Last week, as reported on page 9 of this edition, a disparate group met at Dover School to talk about reinvigorating a challenge to the Vermont’s education funding laws, collectively known as Act 60 and Act 68.
There were a couple of outcomes from last weeks meeting that we think may have some potential. The plan to produce a parallel request for proposal that will run concurrent to the one state officials have produced it an interesting gambit. What would make it especially effective is if the same methodology for the study can be copied in the Dover/Wilmington study, and be done by the same entity. It would be hard for anybody to discount the findings of both studies, and we would hope that data from one would be incorporated into the other.
The other interesting option would be to have a permanent representative in Montpelier. Dover school board chair Rich Werner suggested having someone who would “monitor the meetings and take notes.”
We have said before that perhaps one way to keep the Act 60 fight alive is to employ a lobbyist in Montpelier. This would be a good first step towards that goal. We would encourage that person to be someone who could also speak with a voice that understood the devastating impact of the statewide education funding formula on local towns and other sending towns across the state.
The biggest problem sending towns will face in any effort, is that the current education funding system is working quite well for many areas of the state. Those areas tend to be the larger cities and towns, where monies from the education fund contributions have lowered education property taxes. Those areas, such as towns in Chittenden County, also form large voting blocks. That means any politician who would truly get behind efforts to dismantle and change Vermont’s current education funding laws would have to be willing to sacrifice political expediency and give up any votes from receiving communities.
We believe the best approach would be multi-faceted, with various groups working toward the same end. Lobbying in Montpelier, studies, various towns standing up and demanding change, are all essential to forcing change. Last week’s meeting was a good first step.