Education under threat
As a parent of two young children and a homeowner in Montpelier, I am writing to urge people to vote yes for the school budget April 15. Voting yes is a vote to support our schools, our kids and our community.
Our school system continues to do a fine job, but the truth is that educational opportunities in Montpelier’s public schools have been diminishing and are increasingly under threat. Over the last seven years, enrollment in our schools has declined by roughly 8 percent while our overall spending has been reduced far in excess of that, by almost 20 percent. We must not delude ourselves that “cuts do not affect quality” or that this erosion does not matter because “children are resilient,” as some opponents of fully funding our schools have argued. These cuts have resulted in teacher and staff layoffs, programmatic cuts, loss of after-school opportunities, elimination of sports teams, and cancellation or postponement of needed new programs.
In response to the narrow defeat of the school budget on Town Meeting Day, the school board responded with almost $160,000 in further cuts. The school budget that the people of Montpelier will vote on April 15 is extremely frugal, and its passage will affect only a tiny portion of the increases to the tax rate.
There is little question that school funding needs to be re-examined. Funding schools primarily through property taxes is regressive and places too high a relative burden on working and middle-class families. Sensible and fair alternatives exist: taxing income and wealth, school consolidation, increasing the housing stock in Montpelier, a local options tax. But reforming school funding to reduce the burden on working people and increase the portion paid by the affluent is a longer-term goal.
Supporting our children and our community and stopping the erosion of our schools requires the first step of voting yes on the school budget April 15.
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