Tuesday, March 26, 2024

CVSD Hosts Breakfast with Legislators


On Monday morning, members of the Champlain Valley School District’s board of directors, along with district and building leaders, hosted an annual breakfast meeting with several members of the Vermont legislature, most of whom represent towns in our school district.

The meeting opened with an acknowledgment that, though this is called a Legislative Breakfast, the meal hasn’t been an element since before COVID. It was a pleasure connecting in person for the first time in many years!

CVSD Board Chair, Meghan Metzler, welcomed everyone and shared a summary of the work that the Board and district administration had done for years to prepare for the implementation of Act 127. The late changes in the process and the arrival of H.850 felt like a gut punch. They knew that there would be budgeting challenges but thought we had five years to ease into them. Instead, it all happened at once. Even though the overall budget increased by around 10%, many towns were facing nearly a 30% increase in their property taxes. As the second-highest impacted district in the state, CVSD is facing significant challenges.

We are now presenting voters with a new budget which includes $5 million in reductions. The estimated property tax impact, still not fully determined, is going to be significantly less than the budget proposed on Town Meeting Day. The reductions in the new budget result in a large impact on our schools and ultimately on the community.

Other board members chimed in to say how the failure of our budget passing has impacted people who currently work in our schools, their livelihood, and their families. We all know and understand that voters wanted to send a message. However, the ones who feel the message the most are those who work in our schools and students who rely on our schools for their education, other needs, services, and especially a connection. When cuts are made at schools, it’s the students who will suffer most.

Legislators, including Erin Brady, a former CVSD board member who is the vice chair of the House Committee on Education and a teacher in another district, provided insight from their perspective. This is a much larger topic and the issues related to education will not be resolved at the end of this session.

Some main points that were made at the meeting include:
  • There’s an understanding that many school district budgets were voted down to send a message to the legislature. They heard that message. However, community members should directly reach out to our legislators to provide thoughts and feedback about education and education funding in Vermont. Keep sending messages.
  • We need to right-size public education that serves all students and uses public funding sustainably. It is a systems problem and a funding problem. We need to fix both at the same time.
  • The House Ways and Means Committee focuses on how education is funded, not education itself. We can’t lead with taxes. It’s purely a funding formula; it’s not about what our students need.
  • We’ll be using the tax rate in H.850 for the next fiscal year. There is likely no change to the funding formula coming before the end of this session.
  • Another challenge is that the Agency of Education is under-resourced. It doesn’t have the capacity to fix and improve things.
  • Mental and behavioral supports are in school budgets - that is not going away. Here’s a piece from Senator Doug Racine in VTDigger about children’s mental health and property taxes.
  • There’s work underway to explore school facility needs across Vermont. Again, this won’t be solved soon, but it is a focus.
  • We have this year and maybe next year to buy time to find ways to add revenue to the ed fund. That’s competing with other priorities the legislature is working on. The state, the legislature, the governor, and the people of Vermont must be committed to education.

Toward the end of the meeting, CVSD Board members summarized our current environment for the legislators - say that you heard us. Say that more money is going into our education fund. We are all taxpayers. Failing budgets only impact the system negatively. We have a high-quality school district. The longer this system continues, the worse it’s going to get because we’ll have to decimate our district.

We need communities to reach out to our legislators so they continuously hear that we have to deal with public education now. Send an email, make phone calls. They need to hear more and directly from taxpayers. Tell them how you feel. Communicate as widely as you can and encourage friends and neighbors to do the same.

Here’s a recording of the Legislative Breakfast.


Legislators attending the breakfast: Rep. Chea Waters Evans, Senator Tom Chittenden, Rep. Jessica Brumsted, Rep. Erin Brady, Rep. Angela Arsenault, Rep. Phil Pouech

CVSD Board Members attending: Angela Arsenault, Erika Lea, Erin Henderson, Cassandra Townshend, Kate Webb, Dave Connery, Meghan Metzler, Brendan McMahon, Keith Roberts, Lindsay Colf

Contact information for some of our legislators:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving a comment on our blog. We don't respond to comments and instead use our blog as a way of sharing our district's story and updates.

If you'd like to leave us a comment, we will see it. However, if you'd like a response, please use Let's Talk on our website to share your thoughts. www.cvsdvt.org

Thank you!