Lawmakers Debate Preschool Programs
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
After an acrimonious adjournment in early June, Gov. Jim Douglas called the Vermont legislature back into session to pass an amended version of the fiscal 2006 budget, which lawmakers did on June 21. Little of the disagreement, however, focused on K-12 spending.
The Republican governor and the legislature, where Democrats dominate both chambers, deadlocked over an early-retirement provision in the contract between state colleges and their faculties. The provision was deleted in the special session. Lawmakers had earlier settled on an anticipated $968 million in basic state aid to districts for the fiscal year that started July 1; that figure represents about a 6.5 percent increase over last year’s amount.
In the K-12 budget, controversy surrounded a provision in the budget that fortifies a longstanding practice of paying for district-run early-childhood-education programs out of state taxpayer dollars.
Meanwhile, state Commissioner of Education Richard Cate pushed for an early-childhood plan that would have set standards for public school classes and public-private preschool partnerships, with the aim of expanding and improving early-childhood offerings. But the bill either failed or did not get out of committee for the third consecutive year.
Opponents of the standards plan, including Gov. Douglas, said it would have put private preschool operators at a disadvantage and cost taxpayers too much. They leveled the same arguments at the new budget provision.
Vol. 24, Issue 44, Page 24