Families must disclose income to schools

Bill passed House last week promises pupil funding equity

by Rep. Art Peterson

Bill S.287, the pupil weighting bill, voted on and approved last week in the Vermont House, is a classic example of a misguided attempt at “equity”. 

Apparently several years in the making, this complicated mess of numbers, fractions, and decimal points tries to convince us that if we just allocated education funds differently in our towns it would create equality of educational opportunity for all children in Vermont. It passed on a 132-11 roll call vote. I was one of the eleven.

Rep. Art Peterson

The bill begins with what I’ll call “convenient Constitutionalism”: using the State Constitution when it fits your purpose, in this case wrapped around a 1997 court case that decreed that “students must be afforded equal access to all that our education system has to offer”. It should be noted that last year these same lawmakers afforded non-citizens the right to vote in Montpelier and Winooski and 16 year olds the right to vote in Brattleboro, both instances in direct violation of the language in our State Constitution. It all depends on what you’re trying to sell when it comes to constitutionality!

The bill then goes into a dizzying array of words and numbers, dividing school children by age, grade, the rural nature of where they live, what language they speak, and, most intrusively, family income. 

This last item needs clarification. The plan is to create a “universal income declaration form” that all families will be required to fill out and provide to their school and the Agency of Education to determine whether the student is from an “economically deprived background”. So now schools will have our private income information. Anyone see the government creeping too far into our lives? They say that the information will be protected. That assurance is not good enough for me.

The shifting of pupil weighting values will affect homestead property tax rates. Poorer town rates will go down, richer town rates will rise. The state portion of education funding will make up the difference. In the rich towns the rise of rates will be capped at 5% per year. School boards will continue to propose budgets, and the theory is that, in poor towns, more can be spent, leading to better educational opportunities there. 

Really? Anyone confused yet? The change in pupil counts caused by the additional weighting plus the rise and fall of the homestead tax rates, along with the normal rises in school budgets looks to be a strange brew that promises uncertain results. In addition, this plan will require five additional full time positions in the State (of course!), 2 funded now and 3 later as we see how this plan works. Trust me, it will be said that it works!

This is a simplified look at the bill; it is 44 pages long and filled with findings, goals, definitions, and rules. This bill, when enacted, will further complicate an already very complicated education funding scheme that, in my view, is destined to spend more without any appreciable increase in education quality. Throwing money at education hasn’t yet raised test scores, and it won’t this time either.

The author is a first-term Republican lawmaker feom Clarendon.

Categories: Commentary

24 replies »

  1. Good grief what a convoluted, wonkish bag of worms trying to present itself as sound public policy for the good of schools and mankind. A question: have any of the geniuses in the statehouse thought about how the underground economy plays inbto the issues of income? Many Vermont families have plenty of income and “wealth” that is not “on the books”, i.e. not reported as income for taxing. Will they report this income to the school? Hmmmm????? So smart people, what about this?

  2. Wish we had 132 others just like you in there instead of the ones who voted for this monstrosity. Keep up the good work. Lots of us out here need a voice like yours.

  3. Here’s one of this bill’s false paradigms.

    “This bill proposes to: (1) improve student equity by adjusting and adding pupil weights beginning in fiscal year 2024 with a five-year transition period;…”

    And the ‘FINDINGS’ justifying this provision are that:

    The Vermont Supreme Court, in Brigham v. State, 166 Vt. 246 (1997), held that education in Vermont is “a constitutionally mandated right” and that to “keep a democracy competitive and thriving, students must be afforded equal access to all that our educational system has to offer.”

    Did anyone catch the not-so-subtle semantic gymnastics in play here?

    The bill proposes to ‘improve student equity’. That’s not at all what the Vermont Supreme Court held. The Vermont Supreme court held that “students must be afforded equal access to all that our educational system has to offer.”

    I repeat, the VT Supreme court demands ‘equal access’, not ‘equity’ (i.e. not equal outcomes).

    If the legislature truly wanted to follow the precepts of the VT Supreme Court, it would provide tuition vouchers to all Vermont parents who would like to choose the school they believe best meets the needs of their children (true equal access) instead of providing the tuition voucher only to those parents who happen to live in districts with Tuitioning provisions.

    • Furthermore, it’s simply offensive to assume that students from English-speaking higher-income families all thrive and that students “of color” or from lower-income families all fail.

  4. Sounds like the basis for more advisory boards and councils to be created so the grifters will have a purpose and something to do.

    • me too Bill……….not by June 1, but by end of summer im outta here…….this is the craziest party I have ever seen (Three Dog Night)

  5. And those of us that do not, nor ever have had children, but have been contributing to the education of other’s children throughout their lives will we get a “thank you” in the form of ? I think I know the answer to that. Bend over, and repeat after me. “Yes Sir, Thank you Sir, May I please have another Sir ?”

  6. This is not a misguided attempt at equity or any such unicorn. This, like all other bills recently presented by the majority of these disgusting leeches, is a slightly-camouflaged attempt at a power grab. If a school budget is defeated locally, there will be a big pot of state money to make the point moot. They ALL need to go; elected officials, this “governor,” and every school administrator in the state. Return school control to the communities, to the parents!

  7. Ahh…. Round 4 (or is it 5?) of the Vermont Legislature’s attempt to churn-out lowest-common-denominator robots from public schools is underway. What an absolute farce.

    This naive attempt at social engineering reminds me of the ridiculous machinations Phil Scott and his team of officious retards underwent in their handling of COVID. It’s the same flawed “vision” — that given just a little more data, a little more modeling and a lot more money, we can “fix” the “problem”.

    Let us not forget – the “problem” they are trying to “solve” is that not all kids achieve exactly equal outcomes when measured against a completely arbitrary and forever-changing standardized test — a “problem” any sensible person knows is – not actually a problem at all – but a beautiful and highly desirable feature of human nature.

  8. Is it constitutional for schools to ask citizens what their incomes are in order to calculate what they can extract?? Are there no limits to what is going on with our educational industry? There is a reason the design of the educational funding is so flawed. How can a public-school cost $18,000 and a private school cost $6,000 and yet the private school yields perhaps better academic scores?? The answer to all of this is school choice. Let the money follow the student. Parents know what’s best for the child. I am not saying the public schools are good or bad just saying we need more competition and parents should be in control of meeting the needs of the child. Let the parents be parents and make educational choices based on the needs of the child. If you want to see costs being contained, then allow the market to be open to choose the educational path for all of our children.

    • Indeed, nothing about this plan makes sense, because it is base on two false premises: that education spending correlates with education outcomes; and that income level, race, or language correlates with individual success or failure.

  9. I’m worth millions based on my priceless value system. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Remember what Cheney told Leahy……………… Remember, remember the 8th of November!

  10. Thanks for the laugh !! I needed that 🙂 It is amazing what these idiots come up with. This is just a continuation of the Fed Governments trickle down. Vermont is so woke it’s going to be broke soon !! Any sane person would not stand for this BS .

  11. Why is income the “gold standard” instead of accumulated wealth ? This bill will encourage the shielding of income to game the system, why not instead consider wealth since many “work hard” to avoid reporting income to avoid taxation using various loopholes like tax-free bonds and investment schemes where increasing investment values shield their increasing valuation until the investments are sold and they must declare their capital gains !

  12. The only way Out of This Fiasco of a Marxist Led State Government is NOT to participate in it. Abandon the “System” all together. Leave the Public Schools, period. Take your children Out of Them. The whole “System” in Vermont is corrupt and needs to be dismantled. The Writing is On the Wall. How long will the People of Vermont not take heed?

    Liberty is from God not man.

  13. Also, the state already collects income information via tax filings, which include school district. That’s how the baseline equity of funding is achieved. This new bill is deluded nonsense.

  14. Stand up Now !This is yet another infringement no attack on the people of Vermont .

  15. Vermont tossed test scores out in favor of “equity” that they KNOW will fail, but their blind ideology demands adherence to the dogma.

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