National teachers’ union says Vermont budget law should be repealed

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(Host) The president of the National Education Association is supporting the effort of the local teachers’ union to repeal a school funding law.

The NEA says the law threatens local control of school budgets.

But Governor Jim Douglas says the law should be given time to work.

And, as John Dillon reports, Douglas criticized the national union president for telling Vermont what to do.

(Dillon) The Vermont NEA has made repeal of the school funding law its top legislative priority.

The law says if school districts want to spend more than one percent over the inflation rate, then a second vote is required for the additional money.

The teachers’ union held its annual convention in Essex on Thursday. Angelo Dorta is the union’s local president. He says the law erodes local control over school budgets. The union is circulating a petition that calls on the state to get rid of the new law.

(Dorta) "We expect over the next couple of months we’re going to have a significant number of signatures there that are going to demand that we reexamine Act 82 and hopefully repeal it before it actually goes into effect in March 2009."

(Dillon) Reg Weaver, the national president of the NEA, also spoke in support of the union’s effort to repeal the funding law. Weaver says Congress needs to help change the way schools are paid for.

(Weaver) "I think there has to be more discussion about the economic structure and tax base and adequate and equitable funding. Those conversations need to occur such that people see the impact that it has on standards, assessment and accountability."

(Host) But Governor Jim Douglas says Vermont doesn’t need the union’s advice on how to control spending.

(Douglas) “I don’t think we need some union boss from Washington coming to Vermont telling us how to design our property tax structure or school funding system. Vermonters worked hard on a bipartisan basis to come up with a law this past year. Although I would like to see some more immediate, dramatic relief, and am working on some ideas to further that goal, I think the law ought to be given a chance to take effect.”

(Dillon) Union officials say similar spending caps in other states have caused a decline in the quality of education in public schools.

But supporters of Vermont’s law say they believe voters will continue to support their schools even if there are two budgets on the ballot.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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