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Vermont Mayors Coalition Calls on Senate to Pass Meaningful Education Reform Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 16, 2015
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                 802.735.7962

Vermont Mayors Coalition Calls on Senate to Pass Meaningful Education Reform Legislation
Urges Cost Containment, More Rational Governance Structure

Montpelier, VT – The Vermont Mayors Coalition (VMC) today called on the Senate to pass meaningful education reform legislation this year to address the inequities and inefficiencies in Vermont’s education system that are creating unequal opportunities for Vermont students, driving up property taxes, and making Vermont’s education system difficult to administer.  Mayors Bill Benton (Vergennes), John Hollar (Montpelier), Thom Lauzon (Barre), and Miro Weinberger (Burlington), who participated in a news conference in the State Capitol’s Cedar Creek Room on behalf of Vermont’s eight mayors, urged passage of legislation that sets forth specific and meaningful cost containment and a more rational governance structure.

“The Vermont Mayors Coalition applauds the House for responding to the voters and passing a good bill that will increase educational opportunity for our children and make our school system better, more affordable, and governable,” said Vermont’s eight mayors in a joint statement.  “For the last two years, the Vermont Mayors Coalition has been part of a large chorus of Vermonters calling for a bill like H.361.  We appreciate the focus the Senate has been giving this important issue and respectfully call on the Senate to pass strong education reform legislation during this session.”

“Virtually no Vermonters understand our state’s complex education finance system,” said Montpelier Mayor Hollar.  “That complexity has made it impossible for average Vermonters to understand why property taxes are rising much faster than inflation.”

“Moving from today’s incredibly complex governance structure to a system of pre-K to 12th grade districts will be a game-changer that is good for Vermont’s children, educators, and taxpayers,” said Burlington Mayor Weinberger.  “Giving citizen boards the ability to oversee an entire pre-K to 12th grade district will lead to expanded learning opportunities and wiser use of public dollars.” 

“Our hundreds of school districts are not able to meet the needs of a diverse student population at a time when we need to prepare them for the complex challenges of today’s workforce,” said Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon.  “We need governance systems that can respond to the needs of all students. In too many parts of the state, those simply don’t exist.” 

Vermont currently has 13 different education governance structures.  On average, school districts serve only 300 students.

“As mayor of a community of 2,500 people, I am confident that this bill will be good for students and educators in Vermont’s smaller cities and towns,” said Vergennes Mayor Benton.  “Some small schools are only sustainable in the context of a larger school district.”

On January 13, 2015, the VMC announced its 2015 legislative session goals and its commitment to collaborate on and advocate for these areas of common interest to their cities and towns.  The VMC’s Legislative Policy Summary for the 2015 legislative session, released that day included a call for education funding reform, stating:

“The Coalition urges the Legislature to adopt education reform legislation based on the following principles:

  • Specific and meaningful cost containment.  A variety of proposals have been suggested, including a cap on per pupil spending coupled with a local surcharge for spending that exceeds that amount.  Rather than advocate for a specific approach, the Coalition urges the Legislature to take action to restrain school spending. 
  • A more rational governance structure.  There are more than 300 school districts and supervisory unions in Vermont.  As student populations have declined statewide, the large number of districts has made it impossible for many districts to adapt and operate in an efficient manner.  Many small districts also do not have the resources to meet the needs of our diverse student population.  The Coalition encourages the Legislature to reduce the number of school districts.”
     

The Vermont Mayors Coalition was created in 2013 by Vermont’s eight mayors and includes: 

  • Bill Benton, Vergennes;
  • Liz Gamache, St. Albans;
  • John Hollar, Montpelier;
  • Thom Lauzon, Barre;
  • Seth Leonard, Winooski;
  • Chris Louras, Rutland;
  • Paul Monette, Newport; and
  • Miro Weinberger, Burlington.

 

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