While the Senate Education Committee rejected Governor Phil Scott’s attempt to level fund state education budgets and push voting off until May 23, Vermonters would be wise to take a look at the goals proposed by the governor.
Granted, the proposed changes came far too late, certainly for our own school district – which had pretty much completed its new combined unified union school district budget by the time Scott’s proposal came out – as had many regular and newly combined districts in the state.
However, Scott deserves kudos for attempting to take a 20,000-foot look at education costs in Vermont and how they relate to the state’s budget as a whole and the role which health care costs play in education costs. He deserves credit too for attempting to look at the state’s education holistically, from pre-K through college.
True to his character, Scott did not bluster and demand that the Legislature obey his proposal. He asked that it be considered and gave his reasons.
“I’m not asking school districts for anything more than what I’ve asked from state government. We will be tightening our belts in Montpelier and rethinking every program and service at every level,” he said. “So I’m asking you to remember — Vermonters need this. Please, please don’t instinctively lock up with resistance to change. I promised to make difficult choices to put Vermont on a more sustainable path. And this is one of them,” Scott told lawmakers in his budget address.
While many may disagree with the specifics of Scott’s proposal, including the call for funding the 2017-18 budgets at the 2016-17 levels and increasing teacher contribution to health care premiums from 14 percent (locally) to 20 percent, Scott’s concept has merit in that he is willing to look at total education costs from pre-K to college as one system versus several disparate ones.
Scott wants to invest more money in early education and in higher education and the plan he laid out would add $9.6 million new spending on early education as well as $6.5 million for higher education.
A democratically controlled House and Senate may be unmoved by the specifics of Scott’s proposals, but lawmakers would be well served to consider the goals of those proposals as they work through this year’s budgeting issues.