In my first session as your representative assigned to Ways and Means committee I heard first hand how irrational the current ‘pupil weighting’ schema is. The chief researcher, Dr. Kolbe, PhD and UVM scholar lead a team which no matter how much digging they did could not figure out how and to what end the present system evolved.. Pupil weighting is crucial for districts, like Barre, which have a population with many specialized needs. Student needs are seldom identical across districts. Some have many youngsters who are just learning English as a second (or third) language; some may come from poorer households with less exposure to enrichment experiences. The weighting adjust on the basis of need to ‘equalize’ the resource for success.
Guided by a 2019 UVM-led report on Vermont student “weighting”, the factors used to account for the varying costs of educating different categories of students, S.13 establishes a task force that will develop a detailed implementation plan for the legislature to use next session to integrate newly recommended weights into the complex education funding formula. The report will consider how we calculate equalized pupils, which in turn impacts taxing capacity from district to district, all with the goal of improving early-education equity across all groups
This task force will be reporting to the General Assembly spring 2022 session for action. I will be eagerly awaiting that result and supporting the findings.
Finally, anticipating a statewide return to classroom instruction in the fall, House and Senate Democrats passed H.426, which uses federal relief money to update school buildings and improve health and safety conditions for students and staff. The work begins by updating school facility standards, establishes a renewable and efficiency heating systems grant program administered by Efficiency Vermont, and implements a requirement that each public and independent school in the state perform radon measurements by June 2023. The long-term goal is to make sure that our school buildings are well-maintained, energy-efficient, safe, and healthy places that meet the needs of 21st century education and technology.
Our students are Vermont’s future.