School budget out of control
School spending in the town of Orange is out of control. As suggested by Gov. Shumlin, I will vote against the budget to send a message, and I hope other town voters will join me in doing so.
Gov. Shumlin was right on target when he recently said the rising cost of education in Vermont was unsustainable.
The governor also said, “The venue for reform is at the local school board meeting, not the House chamber,” and then added, “I hope that Vermonters at town meeting, when they vote their school budgets, will send a clear message to school boards.”
That’s where he missed the mark entirely.
School spending in Orange is out of the control — and it is out of the control of the local school board. As a result, the quality of education for the vast majority of students continues to suffer.
Over the past decade, the school board has reduced the cost of operating its physical plant. It has also reduced the cost of food and transportation. During that decade, administration has risen less than 3 percent per year, and the total budget is up only 4 percent annually.
Regular instruction costs have increased less than 1 percent per year, so what’s unsustainable?
Behavioral intervention, social services and special education costs have risen 14 percent annually. Of the $750,000 additional school spending from a decade ago, more than half is attributable to the increase in spending for special services — the services mandated from Montpelier, required by Vermont lawmakers and the Department of Education.
Orange Center School spends as much money on its 20 students who receive mandated special services as it does on the 70-plus students who don’t. If the budget is trimmed this year, the board will cut regular instruction categories, not mandated services.
I will vote against a very austere budget — one that is up only one-third of 1 percent, not to send a message to my school board, but to send a message to Montpelier and to the governor.
Until state government changes its approach to youngsters with behavioral problems and special needs, school expenditures in Vermont will remain unsustainable, most will be only marginally related to “education,” and the vast majority of students will suffer.
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