Small School Funding – Vermont

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.

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