Friday, November 7, 2014

What's Wrong with Education Finance in Vermont

Inequitable tax burden - the property tax as basis for education financing, removes control from voters, does not spread the burden to a wider population, and results in unfair burden on elderly or poor home-owners.  Confusing formulas for reimbursing poor individuals puts a greater tax burden on working middle class.  

State and Federal requirements - who said the state or federal government has any business in local school requirements or regulations?  Despite court cases designed to homogenize educational goals across culture, communities, states or economic groups, differences persist. And who said local tax payers are required to support a large state bureaucracy?

Tax-payers and voters have no control. Too much of the local school budgets are already mandated by state and federal regulations, leaving no choice for local school districts to eliminate costly, unnecessary, unrelated to education, inequitable programs, or programs that have no proven impact on educational outcomes.  Unfunded mandates put a burden on local districts.  Inclusion of funding for pre-school, college, prison education programs, school lunch, and other non-educational cost included in school programs, add to the tax burden.  Local school districts should only have to pay for education, not the large array of non-educational support services or programs targeted to variously defined needs of small numbers of individuals. 

Confusing formulas - if an informed voter cannot understand the way education taxes are devised, then the system is too complicated.  If voters do not know what they are approving, the system should be scrapped and started over again with simplified, understandable budgets and taxing formulas.  

Unrealistic expectations - pouring money into education assumes money will solve social problems, or increase performance for all students.  No amount of money can guarantee all students will qualify for college.

Automatic salary increases for longevity - a more sensible salary incentive proposal such as increases for significant student services or proven improvement in educational outcomes should be substituted in teacher contracts, rather than automatic annual increases due solely to longevity.

-----Mary Brenner, Westfield, Vermont

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