-home owner, businesses, and residents
both income sensitive net after rebates and those who are not income
sensitive? We seem to be all too fond of passing tax laws in Vermont that
disconnect the voting decisions of the majority from the consequences
of those decisions and in the process contributes to an irresponsible
democracy. With our state income tax, we have 10% of filers paying 62%
of the total income tax burden and with our property tax we treat the
majority of homeowners who are below the income sensitivity threshold
as paupers entitled to potentially large rebates and those earning just
above the threshold as Bill Gates clones, capable of absorbing
unlimited tax increases. The legislature has an interesting way of
Marrisa in Burlington:
1. Education should be funded by an income and earnings tax. Simple. Fair.
There is no other budget in Vermont that has more local control than a
school budget. It goes before the voters every year. Only the
innumerable un-funded or semi-funded mandates that local school boards
have to meet: special ed, Catamount, etc.. are not controlled locally.
One of the biggest problems with the current system is the effect of the CLA.
example, in the town of Jamaica, the CLA is dropping from 105% last
year to 98% this year – even though the town completed a town-wide
reappraisal last year. The school budget is actually going
DOWN by 2%, the state tax rate is being REDUCED, but taxes will go UP –
purely on the basis of the CLA. It’s absurd. How are the voters
supposed to understand the relationship between their spending
decisions and the impact on their tax bill with a system like this? Any new system needs to fix the CLA!
Paul in Warren:
funding. I have two thoughts:
states and countries finance education, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, what works?
Perhaps despite our best efforts and constant floundering over this question, we
could learn something from how other people do things. Maybe someone has a
better system out there. This might be a subject for a future
2. As a format, having two partisans on the air
maintaining that either a) Act 68 is completely and utterly broken and can’t
possibly be fixed or b) that Act 68 is doing just fine, thank you, may seem to
be balanced journalism, but I am left thinking I should just flip a coin in the
end. What I would find more useful would be to have some neutral observer(s)
with expertise in the field analyze and discuss the topic and give us the
benefit of their wisdom (unless, of course, they’re simply going to act out
the above scenario). Just a thought.
David in Waterbury Center:
Did Act 60 work? There have been several reputable studies of Vermont’s
experience, as well as assessments by the Vt Dept of Education. The
general consensus: yes, Act 60 has worked. Researchers associated with
Brown University concluded that Act 60 largely accomplished its three
goals: to achieve equity in resources for all students; to create tax
burden equity; to narrow the gaps in educational achievement among
children. The study also showed that "sending towns," which did not see
a financial gain from Act 60, have not suffered declines in student
performance, while receiving towns did see improvement.
So the idea that Act 60 is "fundamentally broken," as Gov. Douglas says,
is simply false. Good education is expensive. And with Vermont rated top
in education in the country, we’re clearly getting what we pay for.