Education

Education and education tax reporting.

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Dems fend off push to alter teacher health care negotiations

MONTPELIER — The House and Senate are continuing to wrangle with crucial money bills as they aim to adjourn the first half of the legislative biennium Saturday. They have plenty of work left to do, however, and a showdown with Republican Gov. Phil Scott looms large at the end of this legislative session over his main priority for this year. Late Wednesday night, Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson cast a rare vote to fend off a Republican-led amendment to fundamentally change the way teachers in the state negotiate their health care benefits. Johnson, D-South Hero, cast her vote after the House voted 74-73 to embrace a plan pushed by Scott to move negotiating for teachers’ health care benefits from the local school district level to one statewide contract. With her vote against the measure, the House was knotted at 74-74 — close, but not enough for the GOP and 16 Democrats who bucked their own leadership to secure a majority. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Jason Gibbs, Nicole Mace and Jeff Fannon

Vermont NEA Executive Director Jeff Fannon, Vermont School Boards Association Executive Director Nicole Mace and Jason Gibbs, Gov. Phil Scott’s chief of staff, join the program to discuss the governor’s proposal to have teachers negotiate their health care benefits with his administration. Capital Beat airs on Vermont PBS Plus Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Continue Reading →

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Scott renews call for new ed money

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott is continuing his call for new spending on early and higher education, even after local voters gave widespread approval to increased school budgets, ignoring the governor’s plea for level-funded budgets. Scott said there are still opportunities to find savings within the state’s education fund to pay for $9 million in new spending he has called for in early child care and education, and the $5 million he is seeking for higher education. The governor’s proposed 2018 fiscal year spending plan sought level-funded school budgets and a requirement that teachers pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums to help fund the new initiatives. But lawmakers rejected Scott’s call to move the school budget vote date to May, ensuring that local school boards would put their existing budgets up for a vote on Town Meeting Day. Voters approved 183 budgets on Tuesday while rejecting 18. Continue Reading →

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Holcombe to stay at Agency of Education

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced Monday that he is re-appointing Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, who was previously appointed by former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Holcombe is the final cabinet-level appointment for Scott, who took office on Jan. 5. Scott had asked the State Board of Education to launch a search for an education secretary as part of the transition from the Shumlin administration to the Scott administration. The board provided the governor with three recommendations, including Holcombe, who was first appointed by Shumlin in January 2014. Continue Reading →

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House rejects key plank in governor’s budget

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s budget proposal suffered a potentially fatal blow Friday as the House voted to reject his plan to move school budget votes to May 23. The House voted on an amendment to an underlying education bill from the Senate. It called for moving local school budget votes from Town Meeting Day in March to May 23, as Scott called for in his budget address last month. Scott was looking to provide more time for local school districts to find a way to level fund 2018 fiscal year budgets at 2017 fiscal year levels, which he wants the Legislature to mandate. But the House voted 47 to 87, largely on party lines, against the amendment sponsored by Barre City independent Rep. Paul Poirier, who himself was against the idea. Continue Reading →

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Senate committee rejects Scott’s school budget mandate

MONTPELIER — The Senate Education committee has unanimously voted to oppose Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to mandate that all school budgets be leveled-funded next year — and that rejection has broad budget implications. That’s because the governor had hoped to deal with a budget gap in the state’s General Fund, in part, by transferring early education, higher education and teacher retirement programs over to the Education Fund. The roughly $50 million price tag for this transfer was to be offset by a plan to require that all local school budgets not grow at all next year. The governor’s proposal would also require all teachers to pay for 20 percent of their health care premiums.

Because many school boards are finalizing their budgets for next year, the governor proposed moving all local budget votes from Town Meeting Day in March to late May to give the boards more time to reduce their budgets. Senate Education chairman Phillip Baruth says the governor’s plan is unfair to local school boards. Continue Reading →

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Rutland Senate delegation introduces Scott education plan

MONTPELIER — Rutland County’s three-person Senate delegation has introduced legislation that would codify into law the far-reaching education reforms Gov. Phil Scott proposed in his budget address Tuesday. The three Republican senators — Peg Flory, Kevin Mullin and Brian Collamore — were sought out by Scott ahead of his budget address, according to Flory. “Gov. Scott reached out to us … sometime last week and explained that he was going to be making a proposal that would need some legislation,” she said Wednesday. “So we had legislative counsel draft it and we agreed to sponsor it for him.”

Scott surprised many when he called Tuesday for lawmakers to pass legislation that would require teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care insurance premiums. That would put them on equal footing with state employees, and close to workers in the private sector. But health care costs are typically part of the collective bargaining process between local school boards and teachers’ unions. Continue Reading →

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Merger of Johnson, Lyndon State Colleges approved

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Colleges System Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to merge Johnson and Lyndon State Colleges into a single institution with separate campuses. Thursday’s vote followed preliminary approval from the board in July. Officials say merging the two colleges will expand opportunities for students and improve finances within the state college system. “Unification will create new academic and experiential opportunities for students, a bigger and more diverse faculty environment, advantages for recruiting new students and a significantly strengthened financial foundation,” VSCS Chancellor Jeb Spaulding told the board. “They are pivotal institutions in their regions and they are beloved by their alumni, faculty, staff and current students. Continue Reading →

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Galbraith outlines free tuition plan at Vermont State Colleges

MONTPELIER — Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith released a plan Tuesday to cover the cost of a college education for Vermont students at state colleges by eliminating nearly $50 million in tax breaks and loopholes. Galbraith, a former diplomat and state senator from Windham County, revealed his plan outside of the Community College of Vermont Tuesday afternoon, declaring that “higher education should be a right, not a burden for young Vermonters.”

He said the plan would provide four years of free tuition at all of the Vermont State Colleges for all graduates of Vermont high schools who meet the academic requirements for admission. It would also provide free or reduced tuition at the University of Vermont for high school graduates who meet the income criteria to be eligible for Pell Grants. The total cost of providing free higher education is estimated to be $29 million, Galbraith said. The program would be paid for by eliminating tax breaks and raising the minimum wage, a key plank in Galbraith’s economic agenda. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers talk school choice and district mergers

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers and members of the public are calling for greater guarantees to preserve school choice. On Thursday, the House School Choice Caucus called for a clarification of Act 46 — the 2015 school district merger law — as it relates to towns that offer school choice. “In the long run, we’re seeing Act 46 create a lot of confusion and we’re here today to give a voice to that confusion,” said Rep. Vicki Strong, R-Irasburg. Unlike many caucuses, the House School Choice Caucus does not reflect a partisan divide based on political affiliation, but based on the size of the community, with nearly all of the caucus members hailing from small towns. “There’s a real need for leadership in directing our choice towns to keep this tradition and this very important issue with schools,” said Rep. Linda Martin, D-Wolcott. Continue Reading →

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