Saying an investment in schooling is the best tool to grow the state’s prosperity, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin used his second inaugural address to outline a four-point plan for improving his state’s education system.
He said that while 62 percent of job openings in the state will require postsecondary education, only 45 percent of Vermont students continue their schooling beyond high school, despite a vast investment in education by the state.
“Keep in mind that we spend more money per pupil than all other states in the country except for two. We spend more than 50 percent above the national average, and K-12 spending in Vermont has grown faster over the last decade than in any other state in America,” the Democratic governor said.
In his Jan. 10 speech, Gov. Shumlin called for an additional investment in early-childhood education, saying he will redirect $17 million from the state’s earned-income-tax credit to make high-quality child care affordable to lower-income families across the state. The shift would nearly double the state’s contribution to child care for poor families. He would also like to provide start-up costs for communities that create preschool programs where they don’t now exist.
School Meal Assistance
He also wants the state to pay for school meals for students from low-income families who are eligible only for reduced-price meals now and will ask for the policy to be covered by the state’s 2014 budget
Third, he said he would like the state to double funding for dual-enrollment courses for high school students to allow them to get a head start on earning college credits. Only about 40 students a year—which the governor called a “paltry number"—have taken part in the program at Vermont Tech, where they concentrate on science and technology with great success.
Finally, he wants to create the Vermont Strong Scholars Program for students who graduate with a degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field.
“We will give you a helping hand to stay and work in Vermont by paying you back, over the course of five years, for your final year of tuition. Or if you graduate with an associate degree in a stem field, we will pay you back over three years for your final semester of tuition,” he said.
He also proposed that Vermont schools create “Personal Learning Plans” that would travel with each student from elementary school through senior year. The plan is intended to guide students’ academic choices and tie educational goals to career opportunities, he said, aiming “to increase our students’ individual options while fostering a connection between school and career.”
In response to 68 percent of students in 3rd through 8th grades being proficient in math on the New England Common Assessment Program—a percentage that drops to 36 percent in 11th grade—Gov. Shumlin reiterated a request to require that all 9th graders take algebra and all 10th graders take geometry.
A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2013 edition of Education Week as Vt. Governor Launches Four-Point Education Initiative