The center point of Scott’s budget proposal is to transfer the $35 million teachers retirement liability from the General Fund to the Education Fund, which is primarily paid for through property taxes. In order to offset this cost, teachers are being asked to increase their health insurance contribution from 15% to 20% (what state employees pay) and school districts are being asked to level fund their budgets. These two measures would, supposedly, make the education fund whole and allow investment in early learning and higher education programs.
The issue, however, is that an even more flexible spending cap in Act 46 was repealed last year, and there is little interest in the Legislature to add another one. Many school districts have teacher contracts in place, along with maintenance and other costs, that usually go up at a certain amount each year. Most school boards would be forced to begin cutting classes and services if they were to try to level fund, particularly within the time frame they will be given.
Scott proposed holding a special vote in May to allow school boards time to adjust the budgets they have been working on. However, many school boards will have to warn their budgets by February 5thand, even if the Legislature were willing to force school districts to level fund, it would be nearly impossible for them to pass something quickly enough to allow for a vote extension.
Governor Scott knows all this, pointing to a budget proposal that is more political than it is practical. Many in the legislature reacted with incredulity to the budget balancing mechanism, to which Scott responded, that they’re welcome to come up with their own plan.
The Senate ethics bill has moved out of the Government Operations Committee and is now on its way to the Appropriations Committee where the size and structure of an independent ethics commission is likely to be decided.
You can support this effort by joining Secretary of State Jim Condos, Bill Schubart, and others in calling for more robust ethics enforcement by writing to the committee members.
National School Choice Week
This week, a large group of students, parents, and teachers celebrated National School Choice Week at nearly 40 events across the state, culminating in a statehouse rally and legislative luncheon that hosted author and education advocate Kevin Chavous.
You can help keep the movement going by getting involved.
Vote for Vermont
Catch up on this week’s episode of Vote for Vermont! We discuss Vermont’s history of school choice and the challenges the system now faces:
[click image above to play video]
Have a great week!
Campaign for Vermont Prosperity