The Coalition for Vermont Student Equity is composed of school board members from various communities and districts across the state. While we come from communities that couldn’t look more different from one another, we have come together around our common belief that Vermont's education funding methodology is outdated and needs to be updated in order to provide all of Vermont’s children with equitable educational opportunities. We believe that education is a key component in helping children thrive and succeed and provides huge benefits economically to our state by ensuring we have a skilled and well-educated workforce.
In 2019, at the behest of the Vermont Legislature, a group of nationally recognized experts in education conducted a study of the weighting factors used in Vermont’s education funding formula. This thorough report concluded that the current pupil weights (how students with different needs are counted to determine the differential cost of educating them) are outdated (over 20 years old), do not appear to be based on any scientific study, and do not reflect the contemporary costs to educate children who require additional resources. The report also provided specific recommendations to update and improve the weights used to determine "equalized pupils", a key measure in the state's education funding formula. The report concluded that our children who live in poverty, in rural communities, attend small schools and who are New American English Language Learners are not being provided with adequate resources to help them keep up with their peers. The report went beyond documenting the problem by also providing a conclusive solution and recommending new weights to be used in the funding formula to provide educational equity across districts.
While our coalition recognizes the difficulty of “legislating over Zoom”, we respectfully reject the premise that this is too difficult or too massive to implement this year. As mandate after mandate is passed down to school districts from the state, as our children are facing immense challenges of learning in the midst of the pandemic, the existing inequities are growing. We at the frontlines of our districts see the harm being experienced by our children because of this outdated system on a daily basis. The legislature must act now to adopt the recommendations made in the Pupil Weighting Factors Report of 2019.
The state has the constitutional obligation to provide equity in education, yet the current system penalizes students depending on where they live. The state formula with its current arbitrary weights incentivizes increased spending for children with the least needs (wealthy large districts) and decreased spending for students with the most needs (poor, rural and ELL districts).