Funding schools with imaginary students raises questions

Dear Editor,

After reading Gov. Shumlin’s letter to Rebecca Holcombe, secretary for the Vermont Agency of Education, dated Aug. 19, 2014, which outlines initiatives he hopes she and the Agency will pursue on his behalf to advance progress this year, I was confused on a number of topics. 

Shumlin refers to the fact that many schools benefit from the “hold harmless provision,” which limits declines in enrollment used for school funding to 3.5 percent per year. Meaning that if a school looses more students, they are not penalized financially for the additional losses in their enrollment. This, in essence means we (the taxpayers) are paying schools additional money to educate students that don’t actually exist. Which raises the questions: exactly how many imaginary kids we’re funding as a state?

Schools that have seen a dramatic decrease in numbers over the past few years are assumably being funded by this provision almost entirely, as they have not been required to cut back as much as such as a decline in student enrollment should warrant.

The governor also mentions that between FY1997 and FY2014, enrollment K-12 has dropped from 103,000 to 79,600 students, do those numbers include imaginary kids?

When Shumlin now says that this formula will be adjusted over next few years so that we are in fact not paying for imaginary students, does that mean that the schools for whom this provision has aided have caught up to the real numbers over time? Or that this provision is being eliminated and those schools should prepare for the dramatic loss of funding?

On a side note, I find it funny that actual students that are tuitioned into our schools do not count toward our equalized pupil ratio, but imaginary kids do…

If this program is indeed going to continue, can we get some of these imaginary students to help with our budget, which in turn will help with our property taxes?

Jim Haff, Killington

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