Public School By PAUL CILLO, Rutland Herald, May 10, 2015 The Legislature can work with local communities to improve education, or it can push them around. That’s the choice at the heart of the education debate in Montpelier this year. But so far lawmakers are not showing much interest in cooperation. Instead, they are moving ahead with schemes to impose spending controls, consolidate school governance, and eliminate local school boards. Mistrusting the judgment of school boards and local voters, legislators are treating the citizens, who also elected them, as if they needed a firm hand. Read more
In addition to pushing up property taxes in many towns, the education reform bill passed in the closing days of the session violates a fundamental principle of fairness in Vermont’s education funding system: towns with the same education spending per pupil have the same homestead tax rates. Before Gov. Peter Shumlin decides to sign the bill into law, he might want to check whether the tax penalties it contains in Section 37 also violate the Vermont Constitution. In 1997, the Vermont Supreme Court found the state’s previous funding system was unconstitutional because of the disparity between towns’ access to money for their children’s education. Read more
Desperate to find a way to reduce property taxes, the Legislature’s latest idea is to increase property taxes in scores of communities. Huh? Seriously. The plan is to impose property tax penalties on districts with per-pupil spending that is higher than the Legislature thinks it should be. Each school district will have its own assigned spending threshold per pupil, and voters will pay a tax penalty if their district exceeds the threshold. According to data from the Agency of Education, about 150 school districts would have to keep their per-pupil spending growth under the rate of inflation in fiscal 2017 in order to avoid additional tax penalties. Read more

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