Thursday, February 8, 2007

Finally, on the right track

The following editoral appeared in the Eagle Times.

Finally, on the right track
It was both startling and refreshing to hear Democrats in the Vermont Legislature last week talk about lowering costs, not raising taxes, to address out-of-control school costs.

For example, Senate Pro Tem Peter Shumlin told the Associated Press that taxes are already too high and throwing more money at the problem won't address the underlying problem. As we said, startling.

We hope New Hampshire lawmakers are listening as they struggle with a solution to education funding.

Rising school costs have driven up Vermont's statewide property tax for education and with property values also increasing, many residents are begging for relief. One of the priorities of this Legislature is to look at the state education tax and come up with a plan to address skyrocketing property taxes.

It will be a tough task and one that will require more than just flowery talk of a bipartisan solution with Republicans or skirting the issue with proposals that don't get to the heart of the issue: cost containment.

Last week, House and Senate leaders agreed with Gov. Jim Douglas with the idea of having a broad framework to look at driving down the soaring inflation of school costs. By broad, we take that to mean that everything is on the table and no idea should be dismissed out of hand. Well, almost any idea. We don't suppose the Democrats would look at expanding school choice beyond the public school system, but that is an idea that has been tried in many big cities. The result is lower costs and better student performance. It is of course much more difficult to make it work in a rural setting because of transportation issues, but it still deserves some consideration. Beyond that, Democrats have wisely said they don't want to find revenues from the income tax and they are interested in hearing more about Education Commissioner Richard Cate's idea for consolidating school districts from 283 to 63. A statewide teachers' contract and regional special education services are two other ideas. The funding problem isn't helped by a shortfall created when money, other than property taxes, that should have gone to the education fund mistakenly didn't, but even with that $7 million the education monster is still growing. Democrats have a golden opportunity to take a courageous stand here and find a real answer, not another Act 60.

Some very overburdened taxpayers will be waiting to see if they provide that leadership.

Quote of the Day

"Taxes are already too high and throwing more money at the problem won't address the underlying problem." Senate Pro Tem Peter Shumlin

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