Act 46

Recent Posts

Commentary: Focus on the students

he first major hurdle of the 2016 legislative session was resolved Saturday when lawmakers approved a tweak to the cost containment threshold in Act 46, last year’s education governance reform bill. The debate echoed many familiar conversations about our school system. There were speeches about declining enrollment, property taxes, and the relationship between state and local government. But what made the 2016 debate remarkable was that many lawmakers discussed the state’s educational system without ever mentioning how our decisions impact Vermont kids. The irony was not lost on me – earlier in the day, my fourteen-year-old son, Eli, visited the State House on a class fieldtrip from People’s Academy. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , ,

House convenes midnight session to address spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers burned the midnight oil early Saturday morning to approve a bill that softens the impact of school district spending thresholds. In the sort of move normally reserved for the final days of the legislative session in May, House members convened a special session shortly after midnight Saturday morning, after reaching a deadlock the day before on a bill that would raise school district spending thresholds and lower the tax penalties for exceeding them. It was more than one week ago when House lawmakers passed a bill that would raise every spending threshold — which vary from district to district — by 0.9 percent, and lower the tax penalty for exceeding them from 1 dollar for every dollar over the threshold to 25 cents for every dollar over. The thresholds themselves are a provision of Act 46, the school district merger bill passed by lawmakers in 2015, which seeks to create larger districts to both promote equity for students and contain costs. The thresholds were intended as a two-year stop-gap measure to give relief to property tax owners while the mergers take place. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Senate lawmakers address school district spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers are taking their own stab at revamping school district spending thresholds, setting up debate Friday on the House floor. With a voice vote, the Senate approved a proposal that would exempt school districts from spending thresholds if they are spending below the statewide per-pupil average for fiscal year 2017, and would repeal the thresholds altogether for 2018. The Senate proposal comes in response to action taken by House lawmakers Wednesday that would increase every district’s threshold by 0.9 percent and lower the penalty for exceeding the threshold from 1 dollar for every dollar over the threshold to 25 cents for every dollar over. The Senate proposal keeps the House plan to raise all thresholds by 0.9 percent, but raises the penalty to 40 cents for every dollar over the threshold, to make up for the districts who would be exempt from the thresholds because they are spending less than the statewide per-pupil average. The House proposal would bring in $1.8 million in penalty revenue; the Senate proposal would bring in $1.9 million. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Commentary: Replace the Education Funding Formula

ermont’s property tax burden will continue to dominate conversation around the state, and in the State House, until the Legislature has the political will to address the problem in its entirety. That problem is composed of three primary parts: An inefficient education system built to serve tens-of-thousands more students than we have today, an outdated human service system that is failing families and children and shifting the burden on to schools, and a supercharged education funding formula created in Act 60, modified in Act 68 and further tweaked over the years that lacks real cost containment incentives. We simply cannot afford what we have and because we can’t afford to make improvements kids are getting short changed. Act 46, while imperfect and in need of improvement, jumpstarted the difficult but necessary discussion on school consolidation. Reforming our human service system from one that measures inputs (how many people we’re enrolling) to one that measures outputs (how many people we’re helping to achieve financial independence) is a complex discussion our Democrat colleagues have so far refused to have. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , ,

School spending thresholds up in the air

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers have taken one more step toward repealing school spending thresholds, while House lawmakers have taken a step backwards. For the past week, lawmakers on both sides of the General Assembly have explored parallel but differing approaches to dealing with spending thresholds and financial penalties associated with Act 46, the school district merger plan signed into law in May 2015. With a unanimous vote Tuesday, Senate lawmakers gave their preliminary approval to a bill to repeal the thresholds, which under Act 46, are in effect for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 and were intended as a means to provide immediate tax relief. “I think we have the opportunity to get the best of both worlds, where schools really scrutinized their budgets, and yet, we’re not going to penalize districts that don’t deserve to be penalized,” said Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, who drafted the repeal bill in October. Meanwhile, a bill offered by the House Education Committee to retain the thresholds but raise them by 0.9 percent was recommitted to the committee, meaning it will take another affirmative vote among those committee members to return the bill to the floor. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Watch: Capitol Beat, Week 2 from the State House

Capitol Beat — From the Vermont Press Bureau and Orca Media

Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and VPB reporter Josh O’Gorman sit down with House Education Committee Chairman Rep. David Sharpe, Sen. Brian Campion and Rep. Patti Komline to discuss potential changes to Act 46. Sen. David Zuckerman also joins the program to discuss the legalization of marijuana. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Listen: Capitol Beat with the Governor 1.15.16

Play

Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin discuss his trip to Iowa this week to stump for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the use of the Enterprise Fund and potential changes to Act 46, the education reform bill passed last year. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Lawmakers heading in different directions on school spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — As House and Senate lawmakers continue to move in different directions in the hopes of enacting swift change regarding school district spending thresholds, revised threshold numbers create additional uncertainty. Lawmakers on either side of the General Assembly are no closer to reaching consensus on what changes, if any, should be made regarding spending thresholds that are estimated to result in more than 120 school districts facing property tax penalties. If anything, lawmakers on both sides are doubling down on their parallel, but differing, proposals. Earlier this week, House Education Committee members passed a bill that would raise each district’s threshold by 0.9 percent. On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill that would repeal the thresholds altogether. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

School spending thresholds unlikely to change in immediate future

MONTPELIER — The chairman of the House committee considering changes to school spending thresholds says it is “highly unlikely” any changes will happen before school boards need to finalize their budgets. On their first day back at the State House for the 2016 legislative Session, lawmakers discussed the possibility of changing a provision of Act 46 – the school district merger law – that seeks to cap state education spending at at 2 percent. The law creates spending increase thresholds for the next two years that vary from district to district – ranging from less than 1 percent to as much as 5 percent – depending upon how much that district spends per pupil compared with the state average. During the first Democratic Caucus of the session, House Education Committee Chairman David Sharpe, D-Bristol, discussed the feedback he has received regarding a policy that imposes financial penalties for districts that exceed the thresholds. “Unfortunately, what we’ve heard from a number of school districts is, ‘This isn’t going to reduce taxes in our community,’” Sharpe said. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Watch: Vermont PBS’ Vermont This Week

Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami joins the panel on Vermont PBS’ Vermont This Week. HEADLINES:
Syrian Resettlement Opens Vermont Divide
Smith Ends Campaign for GovernorSanders Defines Democratic Socialism
Marijuana Legalization Bill Taking Shape
Lawmakers Consider Revising Act 46
Swanton Voters Reject Turbines
PANEL:
Stewart Ledbetter, Moderator
Paul Heintz, Seven Days
Neal Goswami, Vermont Press Bureau
Robin Smith, Caledonian Record Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,