Affordable higher education

Posted by Stephanie Yu on August 6, 2021 at 10:22 am | * Comments (1)

If there was ever any doubt that unaffordability prevented Vermonters from pursuing higher education, the news last week should have laid it to rest.

Reports that there was more demand than supply for a state program offering free tuition to Vermont colleges were probably not surprising to many in the higher education field. While Vermont’s high school graduation rates consistently have been among the highest in the country, college attendance rates have been low. And attempts over the years to understand and solve this conundrum haven’t provided much new clarity.

At the risk of stating the obvious, it seems that cost is a barrier for many.

Where is the federal relief for Vermont municipalities?

Posted by Julie Lowell on July 21, 2021 at 3:47 pm | Comments Off on Where is the federal relief for Vermont municipalities?

In March, the American Rescue Plan Act allotted nearly $200 million of relief to Vermont’s local governments—$76.6 million to cities and towns, and another $121 million to Vermont counties—to respond to the COVID health emergency, boost essential worker pay, provide needed government services, and invest in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure. This money will have significant impact, as it is nearly 40 percent of what Vermont local governments collected in municipal taxes in 2020.

But where is that federal relief money?

State’s commitment to people doesn’t end with COVID

Posted by Julie Lowell on July 2, 2021 at 2:16 pm | Comments Off on State’s commitment to people doesn’t end with COVID

Vermont leaders demonstrated their commitment to Vermonters during the pandemic.

They told the truth, faced reality, and committed to the public good to weather the emergency. The post-COVID recovery requires this same level of commitment to address the ongoing challenges that the pandemic highlighted—deteriorating infrastructure, income insecurity, and systemic inequities. Aided by federal relief funds this year, the $7.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2022, which started on July 1, provides a good start.

Averages can be deceiving

Posted by Jack Hoffman on June 30, 2021 at 2:45 pm | * Comments (2)

Vermont’s average annual wage rose to just over $54,000 last year. The increase, nearly 10 percent, was the largest since at least 1988.

It’s nothing to celebrate, though. We aren’t really better off.

The average went up last year because the COVID-19 pandemic took its biggest toll on low-wage jobs.

Student weighting is more complicated than it seems

Posted by Jack Hoffman on June 10, 2021 at 3:08 pm | * Comments (1)

Many legislators and school officials are eager to adjust Vermont’s education finance system to provide more money for school districts with kids from low-income families and those for whom English is not their first language. We agree these resources are necessary and should be provided as soon as possible. But the Legislature was right to set up a special legislative task force this session to research and discuss with Vermont parents and voters the options for providing additional funding to these school districts. Here’s why:

The proposed changes are an extreme use of weights, and made more so by Vermont’s funding system. Student weighting is just what the term suggests: Certain students who cost more to educate are counted as more than one person—given more weight—as a means to provide the additional funding to their school district.

The people vs. the computer

Posted by Julie Lowell on June 4, 2021 at 12:35 pm | Comments Off on The people vs. the computer

Good government serves its people and puts their needs first. But unemployment insurance policy changes this year that would have helped unemployed Vermonters were stymied by a 40-year-old computer system.

In non-pandemic times, workers who qualify for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits receive up to 57 percent of their wages. A federal benefit boost is helping them make ends meet during the pandemic but is set to end in early September. So legislators brainstormed several UI benefit changes that would start in September.

Unemployment benefits common sense

Posted by Jack Hoffman on May 26, 2021 at 10:33 am | * Comments (2)

Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face

Nearly half of the governors—23 and counting—have decided to end federal supplemental unemployment benefits for workers in their states. Evidently, they never heard the old adage: Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. In these bizarre times, I guess we have to be grateful that Governor Scott was raised with more common sense.

Despite the pandemic—with the business shutdowns, layoffs, school closures, illness, and all of the other things that kept so many people out of work—personal income in Vermont actually grew in 2020. It rose to $36.56 billion from $34.50 billion the previous year. That was a 6 percent increase—the biggest since 2006—and all of the growth was due to unemployment benefits and to refundable tax credits.

Nominations Open for 2021 Con Hogan Community Leadership Award

Posted by Sarah Lyons on May 3, 2021 at 1:09 pm | Comments Off on Nominations Open for 2021 Con Hogan Community Leadership Award

Winner to Receive $15,000 Cash Prize

Nominations are now being accepted for the $15,000 Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial, Community Leadership.

Launched in 2015, the annual award is a tribute to Con Hogan’s life’s work and commitment to public service. Read more

School taxes can be simpler and fairer

Posted by Jack Hoffman on April 1, 2021 at 12:07 pm | Comments Off on School taxes can be simpler and fairer

Simplicity, equity, and let’s-just-call-it-what-it-is.

Those were among the key reasons the Vermont Tax Structure Commission recommended recently that the state abolish the homestead property tax and move to an income-based school tax for all resident homeowners.

We support the Commission’s recommendation. We also urge everyone, but especially policymakers, to read the final report. It addresses many persistent questions that have swirled around education funding for almost 25 years.

Reflections on the Atlanta shootings

Posted by Stephanie Yu on March 26, 2021 at 9:37 am | * Comments (1)

A lot has already been said about last week’s shootings of six Asian women and others at spas in Atlanta—that it was shocking but not surprising, that it was the predictable result of a year of hate spewed by political leaders, that it doesn’t have to be totally racially motivated to be a hate crime and can in fact be the product of racism and misogyny and fetishization all at the same time, that it was the result of lax gun laws that allow the violent to act on their worst impulses.

There’s also been an understandable look back at systemic racism against Asians in the U.S., from the massacres in Wyoming and Los Angeles and the Chinese Exclusion Act to the internment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s.

All this can seem far removed from Vermont. Asian-Americans made up less than two percent of Vermont’s population, with two-thirds living in Chittenden County according to recent Census data.