Still "A Reasonably Equal Share": Update on Educational Equity in Vermont

Last Updated: February 01, 2002

By Lorna Jimerson, Rural Trust Program Coordinator
Still A Reasonably Equal Share

Report PDF (362 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 updated 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 the analysis, using the latest available data for 2001–2002, reveal that:

  • Act 60 is making significant and steady progress in reducing inequities of Student Resources. Before Act 60 (FY 98), property-rich towns spent an average of 37% more, or $2,100, per pupil, compared to the poorest towns. In FY 2002, this spending gap was less than 13%, with the per-pupil disparity diminished to $900. Thus wealthy communities continue to spend more on their schools, but the gap has been significantly reduced.
  • Act 60 has significantly improved past inequities of Tax Burden for funding local schools. In FY 98, the poorest families paid the highest percentage of their income for school taxes (3.3%) and the wealthiest families paid the least (2.5%). Last year, the poorest households paid less than two percent for school taxes (1.8%), while the wealthiest households paid 2.3%. The percentage of income needed to support education dropped in all income categories, though the decrease is most dramatic for those earning the least.
  • Academic Achievement inequities still exist. Children living in property-rich communities do better on state assessments. Also, children living in towns that spend more on education do better. However, on both of these indicators, our analysis indicates a continued trend toward shrinking the achievement gap. For example, in FY 98, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards was 19% higher for the wealthiest communities as compared to the poorest communities. In FY 01 this gap was reduced to 12%.
  • Academic achievement continues to improve in all categories of property wealth and in all categories. Student academic improvement, since the passage of Act 60, has not been limited to the poorest communities. More Vermont students are meeting or exceeding standards across all levels of spending and all levels of property wealth.
  • Notable and continuous progress is being made toward providing equal educational opportunities and reducing past educational inequities. The equity gains noted in last year’s study have continued and, in most cases, are strengthened.

We conclude that Act 60 is fulfilling the mandates of the Supreme Court decision and the goals of the legislation. Spending inequities are decreasing. Tax burdens are more appropriately aligned with income. More children are performing better on statewide assessments. Local control has not been diminished. These results reinforce our conclusions from last year and indicate that Vermont is continuing along an effective path towards alleviating inequity and providing equal educational opportunity for all Vermont students.