On May 8, 2024

Act 127 made progress;but Excess Spending Threshold could undermine it

Dear Editor,

As the Chair of the Burlington School District (BSDVT) School Board, I am fortunate to witness firsthand the profound impact of educational policies on our diverse community. Among these policies, Act 127 stands out as a beacon of progress in our continuous effort to achieve equity and finally address the inequity across Vermont’s schools. 

However, while we navigate the benefits of such transformative legislation, we also face potential challenges that could undermine our efforts, such as the discussions around the Excess Spending Threshold.

Act 127 was a significant milestone passed with the intent to rectify the longstanding disparities in educational funding. By recalibrating the funding formula to more accurately reflect the needs of today’s students—particularly those in economically disadvantaged or culturally diverse districts like ours—it promises to level the playing field. This act is crucial for Burlington, where our student population is incredibly diverse, with 63% of our students facing basic needs challenges as well as New Americans who bring a wealth of culture but also face unique educational challenges.

The success of Act 127 in promoting equity is something to be celebrated and protected. As such, while there is talk of reinstating the Excess Spending Threshold—a policy that could restrict the ability of districts to spend beyond a certain limit—I urge caution. It is essential that any modifications to financial policies are considered through the lens of their long-term impact on educational equity. The Excess Spending Threshold, if not handled carefully, could potentially penalize those it was designed to protect by capping necessary funding in districts that are just beginning to find their footing with the passage of Act 127.

Indeed, financial prudence is vital, and we must ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. However, we must also recognize that the path to equity is multifaceted. It involves understanding the unique needs of each district and ensuring that they have the resources to meet these needs. As we discuss the Excess Spending Threshold, let’s ensure that our decisions do not inadvertently halt the progress we are making towards a more equitable educational landscape.

I believe in a Vermont where every child has access to quality education that meets their specific needs, regardless of their background or where they live. Act 127 has started us on this path with modernized pupil weights and an equitable funding formula. As we move forward, let’s continue to champion policies that uphold this vision and approach changes like the Excess Spending Threshold with a careful, equity-focused perspective.

Let’s work together—legislators, educators, and community members—to maintain the momentum towards true educational equity. It’s a goal worth pursuing with both passion and caution, ensuring that all Vermont students have the opportunity to succeed in a supportive and fair learning environment.  Respectfully, 

Clare K. Wool, Burlington

Editor’s note: Clare Wool is the chairperson of the Burlington School Board.

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