A Reasonably Equal Share: Educational Equity in Vermont

Last Updated: February 01, 2001

By Lorna Jimerson, Rural Trust Program Coordinator
A Reasonably Equal Share: Educational Equity in Vermont

Report PDF (379 KB)

Vermont’s Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1997, Act 60, was designed to rectify educational inequities that were the basis of the Supreme Court ruling that declared the state’s foundation formula unconstitutional. This study examines the degree to which Act 60 has improved conditions over the last five years. The analysis focuses on the three main equity goals of Act 60 and the Brigham decision: Student Resource Equity, Tax Burden Equity and Academic Achievement Equity.

The results of this analysis show that:

  • Act 60 funding mechanisms have made significant gains in increasing Student Resource Equity. The amount of financial resources spent on students in Vermont is no longer correlated to towns' property wealth at a statistically significant level.
  • Act 60 has significantly improved Tax Burden Equity in terms of the percent of household income needed to pay for education of local students. Prior to Act 60, the poorest families tended to pay the highest percent of their income for school taxes. This relationship is no longer true. The lowest income households now pay the least percent of their income for school tax.
  • With respect to equity in academic achievement, the study reveals the following:
    • Inequities still exist in academic achievement. Academic achievement is still significantly related to the wealth of the community. Students residing in property wealthy towns do better academically, than those residing in poor communities.
    • Academic achievement is still significantly related to spending per pupil. Students residing in towns that spend more per pupil tend to do better academically.
    • Student achievement in all categories of property wealth and in all categories of spending has improved over the past three years. More students are meeting or exceeding standards across all levels of spending and in all levels of property wealth, compared to three years ago.
    • The student academic achievement gap between the highest and the lowest property wealth categories has decreased over the past three years. Similarly, the gap in achievement between the highest and lowest spending towns has also decreased over the past three years. Thus there is some indication that Act 60 has enabled poorer towns to invest more for education--and that this provision of equal educational opportunity is beginning to positively impact student achievement.

We conclude that Act 60 is performing according to the requirements of the court and the intent of the legislature. We have found that inequities are diminishing, but local control has not been abandoned. Tax burdens are more appropriately related to income, and more children are performing better on statewide assessments. Thus, we believe that Vermont is on the right course in the way it funds its schools.

See also the follow-up report, Still "A Reasonably Equal Share": Update on Educational Equity in Vermont.