Gov. Scott Asks Schools To Level Fund
Gov. Phil Scott asked schools to level fund in his budget address Tuesday afternoon.
Scott gave a May 23 deadline for school boards to level fund and announced all school budget votes in the state would happen that day. In the past, school votes have been held on or near Town Meeting Day.
Scott acknowledged level-funding would be difficult in his near hour-long speech, which PBS recorded live.
Some local officials raised immediate concerns following Scott's announcement, saying it would take away local control.
"Level funding is an awful fiscal concept to apply to education," said Teo Zagar, a former house representative who lives in Barnard. "At a time when education and educators need more support than ever before, this is an unfortunate start to the new era of 'affordability' in Vermont."
The May deadline gives school boards almost three extra months to find ways to cut costs. It now costs about $19,000 to educate a Vermont student.
Scott said he wants to create the "most efficient and innovative" education system in the nation.
He said the state's "rigid" academic system isn't keeping pace with changes in technology. He said education will be redeveloped with more emphasis on training that leads to jobs.
Scott's education- and job-focused budget eliminates an annual expenditure in teacher retirements. It also asks teachers to contribute more to health care, increasing their share of the expense from 15 percent to 20 percent.
“We will be tightening our belts in Montpelier," Scott said.
Scott, a University of Vermont grad, is investing in early and higher education. He announced a $4 million increase to Vermont state colleges. In exchange, Scott asked the colleges to convene a summit with substance abuse professionals within 60 days to curb drug addiction. He also said he'll give $1 million to a medical opiate treatment hub in St. Albans, which will also be used to fund a director of drug prevention position.
Scott envisioned a government and school system that "thinks outside the box," he said.
He proposed an annual increase of $1 million in base appropriations to the University of Vermont and Vermont Student Assistant Corporation to help low and middle-income Vermonters. The money will go to supporting non-degree students interested in gaining skills.
"The non-degree grant opens the doors to education and training that Vermonters need now to move ahead in their careers and in their lives," said VSAC President and CEO Scott Giles in a press release.
Scott said the biggest obstacle to bettering the economy is the shrinking workforce. He'll address that partly by his investment in education and partly by marketing efforts to attract entrepreneurs to the state.
The Scott Administration announced it would support the creation of co-working hubs in downtowns with $200,000 in village tax credits.
"We have avoided the reality of this crisis for far too long," Scott said.