Jeff Fannon, Executive Director of the Vermont NEA, was asked by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday to speak about cost containment. He shared that the Act 46 consolidations were a few years ago and “One of the reasons I supported it at one point was the educational opportunity piece, and we've never examined what additional educational opportunities Act 46 has provided to students” that reside in those consolidated districts.
Chairman Campion commented that “all of a sudden” students in districts like Craftsbury would get more opportunities. “I don't think it happened that way”, he stated.
Fannon challenged the assertion in Governor Scott’s address this week that Vermont was middle of the pack in education outcomes. We are “far from perfect, but it is moving in a good direction,” he claimed, pointing to Vermont having one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country. He also pointed to the GrowVT-Ed program, which is graduating more teachers than any other institution.
NOTE: This is dependent on how you define success. More teachers does not always lead to better outcomes. We are seeing this now with the smallest class sizes in the country but mediocre standardized testing scores.
Fannon also pointed out a collapsing mental health system in some parts of the state. Children are now receiving these services in schools, he claimed. “Schools are doing what they are expected to do, which is provide those services.”
The Community Schools program was brought up; an initiative passed a couple of years ago. It'd be interesting to see which schools took advantage of it, and which schools didn't, he commented. Some schools don't have the bandwidth to apply for these dollars, but the secretary promised to help them out.
Fannon shared that the priority from the NEA Board of Directors was to “make it as easy as possible to hire high quality teachers, but not to reduce the quality.” They are also hoping to get a report from the School Construction Task Force on February 1 that will be actionable.
Also a topic of conversation was the states revolving door of testing regimes. “It's hard to look at longstanding data if you change a test every 5 or 10 years, and it's also a burden on school districts to have to pivot from one big test to another,” said Fannon.
In closing, he warned that “resources are important,” and schools are being asked to do more with less. “We need to realize that resources mean human resources to do the work we ask of schools.”
Full written testimony can be found here.