3-14-16 – Loss of School Choice Can Damage Public Schools

by Rob Roper

Lots has been made of how Act 46’s hostility toward school choice towns negatively affects the students and families in the 93 communities that have school choice. However, less attention has been paid to the neighboring public schools that depend upon those students tuitioning in to meet their budgets.

Most families who enjoy choice under Vermont’s tuitioning system send their children to public schools. If, under Act 46, public school A can no longer attract students from (formerly) choice town B because B has merged into a district with public school C, public school A is screwed. The loss of tuition dollars flowing into the school can be a budget buster, and the subsequent rise in per pupil spending makes the tax formula much more onerous.

At a recent press conference and rally in Montpelier, David Kelley, a school board member from Hazen Union, described what he is looking at in his area:

I want this audience to understand something that’s very important. Those towns, Wolcott, Walden and Stannard, they bring $604,000 this year to the school that I’m on the board of. If those towns merge with anybody but us, we lose $604,000. Craftsbury loses a half million dollars. At a small school like Craftsbury, you have to ask yourself, how devastating is that loss? Loss of school choice… decimates public schools…. What do we cut [at Hazen]? Foreign languages? Art? Music? Tell me. A half a million dollars is six teachers, and they’re going to go. Crafstbury loses a half million dollars. I think that’s one of the finest schools in the state of Vermont. Half a million dollars in a school with a $3.5 million budget is an awful lot. What do they get rid of? This bill [Act 46] can devastate two good [public] high schools. That’s nuts.

The Vermont Independent Schools Association (VISA) has compiled Agency of Education data into the following chart illustrating what some specific public schools have to lose if school choice is snuffed out, and the current choice towns merge with different districts.


School Incoming Tuition Districts Representatives
Mill River Union $1,461,743 Clarendon Shrewsbury Tinmouth Wallingford David Potter (D)
St Albans $1,388,054 Fairfield
St Albans City
St Albans Town
Daniel Connor (D)
Cory Parent (R)
Eileen Dickinson (R)
Kathleen Keenan (D)
Woodstock Union $1,144,020 Barnard
Teo Zagar (D)
Job Tate (R)
Sandy Haas (P)
Alison Clarkson (D)
South Burlington $1,141,174 South Burlington Helen Head (D)
Martin LaLonde (D)
Ann Pugh (D)
Maida Townsend (D)
Rutland City $1,069,942 Rutland City Peter Fagan (R)
Douglas Gage (R)
Herbert Russell (D)
Hartford $1,001,301 Hartford Kevin Christie (D)
Gabrielle Lucke (D)
Teo Zagar (D)
Dresden Interstate $912,758 Norwich Tim Briglin (D)
Jim Masland (D)
U-32 Union $841,572 Berlin
East Montpelier
Patti Lewis (R)
Janet Ancel (D)
Tony Klein (D)
Avram Patt (D)
Shap Smith (D)
Colchester $803,894 Colchester Patrick Brennan (R)
James Condon (D)
Joey Purvis (R)
Enosburgh $689,038 Enosburgh Larry Fiske (R)
Killington $522,624 Killington Job Tate (R)
Lamoille Union $421,575 Belvidere
Hyde Park
Linda Martin (R)
Mark Woodward (D)
Bernie Juskiewicz (R)
Mark Higley (R)
West Rutland $335,432 West Rutland Thomas Burditt (R)
David Potter (R)
Hazen Union $295,156 Hardwick
Joseph Troiano (D)
Vicki Strong (R)
Samuel Young (D)
Morristown $286,824 Morristown Shap Smith (D)
Lake Region Union $277,239 Albany
Vicki Strong (R)
Samuel Young (D)
Loren Shaw (R)
Michael Marcotte (R)
Gary Viens (R)
Paul Lefebvre (R)
Fairfax $276,631 Fairfax Barbara Murphy (I)
Mt Mansfield Union $251,061 Huntington
Thomas Stevens (D)
Theresa Wood (D)
William Frank (D)
George Till (D)
Anne O’Brien (D)
Thomas Stevens (D)
Twin Valley $221,764 Whitingham
Ann Manwaring (D)
Laura Sibilia (I)
Middlebury Union $219,537 Bridport
Harvey Smith (R)
Willem Jewett (D)
Betty Nuovo (D)
Amy Sheldon (D)
Alyson Eastman (I)
Arlington $199,358 Arlington Cynthia Browning (D)
Steven Berry (D)
Danville $144,254 Danville Kitty Toll (D)
North Country Union $123,422 Brighton
Newport City
Newport Town
Paul Lefebvre (R)
Lynn Bachelor (R)
Michael Marcotte (R)
Gary Viens (R)
Loren Shaw (R)
Mark Higley (R)


– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

randy March 14, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Springfield is also losing money and all the sending schools around windsor


Jim Bulmer March 19, 2016 at 9:25 pm

Rob, Unfortunately this is one more of far too many examples of the unintended consequences of passing legislation based upon a knee jerk feeling versus a thoughtful review. If it feel good, just do it,.


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