State Board Of Education Wants Funding For Paid Staff

Apr 18, 2017

The State Board of Education is going to ask the Legislature to put money aside so the board can hire paid staff members to tackle an ever-growing list of education priorities.

In 2012, Gov. Peter Shumlin elevated the head of the education department to a cabinet position, and the following year the Agency of Education was established.

Prior to the move, the State Board managed the Department of Education, and the board had access to department staff.

But when the secretary of education took over, the State Board of Education became an independent body.

Legislation that was written to change how Vermont's education system worked included provisions for State Board of Education staff, but tight budgets always scuttled those efforts.

The State Board is tasked with going through every consolidation proposal under Act 46, the state's school district merger law, and at a meeting in Barre Tuesday, board member Bill Mathis said it was time to appeal to lawmakers for the funding.

"The law says that we will be staffed to do this," Mathis said. "We need to be very clear that with the great burdens of Act 46, and rules for approving independent schools, and other things, we have no capacity to carry through these issues. Right now they're working on the budget and it's timely that this be done now."

Mathis says the board is looking for about $250,000 for help with policy and legal help, along with an administrator to help with paperwork.

The Agency of Education itself has seen staff cuts over the past seven years, and at Tuesday's meeting, State Board of Education member Peter Peltz said the board needs its own staff to make sure the board and agency can pursue their own agendas.

"We are depending on the agency right now, and that somewhat subverts our independence and autonomy," said Peltz.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is finishing up its work on the budget.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously to send a letter to the committee chairwoman, along with notice to the Senate and House Education committees, and other legislative leaders.