I strongly believe that an excellent public education system is the only way to ensure a truly democratic and inclusive society. It is long past time that the United States should catch up to the rest of the world in ensuring a full education for all our citizens, from Pre-K through college or vocational school. We have made some progress in recent years in Vermont, especially around Pre-K, but we can and should do much better.
To begin, at the very least we should increase funding for our public colleges. Right now our state is near dead last in public support for Higher Education, which means more of the cost burden falls on our students, making our public colleges among the most expensive in the country. This puts college out of reach for many Vermont students.
In many ways our decentralized education system is working well for our students, but we must take a hard look at whether and how it might be reorganized and improved. I do not believe consolidation is the answer to the problem of increasing education costs, but some consolidation or collaboration is going to be necessary to make sure all our students receive a 21st Century education. However, I want to make sure that, unlike often happens in Montpelier, we don’t just do something for the sake of doing something. We must be clear on the specific issues that need to be addressed and make sure any legislative actions actually address those issues.
I also believe we must move away from the education property tax to a progressive income tax system to fund our schools. Act 68, the prebate program, goes a long way to ensuring some fairness in the system, but we can do better. Rep. Chris Pearson’s plan (Available Here) is a good first step in this direction.