In 1997, Vermont adopted a new system of funding education under Vermont Act 60 – The Equal Educational Opportunity Act (EEOA). Unlike most states, Vermont choose to provide additional funding to cover the higher costs of the state’s smallest school districts. An extra $1 million per year was allocated to districts with fewer than 100 students.
Initially, this was meant to be a temporary arrangement. Many legislators favored consolidating small schools. Act 60 directed the state Education Department to determine which schools, if any, should continue to receive the extra funding. The department was to recommend “alternative physical arrangements for those small schools.”
But early in 1998, the department’s report came to a surprising conclusion. “Small schools in Vermont cost more to operate than larger schools but they are worth the investment because of the value they add to student learning and community cohesion.” Academically, small school students do as well or better than large school students, despite living in communities with higher rates of poverty and lower education levels.
Ratherthan suggesting “alternative physical arrangements,” the department urged the legislature to increase the small schools grant and expand the number of districts that qualified. The state responded by increasing the grant to $4 million and extending it to districts with fewer than 20 students per grade level. In 1999-2000, one-third of Vermont’s school districts qualified. The additional funds accounted for 5 percent of their revenue.
- Full Text of the small school support law can be found in VT Statutes Title 16 Chapter 133 §4015
- A Reasonably Equal Share”: Update on Educational Equity in Vermont Year 2001-2002 – Rural School and Community Trust , February 2002
- A Reasonably Equal Share: Educational Equity in Vermont, A Status Report Year 2000–2001 – by the Rural School and Community Trust, February 2001. This report evaluates the effectiveness of VT’s Act 60. It finds much more equity in terms of educational resources and tax burden. It also finds that, while poverty continues to negatively impact student achievement, since Act 60 the achievement gap between students in poor vs. wealthy areas has decreased.
- Equal Educational Opportunity Act (Act 60): Measuring Equity Report 2001 – by the Vermont Department of Education, May 2001. This report, the first EEOA evaluation required under law, lays the groundwork for measuring outcomes in the years ahead.
- Small Schools Follow-Up Report – VT State Board of Education, January 1999
- Small Schools Study – VT State Board of Education, January 1998
- Vermont Department of Education Web Site