For the past 12 years, I have vigorously advocated for education funding reform and property tax relief.  Time after time, I have tried to educate my colleagues on the unfairness and unsustainability of the current system, and have pleaded for comprehensive reform. Yet, time and again, my pleas have been dismissed by the legislative leaders.

And, once again this past year, the very real concern of property tax increases continued to be at the forefront of the legislative discussions.

Unfortunately, however, while reform of the root cause of the problem - the education funding system itself - had been discussed earlier in the biennium, no meaningful reform came to fruition.

Instead, that discussion was replaced, in large part, by proposed top-down mandates from Montpelier.  While this was a disappointment, it should not have been a surprise.  After all, in the past, rather than addressing the underlying issue of the funding system, and reconnecting Vermont voters to the budgets they vote on and money spent, Montpelier has found it satisfactory to sit on the sidelines and place the blame at the feet of our school boards and local voters.

And, when Montpelier does claim to have solutions to our ever-increasing property taxes, they inevitably wrest more and more control from local districts and voters, and put it in the hands of the state (Act 46 is a perfect example of this).

Indeed, legislation did come to the House floor for debate and action late in the 2018 session. Unfortunately, it did little to nothing to either reconnect people to their votes and spending decisions, or bring property tax relief to Vermont families and businesses.  For that reason, I made a valiant attempt on the House floor to make substantive changes tot he education funding system that would have done both of those.  While that amendment was defeated, I was pleased that it garnered the attention of House members and provided greater opportunity for those members to learn more about the flaws of our current system.

In the end, as the bill progressed through the end of the session, the meaningful education funding system reform for which I had hoped never materialized.

So, where do we go from here?

I believe strongly that having more Vermonters better connected to their education spending decisions is the only way we will be able ensure spending sustainability and long-term property tax relief.  I am also hopeful that the discussions we had this past year in the House will lead to more agreement and understanding that the system is broken and beyond repair.  More importantly, I am hopeful it leads to the realization that the only way we will achieve true sustainability in the program and long-term property tax relief is to create a system in which more Vermonters are connected, better, to their spending decisions; that as many Vermonters as possible have skin in the game - even the modest amounts I suggested in my amendment.

Rest assured I will continue my vigorous advocacy for just that in the 2019-2020 legislative biennium.