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Milne Education Plan Would Cut School Budgets To Subsidize College

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Bob Kinzel
/
VPR
Scott Milne's press conference in the library of Spaulding High School in Barre marked the first time in his campaign that he's met with reporters to discuss a major policy issue.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott Milne has unveiled an education plan that he says will reduce property tax burdens and make higher education more affordable for Vermont students.

The key to the plan is convincing local school boards to make significant cuts to their budgets by reducing staffing levels.

Milne’s press conference in the library of Spaulding High School in Barre marked the first time in his campaign that he’s met with a group of reporters to discuss a major policy issue.

At the heart of his proposal is a plan that encourages local schools to reduce their per pupil spending levels by as much as 30 percent. It would require the elimination of staffing positions and Milne says this can be done without hurting the quality of education.

"I think this is going to be a game changer for Vermont." GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne on his new education plan

He wants to use the budget savings to provide all Vermont students who attend a college in the state, with an annual $9,000 tuition subsidy.

The students would have to agree to work in Vermont for five years after graduation, otherwise the subsidy would be transferred into a loan.

Milne says the plan will bring new families to Vermont and stimulate the state economy.

“I think this is going to be a game changer for Vermont,” said Milne. “It’s going to brand Vermont not only nationwide but perhaps globally as the ‘education’ state.”

Under Milne’s plan, the state’s 60 supervisory school districts would be consolidated into 12 larger districts and they would be encouraged to cut spending by reducing staffing levels.

Milne says Vermont’s average per pupil spending rate is roughly $17,000 while the national rate is approximately $12,000.

He argues that reducing spending levels to the national average should not affect the quality of education in the state.

“If you look at NECAP scores or other things, Vermont’s educational outcomes based on similar socio-economic communities is no different from people that are spending $12,000 a year,” Milne said.

Milne says that school districts that voluntarily implement these budget reductions would be allowed to use the savings to provide college tuition subsidies for all students in the district.

“So what I would say is, if you want to be inspired to change the way you’re spending money in your school and your school is structured, this gives you a reward for doing that,” said Milne.

Gov. Peter Shumlin says there are some serious problems with Milne’s plan.

“The Vermonters that I’m talking to aren’t saying, 'My property tax bill is so low. Would you please find ways to spend new money?'" said Shumlin. “They’re saying to me, 'Governor, find a way to reduce our property tax bills.'”

Milne says his spending reduction plan, if fully implemented by all school districts over a period of time, could save almost $500 million.

He says he would dedicate half of the savings for the tuition subsidy program and use the remaining $250 million to reduce property tax burdens.

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