When it comes to government spending and taxation in the State of Vermont, Education is clearly the elephant in the room.
Education accounted for 34.3% of total government expenditures in fiscal year 2016 and consumed 59% of total state tax revenues. The increase in Education expenditures over the last five years was a whopping $256.9 million.
In this section, The Informed Vermonter will examine public education is detail, including education outcomes, key legislation, spending and revenue sources.
Throughout this discussion, Vermont will be compared to other states and the USA as a whole. In particular, comparisons to the neighboring state of New Hampshire will be used frequently, as this will help to make observations regarding costs and benefits.
Before tackling Vermont’s high cost of public education, it will be useful to determine if current education outcomes are at an acceptable level.
The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), a federally mandated program, has been testing USA students since 1964 to measure academic performance. SAT college entrance exams are also a good indicator of education outcomes.
Below, test scores for Vermont’s students are summarized and compared to the USA and other states, including the neighboring state of New Hampshire.
Measured Education Outcomes 2015
|Vermont||USA||Better States||Worse States||Equivalent States||NH vs. Vermont|
|Science Grade 4||163||153||1||38||7||Equivalent|
|Science Grade 8||163||153||2||39||5||Equivalent|
|Math Grade 4||243||240||7||26||18||Better|
|Math Grade 8||290||281||3||44||4||Better|
|Reading Grade 4||230||221||2||42||7||Equivalent|
|Reading Grade 8||274||264||1||47||3||Equivalent|
|High School Graduation Rate||87.7%||83.2%||9||41||—||88.1%|
|Raw SAT Scores (only states with participation rates above 50%)||1541||1490||2||22||—||1568|
Sources: NAEP Scores: Vermont Agency of Education, 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Snapshot Reports. Graduation Rates: US Department of Education, EDFacts/Consolidated State Performance. Raw SAT Scores: College Board
As clearly indicated in the table, Vermont consistently ranks among the best states in the country for education outcomes.
For grade 8 science, math and reading, there are no more than 3 states achieving higher NAEP scores.
SAT scores are highly skewed by state participation rates. Many states only have 3-5% participation rates, and in these states only the students going to top colleges take the test resulting in very high average scores. In the table, The Informed Vermonter looked only at states with 50% or higher participation rates and Vermont, with a 61% participation rate, ranks third among this group.
Note that New Hampshire also ranks very high in the country, a bit better than Vermont in fact.