It looks like Act 46 is beginning to have a measurable impact on Vermont’s public education infrastructure. It’s all beginning to shrink.
Each year, the Vermont Agency of Education publishes an Annual Report and Budget Book which contains a summary of key statistics for Vermont’s K-12 education system. The most recent report was prepared in May 2018 for the fiscal- year 2019 budget period. Here is a short summary:
Vermont K-12 Education Infrastructure
|Category||2017/2018 School Year||Change from Prior Year|
|Total Public schools||298||(1)|
|Historical Academies, Independent Schools and Approved Programs||140||(2)|
|Technical Center School Districts||3||—|
|Joint Contract Schools||5||—|
|Gores & Unorganized Towns||9||—|
|Total Public Education Governing & Administrative Entities||332||(6)|
|School Board Members||1,386||(104)|
|2016/2017 School Year||Change from Prior Year|
|Total Public School Administrators||534||(18)|
|Teachers (Full Time Equivalents)||8,179||(79)|
Source: Agency of Education Annual Report and Budget Book Fiscal Year 2019 and 2018
The changes outlined above are set to accelerate as the Act 46 process is implemented. As of January 2018, towns across the state had voted to merge 149 school districts into 36 new unified school districts. Four supervisory unions have been eliminated via redrawn boundaries and a further 8 are to be merged into the new supervisory districts.
When all this is completed, it looks there will be 129 remaining school districts, 36 new unified supervisory districts and only 31 old supervisory unions. The total number of Public Education Governing and Administrative Entities will have been reduced from 332 to 213, a reduction of 35%.
This all makes sense to The Informed Vermonter. The expenditure category where Vermont is most out of line is School Administrative Costs. According to the US Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of School System Finance, Vermont’s School Administration Costs were $1,296/pupil in fiscal year 2016. The average for the country was $651/pupil and the average of the five other New England states was $852/pupil. Vermont’s School Administration Costs are double the national average and 52% higher than the average in New England.
If a 35% reduction in Public Education Governing and Administrative Entities results in 35% reduction in School Administrative Costs, Vermont’s cost would decrease to $842/pupil, which is pretty much in line with the New England average. The savings would be about $40 million per year.
When the chart above was prepared, only four of the new unified school districts had experienced a full fiscal year of operations. The schedule for full implementation was originally as follows:
|Date||Number of New Unified School Districts|
|July 1, 2016||4|
|July 1, 2017||8|
|July 1, 2018||19|
|July 1, 2019||4|
Source: Agency of Education Annual Report and Budget Book Fiscal Year 2019
If the above schedule is adhered to, the full impact of Act 46 will become clear in fiscal years 2020 and 2021. More recently, there have been a number of legal challenges and legislative efforts to delay implementation, so the exact timing and final scope of Act 46 consolidations remains uncertain.
The Informed Vermonter has been unable to find a state government estimate of the total cost savings expected from Act 46. The Agency of Education Annual Report and Budget Book for Fiscal Year 2019 outlined a number of anecdotal cost savings achieved in certain of the new unified school districts, but admitted there was no centralized cost savings information available.
Having gone through the Act 46 process, it would appear that there is now substantial scope to realize cost savings for Vermont taxpayers. Hopefully, someone in government has a plan to make sure the savings happen.
- Education: Vermont’s Education Infrastructure: https://theinformedvermonter.com/education-vermonts-education-infrastructure/
- Education: Fiscal Year 2017 Infrastructure Update: https://theinformedvermonter.com/503-2-edu-infrastructure/