On May 1, 2024

Why we should all supportAct 127

Dear Editor,

In Vermont we hold the belief that every child should have access to an equitable education. Though this promise is a constitutional right, in reality it’s been challenging to fulfill given the outdated funding mechanisms that have historically governed our schools. As a member of both the Burlington School Board and the Coalition for Vermont Student Equity,  I’ve witnessed firsthand the disparities within our educational system. An achievement gap between privileged and marginalized students has been well documented for decades but only recently has the state recognized the costs associated with addressing disparities in the passing of Act 127. Way overdue, it’s especially tragic that Act 127 is under scrutiny just as it’s poised to be implemented in the coming school year. 

Racially and economically diverse, students of the Burlington school district represent 37 languages other than English spoken at home. Additionally, with half of the 3247 student population qualifying for free or reduced lunch, Burlington’s schools exemplify the urgent need for the reforms introduced by Act 127. The problem at hand is that public education was designed to serve homogeneous middle America and therefore has failed to recognize the costs of educating students who don’t fit into that one-size-fits-all model. One of several significant costs that Vermont’s funding formula failed to adequately meet for decades is the need for Multilingual Liaisons. For too long, the weights used to allocate educational resources have not reflected the actual costs associated with ensuring every child, regardless of their background, can succeed.

Act 127 represents a bold step toward rectifying these long-standing issues. By updating the funding formula to reflect the needs of our students more accurately, we move closer to fulfilling Vermont’s constitutional promise. This legislation is not just about numbers and budgets; it’s about recognizing the inherent value and potential of every student. It’s about ensuring that every child receives the support they need to thrive academically and beyond.

We stand at a pivotal moment, with the chance to redefine what education looks like in our state. Guided by the principle that every child deserves an equitable chance to succeed, we must seize this opportunity to dismantle a system that has fostered the gap between haves and have-nots. The passage of Act 127 is a testament to Vermont’s commitment to equity and justice. Yet, the journey does not end with legislation alone. As we work towards implementing Act 127, it is crucial that we continue to advocate for the resources necessary to bring its constitutional right to fruition.

Jean Waltz, Burlington

Editor’s note: Jean Waltz is the commissioner of the Central Burlington School Board and member of the Coalition for Vermont Student Equity.

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