MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Controlling costs and ensuring educational opportunity across the state are two of the state Board of Education’s primary goals as it develops a five-year strategic plan, the board chairman said.
“It’s past the due date, if you will, that something has to be done,” Stephen Morse said. “We do have a very good educational system, but the costs are high and I’m not convinced that the equity of educational opportunities is distributed well around the state.”
The board is seeking public comment on its plan, available on the department’s website, by Dec. 4. It expects to finalize the plan at its Dec. 16 meeting.
The draft five-year plan calls for dedicating the first year to statistically defining the problems the state faces. Potential solutions would be explored in the second year and a series of reports would be issued. The final three years of the plan would be used to create and implement solutions.
Lawmakers have struggled for decades with how to offer the best education at the least cost. The education funding system was last overhauled after the Vermont Supreme Court’s 1997 Brigham Vs. State decision that found the then-existing system unconstitutional, but Morse said circumstances have changed since those reforms.
Now education spending is being blamed for rising property taxes while the number of students in Vermont schools declines while the employment rolls continue to increase.
In this year’s legislative session the House worked on a bill that would push Vermont school districts to consolidate for better administrative efficiency and expanded course offerings, but the Legislature adjourned before it could be completed.
State Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said Friday he hadn’t studied the state board of education’s draft report, but he expected education would be a major issue in the session that begins in January.
McCormack said education issues deserve a thorough debate.
“I think the discussion of last year is not over,” he said.
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