Schools Get Reprieve On Budget Cuts
12/22/10 5:50PM By John Dillon  Download MP3
(Host) Governor-elect Peter Shumlin has given a one year reprieve to school districts struggling to come up with budget-cutting plans.
But Shumlin says schools should use the time to find savings, because ongoing state appropriations will be reduced.
VPR's John Dillon has more.
(Dillon) Flanked by education officials, Shumlin pledged to work with school boards and teachers to find ways to cut education spending in the future.
But for now, he said he would use $19 million in federal stimulus funds to help schools avoid drastic cuts.
(Shumlin) "The arbitrary targets that were imposed on school board members by Montpelier will go away. The bridge money will be used for its intended purpose to ensure that we don't have 350 hardworking teachers and other support staff layed off at a time when our schools need them and they need a job."
(Host) But the federal money is a one-time allocation. And Shumlin said school districts will receive $23 million less from the state on an ongoing basis. He urged school boards to plan ahead for leaner budgets.
(Shumlin) "What that means is we're going to work together as a team from the governor's office on down to work with our communities to ensure that we continue to find efficiencies and give them time to do that in a thoughtful way."
(Dillon) Shumlin was joined by the teacher's union, Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca and representatives of school boards, principals and superintendents.
Vermont-NEA President Martha Allen - whose union represents teachers and support staff - said Shumlin's decision means tough decisions on school budgets will be made at the local level.
(Allen) "We are pleased that the governor-elect and Commissioner Vilaseca continue to stress the importance of local decision making of letting local voters, residents and elected school boards decided what is best for them and their students."
(Dillon) Shumlin made the announcement after many school districts reported that they were unable to meet a deadline to come up with budget cutting plans. Education Commissioner Vilaseca said those boards that did make cuts will be rewarded with lower property taxes in their communities.
For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.