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- Realtors’ report: Vt.’s school spending increases unsustainable
Wed, Feb 12, 2014 12:59 PM
The Vermont Realtors released a study on Tuesday, Jan. 28, that
shows overall spending for education has increased dramatically
over the last 15 years, and during that same period school
enrollments statewide have dropped by 1,000 students a year.
Isaac Chavez, the CEO of the Vermont Realtors, called on
Statehouse leaders to begin reforming the state's education
delivery and finance systems this legislative session.
The realtors association says the rising cost of education is
hurting the economy. Lowering property taxes, realtors say, would
make Vermont a more attractive place for business and more
affordable for young people who want to live and work in
The report, conducted by Art Woolf and Dick Heaps of Northern
Economic Consulting, looks at Vermont's education spending
Woolf and Heaps say that Vermont's overall school spending was 20
percent above the national average 15 years ago; now it is 70
percent above the average. The two consultants compared education
spending and health care expenditures to median family income
growth. Total spending on education in 2011 was $1.5 billion;
health care cost the state $5 billion that year. The gross state
product was $26 billion in 2011.
"Vermont spends a lot more than other states in the U.S., and the
gap has been growing since the late 1990s," Woolf said.
Vermont's low student to teacher ratio (9.4 students per teacher)
is the biggest cost driver, Woolf said. The national average is 16
to 1. Though Vermont school boards pay below average salaries to
teachers, the state's per pupil spending was about $18,571 â€" the
second highest level in the nation, according to a 2013 National
Education Association report. The national average was about
The Vermont Realtors blame the growth in school spending on the
state's income sensitivity program, which gives property taxpayers
who qualify a tax break. More than 60 percent of households
participate in the program, and the realtors say the program
"de-sensitizes" voters who approve local school budgets to the real
cost of education.
The Vermont Realtors also want to see cuts to the small school
grant program. The state spends $7 million a year to support
schools with fewer than 100 students. The realtors say the program
should reduce overall support for the program and award grants
competitively to schools based on geography and need.
House Speaker Shap Smith says it would be imprudent to make
changes to the education finance system without addressing cost
drivers, such as student to teacher ratios first.