As the Legislature gathers in January, members will face a renewed effort to reform the education funding system on the assumption that property taxes and school finance are in a state of crisis.
Before members get carried away by the conventional wisdom, they ought to examine the question of whether there is a crisis and what sort of crisis it might be. They need to separate the usual background noise — the perpetual complaint that property taxes are too high — from the reality of taxation in the state. They need to recognize what is working in Vermont and be sure not to wreck it to satisfy what they see as the need to act. […]
[…] The state has the highest graduation rate in the country and is typically ranked among the top five states in student performance on standardized tests. Is it a crisis that our test scores aren’t first in the country?
Voters approve nearly 90 percent of school budgets as they did this past spring. Does 10 percent of budgets failing to pass on the first try this year constitute a crisis?
Education spending consumed the same share of Vermont tax dollars in 2012 as it did 20 years earlier and education spending represents the same share of state personal income over those 20 years. There is certainly no evidence that as a state our spending is beyond our means. About 5.5 to 6 percent of gross state product is pre-K-12 public education and it’s been that way for 20 years. […]