Group criticizes education fundraising

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(Host) Some Norwich residents want Attorney General William Sorrel to revoke the charter of private, non-profit fundraising groups in a number of property wealthy communities. The group charges that the fundraising undermines the foundation of Act 60 and has caused taxes to be higher in all other Vermont towns.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) When Act 60 was first put into place, a number of property wealthy communities were very upset with the sharing pool provision of the law. This provision required these towns to share a substantial portion of the money they raised locally to supplement the state block grant. To circumvent the sharing pool, residents in some towns created non-profit fundraising associations.

The goal was to raise as much money as possible through individual and business contributions to avoid the provisions of the sharing pool. A group of residents in Norwich is now challenging this part of Act 60.

They argue that by helping their communities avoid the sharing pool, the private fundraising efforts have deprived other towns of education revenue. Their attorney is former Attorney General Kimberly Cheney:

(Cheney) “It’s our contention that these private fundraising corporations are equally discriminatory because what they do is subvert the fundamental policy of the state of Vermont, which is to have equity in educational funding. And in addition to that, these corporations are engaged in intimidation and boycotts and threats, which is not a charitable purpose.”

(Kinzel) Donna Carpenter, who’s the head of the Stowe Education Association, thinks the Norwich group’s efforts are short-sighted:

(Carpenter) “I think it’s misplaced anger. I think that they need to look at the reasons why communities feel that they have to fundraise. What is it about Act 60? Well it’s that our schools would have been destroyed and decimated. And they’re not looking at the root causes of the problem. They should be looking for solutions that make it unnecessary for towns to privately fundraise.”

(Kinzel) The Norwich group claims that taxpayers across the state have been force to pay an additional $80 million over the last four years because of the operations of the private fundraising groups.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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