The Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office recently hired Pincus, Odden & Associaties, a public education consulting firm, to assess adequate spending levels for Vermont schools.
Importantly, adequate spending levels were defined to be those necessary to meet Vermont’s student performance standards, including normal students, low-income students and special needs students. The Pincus Report was made available on Jan. 28, 2016 and was titled “Using the Evidence-Based Method to Identify Adequate Spending Levels for Vermont Schools”. The report was based on the 2014/2015 school-year data for Vermont.
The key findings of the Pincus Report were as follows:
- Based on 2014/2015 Education expenditures, Vermont could reduce its total expenditures by $163.9 million, or about 10%, with no effect on education outcomes.
- Vermont’s high Pupil Teacher ratio was a major source of high costs.
- Vermont’s Special Education expenditures were also a major source of high costs. First, Vermont identifies 16% of pupils as needing special education as opposed to 12% nationally. Second, Vermont has 90 pupils per special education staff member compared to 141 recommended by the Pincus Report. Vermont’s level of “paraprofessional” staff was particularly high.
- Vermont needs a more efficient organization of Supervisory Unions to achieve economies of scale. The Supervisory Unions need to be larger and thus fewer in number.
- Vermont has too many administrators in the system at every level.
The Pincus Report conclusions are entirely consistent with those a normal citizen like The Informed Vermonter might reach from the US Census Bureau Survey of State School System Finances.