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S.287: Advancing Equity in Our Education Funding System

Today the House gave final approval to S.287, a bill to update our education funding system. The bill passed by an overwhelming roll-call vote of 132-11.

Vermont’s commitment to equitable access to education is enshrined in our state Constitution and has been advanced by landmark legislation such as Act 60 of 1997 and Act 68 of 2003. Taken together, these bills maintained our state’s longstanding tradition of local control over school budgets, while setting up a far more equitable school funding system.

One of the built-in equity mechanisms is “weighting,” which adjusts for the varying costs of educating different categories of students. The weights acknowledge that it’s more expensive, for example, to educate high school students or children who are living in poverty.

In 2019, a peer-reviewed study concluded that our Vermont weights do not adequately account for the different costs — from district to district — of meeting students’ needs. Based on the recommendations of a 2021 legislative task force, S.287 updates the weights to provide greater taxing capacity for many districts, while creating a glide path for districts that will experience reduced taxing capacity. The new weights will be implemented in FY25, which gives districts time to plan and prepare.

This bill also creates stronger Agency of Education oversight and district accountability — creating new standards for governance, financial management, school facilities, and English Learning statewide. It supports English Learners, not only with a far greater weight, but with a supplemental grant program to help districts with limited EL enrollment to stand up a high-quality program. New Vermonters  welcome.

In Vermont, we have a shared commitment to education: No matter where we live, we’re all responsible for educating all of our students. By updating our funding system through S.287, we take another important step toward making that promise a reality.