Vermont School Boards Association

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Lawmakers pushing forward on budget deal

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott stood side-by-side with legislative leaders Wednesday morning to announce a deal on how to save property tax dollars on teacher health care plans, an issue that held up the end of the legislative session last month and led to vetoes of the state budget and property tax yield bill. Wednesday was the first of a scheduled two-day veto session after Scott, a Republican, vetoed the state budget and a the yield bill, which sets property tax rates, because lawmakers did not include his demand to save up to $26 million on the cost of teachers health care plans by, in part, creating a statewide negotiation for health benefits. The day began with Scott, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, holding a State House news conference to tout the accord. Scott said the deal “will help the state achieve significant savings in the Education Fund” and “will set property tax rates at or below fiscal year 2017 levels.”

“The resolution reached is indeed a compromise, but it’s a good one that saves taxpayers millions. We found areas of common ground and we each gave on areas where there was none,” Scott said. Continue Reading →

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Deal on teacher health care remains elusive

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers returned to the State House Wednesday after adjourning for a long weekend Friday but were still unable to find common ground with Gov. Phil Scott on the main issue holding up the end of the legislative session. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate met with the Republican governor Wednesday, along with representatives of the Vermont School Boards Association and the Vermont National Education Association, but no accord was reached on how to achieve up to $26 million in projected savings from changes in the health insurance plans offered to teachers that will take effect in January. The potential savings comes from changes to the health insurance plans offered to teachers by the Vermont Education Health Initiative. The federal Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, includes a tax on high-end insurance plans. To avoid the tax, VEHI is offering a new slate of plans to Vermont teachers that have lower premium costs but higher out-of-pocket expenses. Continue Reading →

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GOP pushes governor’s teacher health care savings

MONTPELIER — The House postponed action on an education financing bill Monday as Democrats and Republicans continued to posture over Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to save $26 million in the Education Fund by changing how teachers negotiate their health care benefits. Scott is looking to capitalize on a unique situation this year that has all teachers in Vermont negotiating new health care benefits. That’s because the Vermont Education Health Initiative, which provides health care plans to teachers, is changing its offerings in response to the federal Affordable Care Act. Scott’s plan seeks to save $26 million by removing negotiations for health care from the local level and having them take place on a statewide level with his administration. If teachers agree to pay for at least 20 percent of their health care premiums the savings are attainable, according to the governor. 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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School spending thresholds might undergo “tweaking”

MONTPELIER – Spending thresholds for school budgets might undergo some “tweaking,” but a repeal seems unlikely. Members of the House Education Committee on Wednesday expressed reservations in repealing a provision of the state’s school district merger law intended to curb spending, but were open to making changes to the threshold formula. The committee – which, during the last legislative session crafted Act 46, which seeks to merge school districts with the goals of reducing costs and expanding educational opportunities – took testimony from a host of education experts who spoke in opposition to a provision intended to cap education spending statewide at 2 percent for the next two years. “The provision was put in because of the widespread agreement that property taxes are burdensome to Vermonters,” said Committee Chairman David Sharpe, D-Bristol. “I’ve heard widespread concern that it won’t put downward pressure on property taxes because they (the districts) will be forced to spend above the threshold and will be forced to spend more in property taxes.”

The spending threshold formula looks at a district’s per-pupil spending and compares it to the current fiscal year’s statewide average of $14,096. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: School boards rise to the occasion

he overwhelming support for school district unification demonstrated by the voters of Essex, Essex Junction and Westford this week is reflective of the visionary leadership of the school boards in those communities. As the three communities stated in their unification plan presented to the voters, “[We are] guided by the commitment to enhance learning opportunities and equity for all students and to find efficiencies within our educational system that respect the financial investments of our communities and taxpayers. … We can deploy our resources to better support the journey of the student when we are able to plan for the entire journey, and allow the resources to be strategically aligned with our common mission and vision to prepare our students for the next stage of their lives in a rapidly changing world.”

This commitment to equity, increased student opportunity, and cost effectiveness is not unique to these school boards or communities – it is a shared commitment of the school boards of the State of Vermont. Over the past several years the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA) has been engaged in a serious dialogue with our members regarding the best public policy approaches to address declining enrollment, rising costs, increasing numbers of students with significant learning needs, leadership turnover, and growing inequity in student opportunity. Continue Reading →

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Dem leaders look to kill ban on teacher strikes

MONTPELIER — Democratic leaders are maneuvering to amend a bill slated to hit the House floor Wednesday by replacing language that calls for a ban on teacher strikes and the imposition of labor contracts by school boards with a study. That would significantly weaken the legislation, H.76, that has been pushed heavily by Republican Rep. Kurt Wright of Burlington. Although he has secured a vote on the bill from Democratic leaders, they are now looking to kill off key parts. In addition to the ban on strikes and contract impositions, it would institute a 1-cent tax rate increase on districts that cannot reach a contract agreement within one year. House Deputy Assistant Majority Leader Tim Jerman, D- Essex, said Democrats are considering an amendment to be offered on the House floor that would institute a study on whether teacher strikes should be banned. Continue Reading →

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Teachers and school boards disagree on labor proposal

Organizations that represent teachers and school boards disagree on a proposal that would force them to negotiate. During his budget address last week, Gov. Peter Shumlin called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would prohibit teachers from going on strike and school boards from imposing working conditions, and instead require both sides to enter into binding arbitration. “We should pass legislation prohibiting both teacher strikes and board-imposed contracts, while requiring both sides to resolve differences through third-party decision-making when negotiation fails,” Shumlin said at the time. For the Vermont-NEA and the Vermont School Boards Association, which represent teachers and school board members in the State House, the proposal, for the most part, is palatable. “We understand that strikes are very disruptive to the communities where they occur. Continue Reading →

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