Sunday, May 5, 2013

State of education

Representing the tiny state of Vermont, it's my humble opinion as a public educator that the commitment to improvements in education is strong. Our state legislators are finishing this session with intentions to find ways to decrease spending yet increase access to early education. According to the Department of Education, more than 80% of towns in our 14 counties already publicly fund per-k programs in and outside the public school systems.  According to news coverage posted by Josh O'Gorman (Rutland Herald, May, 2013) Vermont was one of the only states funding pre-K education to increase spending this fiscal year.  Times are definitely tough for Vermonters but even in attendance at our rural town meeting in March, voters were adamant that children come first.
While 27 of the 40 states reported declines in pre-K spending, Vermont increased its spending by $368 per pupil, from $3,376 per pupil to $3,744 per pupil. During the 2011-12 fiscal year, Vermont had 5,442 pupils enrolled in state-funded pre-K programs at a cost of $20,374,443 (Gorman). 
Vermont is committed to working with reform while also protecting traditional values in education.
The school I teach in is rural with a high percentage of our demographic receiving free and reduced lunch. Low NECAP scores identified us as a school in need but the identification was cause for support and improvement, not branding and disgrace. Funding through school improvement initiatives have helped our faculty design Personal Learning Communities and move towards progress monitoring against student failure and dropout.  For the most part, we accept these changes. In an exciting phase of the initiative our administration made the decision to provide 1:1 digital technologies for each student on our middle school and high school campus.  The role of students and teachers will be impacted; responsibilities and motivations will shift in directions we have yet to understand.
Not all is rosy.  Being a rural Vermont school means that teacher salaries are significantly less than those paid in surrounding counties.  We lose talented younger teachers to this competitive job market each year. Asking such a small communal population to match these salaries is not in the cards just yet.  Vermont's future move is to consider statewide contracts. But not quite yet.

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