Backers say education bill will save nine million dollars

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(Host) After several hours of debate, the Vermont House late yesterday gave its final approval to legislation that’s designed to help control education costs in the future. The vote on the measure was 87 to 54.

Backers of the bill estimate that the measure will save roughly 9 million dollars a year when the legislation is fully implemented in three years.

The heart of the bill is a provision that discourages towns from spending significantly above the statewide average and the legislation calls for a review of towns that have above average special education expenses.

The bill also reduces the size of the maximum rebate for homeowners under the income sensitive provisions of Act 68 from 10 thousand to 6 thousand dollars.

The House reviewed and rejected a number of amendments to the legislation during the course of its debate.

Bristol Rep. David Sharpe urged his colleagues to support the bill as a way to maintain a high quality of education in the state:

(Sharpe) “Vermont’s second graders are reading at their highest level ever. The state Department reading assessment shows that the number of 2nd graders below this standard has been cut in half since 1999. Ninety-two percent of Vermont teachers are highly qualified in core academic subjects. Fellow members we have among the best schools in the nation. Please vote to sustain those schools.”

(Host) But Burlington Rep. Kurt Wright opposed the bill because he says it will do very little to control local education expenses:

(Wright) “I vote no’ because with the defeat of the many proposed amendments H526 is a weak bill that delivers little, leaving property taxpayers disappointed and disillusioned. Hopefully the Education Committee will take up the ideas that were rejected today.”

(Host) The Senate is considering its own education cost containment plan. It’s legislation that also targets towns that spend above the statewide average.

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